I went to law school because I had a passion for truth and justice. Sure, I knew I wanted to be a mother someday, but that was years and years down the road. For now, I could study hard, make good grades, and land the job of my dreams (or at least make enough money to pay off my student loans). Even though motherhood was a long way away, deep down I still wondered if I could really have it all: motherhood and a career.
For most women, by the time we complete our graduate work and settle into a career, we’re smack dab in the middle of our childbearing years. Like it or not, our biological clocks are ticking. Okay, mine wasn’t ticking that loudly, but that still didn’t stop me from wondering if I could be an excellent lawyer and an excellent mother. After all, I had grown up in a traditional home where my devout Christian mother stayed at home. Could I work full time and show the same devotion to my own children? Would the Christian community accept me as a working mother?
Almost twenty years later, I’m still asking the same questions. But that doesn’t stop me from trying to be the best lawyer and the best mother I can be. My husband and I just celebrated 18 years of marriage, and our greatest joy (and challenge) is raising our three young children. Yes, I have a demanding career. And yes, I make sacrifices every day at home and at work. I’ve made mistakes along the way and don’t pretend to have a formula, but at the end of the day I’m completely and totally passionate about my children and my work.
If you ask other women of faith how to balance work and home, you’ll get a host of possible answers. There’s still a constituency inside the church that believes women should stay in traditional roles. You can’t be a devoted mother and work outside your home. You can’t work full time while your kids are young. Daycare will ruin your kids. Who do you want to raise your kids, a stranger or you?
At the same time, there are a growing number of Christian women who aren’t about to stop working — and they’re not apologizing for it. I work because I have to provide for my family. I could never be a stay-at-home mom. Daycare has made my kids independent and well adjusted. Didn’t the woman in Proverbs 31 work outside the home?
While I’m all for finding mentors, taking advice, and even questioning our decisions to work (or not work) outside of our homes, good intentions can sometimes draw unnecessary lines in the sand. During law school, I attended a church where working mothers were branded as selfish and worldly. Why would any mother who claims to follow Christ want to leave her young children for a paycheck? Don’t we need to take a stand and be different from a generation of working mothers who are more interested in personal achievement than living out their God-created identities?
I didn’t buy it. To start with, I wanted to serve God in my home and in the marketplace. As a young mother I quickly learned, I’m never going to make everyone happy. I had to confront my confusion. I had to trust His grace. I had to do what was best for my family. I had to seek God with all my heart and leave the results to Him. Maybe I couldn’t do it all, but isn’t that the point? It’s only in my weakness that I depend on Christ, and it’s by His grace that I can live a life that is dependant on His power, not my own.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)
This doesn’t mean I didn’t agonize over the decision to be both a mother and a full-time lawyer. It’s still a daily journey where I’ve learned to put one foot in front of the other and try to live out my faith by being the person God created me to be. My lifestyle certainly isn’t for everyone and I wouldn’t want to impose my choices as the “right” path for every mother. It hasn’t been easy, and it certainly hasn’t been perfect. I’ve learned the hard way — through trial and error — but it’s a journey I wouldn’t trade for anything.
People often ask me, “How do you do it?”
My response? I pray a lot and maintain a sense of humor. Some days, I either have to laugh or cry. Knowing that God is in control — not me — gives me the courage to laugh, even when my days don’t go as planned. There are days when my cell phone rings in the pediatrician’s office. I forget when it’s my turn to bring preschool snacks. A client calls in the middle of my family dinner. I miss a deadline at work. I’m working late and I miss bedtime prayers. I’m up in the middle of the night with a sick kid, and the next day I can’t stay awake at my desk.
Most working mothers can relate — which is why I decided to write a book about the difficult yet rewarding journey of being a working mother while striving to live a life of faith. Chasing Superwoman: A Working Mom’s Adventures in Life and Faith doesn’t give the answers — in fact, it probably presents more questions than answers. But I’m privileged to wrestle with the tough issues –- like whether a mother can be at the top of her profession without sacrificing her family or her faith.
As I’ve struggled, the one thing I am sure of is this. It is only by God’s grace that each of us has the freedom to run her own course, and a loving and gracious God will be paving the way — even holding us at times — every step of the journey.
I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13