Living on the Sidelines
Two of the most adorable children that God ever created with smiles that will melt your heart, are standing before you. Their eyes are so innocent and although dark you can see straight through them. Eyes that have never looked upon evil so they are bright and shiny like glass. These are the eyes that still have visions of heaven in all of its perfection.
Their voices are sweeter than the best dessert and watching them wobble around the house can bring a smile to your face, even in the most difficult hour. The smiles and giggles that they share are worthy of recording and kissing them while they are napping brings unspeakable joy. Although that may have something to do with the fact that while they slumber you’ll be able to bask in another unspeakable joy…some “me” time! Nevertheless, these little blessings are the reason you left what was once of utmost importance. You put it all on hold…your goals, your dreams, your ambitions. A significant part of your identity…your career.
Enter that voice in your head. “You are just selfish, selfish, and selfish!” But you fight back with your own voice. “Is it selfish to want to be appreciated for your ideas, competency, quick thinking, and problem solving abilities?” This emotional tug of war causes you to foolishly ponder, “Well, maybe I can be the first woman to have it ALL! I will create a business from home and end up on the Today Show on a segment entitled ‘Stay at Home Mom Makes Millions!’ I can clean the house, bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan…and do it all by 5pm! I am woman! Hear me roaaar!”
So you plan. You purpose to start your business today…that is, right after you do a load of laundry, make the beds, clean bathrooms and make lunch. Then, while loading the dishwasher you glance at the clock trying to figure out how many hours are left before you have to prepare dinner. Well, better to start it sooner than later, your husband will be home soon…and before you know it he is through the door hungry and needing your attention as well! The rush of dinner, bed and bath time only quickens as visions of business plans dance in your head. Prayers said, kid’s tucked heads kissed. Phew, you’re exhausted! That “roaaar!” from earlier… has now become a big yawn! And the dream is dashed…yet again.
No doubt, the question of “Can women really have it all?” has been an area for controversy since the Feminist Movement. And it’s likely that this argument will go on for decades with each side having extremely strong and valid opinions. Especially in this day and age, where capitalism is ‘king’ and most homes are two-income homes, the growing sentiment is “Yes, women can really have it all!”
As a Christian mother and a pastor’s wife, you can probably guess what my position is on the issue. And you will have probably guessed right! From a biblical perspective, I believe it is best for your children that the mother is at home with them. Nevertheless, it is not my intention to tell you what to do or to rehash this argument. It has been done many times over and the dead horse has been thoroughly kicked. Instead, I am simply offering a unique perspective from my experiences as a Christian mother, pastor’s wife and spiritual counselor on how to navigate Life on the Sidelines. If, in fact you have decided to put your career on hold, or if you are considering this path, hopefully you will find these tips and tools helpful as you answer the age-old question for yourself.
Out of the Starting Lineup
“Intelligent, go-getter, leader, problem solver.” Maybe these were some of the characteristics used to describe you at what seemed like the height of your career. Then the happiest days of your life happened! You experienced the joy of bringing another life or lives into the world! Fast forward to later, and now you are mostly described as “Ma Ma, Mommy and eventually Maaah!” It’s as though you’ve been pulled from the starting lineup and relegated to managing daytime cartoons, making sandwiches with artistry worthy of Parenting Magazine, while singing a ditty that teaches the days of the week. These things, while fun are just not quite as exciting as a paycheck, the corner office and company perks! All the while, you imagine your former co-workers going into the office and dominating the court, leaving you on the sidelines to watch. So now what? How do you navigate the duality of being Super Mom while secretly longing for the days of quarterly bonuses and coffee breaks? How do you stay in the game and relevant from the sidelines? Consider the following.
Be A Good Bench Player
The solution to being sidelined is to be a good bench player. Bench players are the players who aren’t in the starting lineup but over time they can work themselves back into the game. During the bench time each player continues to practice and sharpen their skills so that when their number is called they can go into the game and resume play. Often a great bench player can win a spot on the starting team if they prove to be just as quick, competent and skillful as those in the starting lineup. As a SAHM (stay at home mom) you must do the same thing. Here are a few tips:
- Study the playbook: Stay sharp and abreast of the new technologies in your field. Continue to read the latest journals associated with your field of work. Staying current without involvement at least allows you to know the movers and shakers within your industry. Staying at home shouldn’t mean staying out of touch. Joining organizations that allow you to remain abreast will benefit you when returning to the job market. Because technology changes so quickly in today’s world taking classes on line in your field will prevent you from feeling like a relic when you reenter the market. MSN Money, CNN Money, Fortune and Indeed are just a few examples of resources you can leverage to stay current on company performance and industry trends.
- Suit-up: The bench players wear the same uniform as the starting players. Always stay current in your look. Many SAHM’s enter the world of the living looking like she stepped out of a time capsule from ten years earlier. When they do re-enter the workforce, they are immediately labeled as old and dated. They will struggle to garner respect for your perceived outdated knowledge. Ann Taylor and Banana Republic are the standard go-to’s on current budget friendly professional attire.
- Support the team: Bench players are usually the best cheerleaders for teammates on the court. The starters on a team have influence with the coach and they often advise the coach on which bench player has improved or has something of value to add to the team. Stay in touch with people in the work force who are actively involved in your area. They will always know about job openings, transfers, consultant positions, rule changes, etc. which allows you an inside track to jobs and the hiring personnel. These people have influence which you can use later to your benefit. They are more likely to share with you if you have maintained a relationship with them even if it’s via a text or email over the years on holidays and or their birthday. Recant funny stories that you both have in common to remind them of the relationship you had with them. You don’t want to reappear after seven years away and need their help to reenter the job market. Your calls will go unreturned and your emails will probably go into the spam folder or the recycle bin. Maintain contact. This will benefit you in other ways also. After a few weeks of only talking to toddlers, an adult conversation will require that you think which is always good. Don’t become a pest, keep this in balance because they are at work with pressing items due. LinkedIn is a great tool to stay in contact with your former co-workers and to make new connections.
- Huddle: Most people love talking about themselves. A good bench player will always engage active players in conversations about their job in hopes of one day doing the same job. In a game this is usually a huddle or team meeting where they discuss the strategies that they will use to win. In this instance inquire, but not excessively, about changes in the software that they are using or protocol changes. Write this information down and later, do an exhaustive internet search to get all the details and inner workings of this new information that keeps you in the loop. Again, LinkedIn can be very useful here. Also, Meetup can be a good way to socialize more informally with the movers and shakers in the industry. (Word to the wise - It goes without saying, but please be cautious with using any social media sites. Before you join any groups, check the current members and how many there are. Also, before you go to any events, check to see how many people will be attending. Its best to join groups/events with people you already know).
- Proudly wear your ring: Bench players will proudly tell you that they are a part of the team, especially if that team wins the championship! People will ask you where you worked before coming into their work environment. What will you say? How will you explain your hiatus? Never apologize for your time away raising your children. With confidence, explain that you decided to stay at home to raise your children, who by this time are surely thriving in their academic pursuits. Then, in a professional manner, turn the conversation to some of the things you did to stay abreast of your industry and craft through various classes, books, organizations and affiliations. If the conversation turns into an inquisition on your time away from the professional world, then dust off your feet and go to the next town! You do not want to be friends with anyone, or work for a company that does not prioritize family. This may be a preview of things to come if your family ever needs you to attend school related events.
Titus 2:2-6New King James Version (NKJV)
2 that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; 3 the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— 4 that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.
Again, as a Christian mother and First Lady, I understand the role of a mother from a Biblical perspective. The proof of this word continues to manifest today. Far too often in my counseling of women, I hear working mothers regret the fact that their children are “latch-key kids” who often find trouble after school. I’ve heard children complain that their parents never attended a PTA meeting, a parent teacher conference, a game or had a meal prepared for dinner. There is no substitute for a mother, not now or ever. Obviously, a mother’s love is paramount to human development. While there are many exceptions to the rule, most healthy well-adjusted successful people who contribute to society are more than likely to have had a mother who provided a stable consistent dose of love, discipline, teaching and nourishment. So the point bears repeating. Being a SAHM doesn’t mean you dropped off the face of the planet and returned dumber and looking like an extinct dinosaur using vernacular from another century. Respect the job you did raising your children and never apologize for it! You must respect what you sacrificed for, in this case your children, in order to ensure that others respect it also.
Besides, you know that in just a few short years you will be sending them off. They won’t need their mommy anymore and you’ll be back in the rat race. The pace of demanding schedules, meetings about meetings and bureaucratic paperwork. The constant buzz of emails, instant messages and phone calls. And the stress of dealing with all of the motley personalities involved. So what’s the hurry? Enjoy your children and your home! After laundry, cleaning, lunch, more cleaning, craft time and dinner…oh yeah, and more cleaning…take a cue from your husband. Kick your feet up, watch the game with him and learn how to be the GREAT bench player! And bonus…he will love you even more for it!
Prayerfully & With Love,
First Lady Lynda