The Great Conundrum – Mama Life vs. Work Life

Written by:  Dcs. Heidi Goehmann

Wife, mother, daughter, deaconess, friend, pastor’s wife, social worker, therapist.  My many vocations, on this particular day were getting the best of me.  I dropped off my kids at school and drove down the highway struggling with what was most important.  Where was the balance?  How do other women magically find it?

My oldest daughter’s parting words to me, as I kissed her goodbye at school were, “You just don’t care anymore.  You’re always working.  Work matters more to you.”  My heart entered my stomach.  I knew her words were fueled by the argument we just had, the chores she didn’t want to do, the challenge of growing into one’s own body and life at her given age.  The question I always ask myself as a parent however is…Is there any truth in it?  Even a morsel?

As I cast aside my family, my children, my husband, those whom I love…for my work?  I wanted desperately to run back to the school and hash out this conversation with my beautiful daughter.  I wanted to yell back, “I’m trying my best!  I love you.  I love my work.  I love Jesus.  I’m trying to mash them all together in a life that is going to be less than perfect.”  I settled for crying in my parked van, waiting for the Aldi to open.  In that moment, my distorted picture said to me in flashing marquee that I had failed…at everything…again.

After walking around Aldi, putting items in my cart and praying to God for forgiveness, I sat down at the coffee shop to work on Bible study.  Sisters, God is more clever than we give Him credit for.  I sat down and what was my given study concept for the day?  Vocation.  I love how He works like that – weaving pieces of His Word into the moments of our lives.  Living, breathing, and active Word.

The problem that I encountered was that most writings on vocation, Luther’s included, simply affirm any work as “working for the Lord” (Colossians 3:17).  What we do gives glory to Him.  Luther’s primary concern was that church work not be elevated to superstar status in the church and also that Christians find joy and contentment in their daily duties, as good gifts from the Father above.

This was not my problem though.  I find joy in the washing of the dishes, the packing of lunches, the parenting, the wife-ing, the cooking, and in the leading, the writing, and the teaching I do for my deaconess call.  Contentment in my callings was not an issue for me.  Desiring to serve my neighbor, in my household and around the world, not the issue.  Knowing that each and every piece of it glorified God, not the issue.  Feeling like I was incapable of actually doing any of it to the best of my ability…that’s my issue.

Sorting what to give time to each day, in a practical sense…just plain hard.  I know I’m not alone.  I know many a wife and mom and worker feels paralyzed out there by a seeming inability to balance all the parts of life that work together.  To find pleasure, not in just the work, but in the knowledge that they have chosen well on this earth.

Ecclesiastes to the rescue!  Ecclesiastes 3:9-11:

What gain has the worker from his toil?  I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.  He has made everything beautiful in its time.  Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

I want gain from my toil.  I want success and whatever that looks like in my worldly little mind.  I want my children perfectly healthy and well and happy with me.  I want my work to be excessively well done and reach and touch every single life around me.  I want my husband to think I’m a rock star.

This, however, is not my reality.  Ecclesiastes urges me to tone down my expectations.  The Lord wants me to do it well, but doing it well means doing it with an eternal perspective.  I am convinced that on this earth there will never be a moment where I find the perfect balance.  There will be times that are more out of balance than others, and God can help me readjust, shift priorities around, but most of the time “He has made everything beautiful in its time” means that this world feels confusing, as I try to work within the element of time.  There are many tasks to do, and not enough time to do them.  He has given us joy for our work, but not perfection, and for some reason I’m constantly aiming for perfection.  Is it ok to settle for good instead of “success”? Yes! This is an important part of the doctrine of vocation to hash out.

God doesn’t say “Whatever you do, do it perfectly for the Lord, and in your amazing-ness they will see Jesus.”

God does say, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

It sounds so Ecclesiastes-ish.  Do everything in Jesus name.  That is our fulfillment of vocation.  My children see Jesus in me far better when I seek Him in all of it…in my uncertainty, in my insecurity, in my much less than perfect, forgiveness needing self.  They see Him, when I pray with them after the argument, “God help us figure all this out.”

If I have learned anything from Ecclesiastes, it is this…

God makes everything beautiful.  It takes time.  It takes struggle.  There is beauty in the figuring it out, than in the solution.  His name is written all over my walk of figuring it out.  His name is in the journey, as much as in the eternal destination.  He values the walking alongside.

Half of the struggle with my daughter is that we are still in the transition.  I have only been doing this working mom thing for a short time, really, and we all need time to adjust, time to transition, time to talk it out.  We won’t ever get it perfect.  But figuring it out together-I’m gonna call that very good.

Father, thank you for our families.  Thank you for our work.  Thank you for our homes, and our fridges filled with food to cook, and out living rooms filled with things to pick up.  Lord, help us to enjoy the journey in you.  Help us to lay down everything before you.  Guide and direct our days, let us eat the fruit of Your mercy and goodness in the joy of the everyday.  Make all of our struggles beautiful in Your time.  In Jesus name, Amen.