The Motto of the Working Mother

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A guest post by Molly of Molly Makes Do:


A perfect little house with just enough space to be comfortable and cozy.  A yard big enough for adventures and exploration.  A gaggle of smiling children.  The ability to put real, wholesome food on the table for every meal.  Hours spent living and growing in our lives together.  A comfortable existence where every need is provided for and wants are never indulged too much.   I see myself as the matriarch of this little dreamland; with enough hours in the days and no outside commitments except those we make as a family.  These are the little things I daydream about and  what my life does not look like.

In reality I am a working mother; or as I prefer an “employed” mother.  I am not a woman who finds part of her vocation in a career or path that requires paid work outside the home, but just another woman trying to do right by her family.  I am thankful for the job I have with its great benefits, understanding supervisors and non-standard schedule, but I’d rather be at home.  My heart resides in my home, where my true vocation is, no matter where I spend my time.  My focus is always on my family.

Haley asked me to write about staying “family focused” as an employed mother.  Our friends clamored to find out how I stay, in their eyes, a “mother who occasionally works” instead of the other way around.  Family life can be complicated enough as you weigh the needs and wants of your nuclear family and it gets increasingly complicated when you start bring other people into your day to day life.

One of the biggest challenges an employed mother faces is balancing the needs of her husband, her children, her family, her coworkers, her boss, her contacts, patients or customers.  It is a precarious balance.  One new project, one less coworker, a new illness or any new need can send you toppling over.  Of course, this is true for any family there’s just the added fun adding extra adults who have not promised the whole litany of “love, honor, obey” and often laughs off the whole “in sickness and in health” thing.

There is a trick to this, the work/life balance however:  I try my best to keep my family front and center of my life.  In fact, I went as far to make this very clear in the job interview, when I was seven months pregnant, that got me my current job (and I still got the job).  I try to honor our commandments and be a loyal and hard-working employee, but there’s a line.  At the same time I try to devote myself completely to my family when I am home or when they need me, but there’s a line.  I draw this line in the proverbial sand next to a big, proverbial sign that reads:

“Family Always Wins”

This is my great secret and it’s not even something exclusive to employed mothers.  It is not striving for perfection, or trying to have “it all” or “do it all” because let’s face it, we all know that is a lie.  It’s simply the answer to all the questions we ask ourselves, employees outside the home or not.  In my life my family must always win, or come out ahead, in any decision we make.

This doesn’t mean that we sacrifice everything to the point of pain, hunger, or depression because if those are the results the family is not winning it’s struggling or perhaps even failing.  There are times when a family wins with just one parent earning an income, and sometimes the family wins with two.  There are times when a family wins by using public school, and sometimes it’s homeschool.  There are times when a family wins by having the house clean at the end of the night and sometimes it’s by saying “yes” to one more book and ignoring the dishes.  There are times when a family wins by long periods of time together and there are times when winning means a date night, a sleepover at grandmas or that early morning run or late night bath.  It doesn’t matter what the answer is as long as the family comes out ahead.

What defines my family as winning changes week to week, day to day.  Last week we had an impromptu picnic, complete with healthy fruits and veggies, at the park for dinner as soon as I got home.  This week Mommy needed a few minutes to herself and the toddler unanimously voted pizza for dinner.  Whatever the choice ends up being, it’s for the good of the family as a whole.  The family always wins.  

This is the motto I live by, and it is not as easy as it sounds.  It requires thought, constant reevaluation, prayerful discernment and sacrifice of the things my selfish, sinful nature tells me would assure me a gold medal, while leaving my family in the dust.  My family wins when I make a good supper, even though I’d be happy with pizza and oreos, again.  My family wins when everyone is well rested, though my toddler adamantly tries his best to boycott naps.  My family wins when I watch our budget and control our spending, even though I’d be happier with regular binges on ModCloth instead of regular trips to the thrift store.  My family wins with our current dual income and amazing, trustworthy occasional caregivers, even though I’d give anything to stay-at-home.  The answers aren’t always what I want and they’re rarely the same as my friends or the rest of society, but at the end of the day if I can look at our choices and see our family sprinting towards that finish line I know we’re running this race together and together we’ll win


Molly Walter spends most of her time in denial that she has a job that requires her attention outside of her home.  She likes to pretend that she spends all her time crafting and making delicious food and that she doesn’t quickly wrap up “new baby” knits for first birthdays and doesn’t make the same five dishes for dinner.  In both reality and fantasy she never keeps her house perfectly clean.  The official Walter Family motto is “Read Books. Eat Cookies”.  When she’s not doing those two things she blogs at “Molly Makes Do” about making the life she wants with the life she’s been given.

A note from Haley: For some great resources on work/life balance and other areas of homemaking (and our liturgical year cookbook, Feast!) check out the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle Sale starting tomorrow (Wednesday, April 23 at 8am). With 78 ebooks, printables, and amazing bonus products, you can get a whole library of resources on homemaking worth almost $900 for under $30 but ONLY FOR SIX DAYS. It ends April 28th and then it will be gone forever.

I’ll be sharing all the titles tomorrow when the sale goes live and I am so excited to spill all the details! And there’s even a super secret gift I’m offering to all the Carrots readers who purchase through my author link and an amazing giveaway, so stay tuned!

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  1. Bernadette says

    Molly, this is beautifully put. We too have a family life that doesn’t look like anyone else’s that I know … and is not easy to maintain our schedules (I work several evenings a week while my husband is home, after his day job), or to go without the things so many other families seem to enjoy (a house, a yard, etc.). Sometimes it’s hard to listen to other moms talk about their lives (like last night at La Leche League — someone was going on and on about canning and freezing all their own food, which sounds lovely, but not in a 4X8 apartment kitchen!) and realize that we will probably never have those things, or not for a really long time. Yet, these sacrifices make it possible for us to spend all our time with our children, and that is after all our No. 1 goal! Winning looks different here from night to night, too, and not too infrequently we all consider pizza winning 🙂

    • says

      Oh Bernadette I’ve been in your shoes in many ways too! You’ll get there! We spent almost the first year of my sons life living with my parents and I was certain we’d never have some of those things. But, that sacrifice was temporary (thought at the time it felt like it’d never end) and worth it!

      p.s. After about 3 years, I’m so over canning 😉

  2. Megan says

    Love this! Love to see/hear from other Catholic working moms who strive to make the best out of their family life given their circumstances!
    Ive always struggled in relating to most of my favorite bloggers, who are stay at home moms and homeschooling their kids. It is something I wish I could be doing with my three (almost four) little ones, but is just not on the horizon in the near/distant future for us.
    For my family, me having to work is a reality that we face, but we always put family first and treat so preciously the time we get to spend together.

    • says

      Megan – I’d love to pick your brain one day about how you do it with 3 (almost 4)! I can only imagine (poorly I’m sure) and am in awe of folks who find a way to balance it all out with more than 2!

      Three cheers for the working mom of many! You are amazing. =D

  3. says

    Love this post! I can completely relate to her! We all do what is best for our families. Keeping a balance is always hard regardless of your circumstances! GREAT POST!

  4. says

    Love this Molly! I work from home and it’s hard to step away from the computer when I could get *just one more thing* done and turned in (I charge by hour). I feel like after almost a decade, I’ve learned to play while we can, and then work through naptime, if necessary, but that playtime is a priority. God bless!

    • says

      Thank you A. I’m moving between answer comments and reading books at this very moment myself. Still learning to say “yes” whenever I can.

  5. Jenny says

    I keep coming back to this post, but I don’t really know what to say. I am also a working mother with four children who desperately wishes things were different. I agree that the motto of an employed mother is that family comes first. What is left unsaid is that most of the time, mother comes last. I don’t mean last in a spiritual fulfilling kind of way. I mean chewed up and spit out. A cog in the wheel.

    There’s just no time for many, many important things. Your employer doesn’t care that you have pregnancy sickness or that the baby was up all night. Naps are not an option. Your children don’t care you were at work all day. Strike that, they do care because when they get old enough they start asking why you leave them every day. Agony. Every moment of the day is accounted for and deviating from THE SCHEDULE is not an option unless you like playing with disaster. Herding the children through THE SCHEDULE is what you spend most of your time at home doing.

    So this isn’t a cheery comment which is what makes me hesitate to post it, but it’s my life for now. My advice would be that if there is any other way to make ends meet without the mother’s income, do not get a job unless you feel called in a vocational kind of way to work. It is not worth it.

    • says

      Ugh, Jenny I hear you. I think everything you voiced here is exactly why we’re working towards me being able to going part time in the future. There just isn’t enough time in the day with so many things pulling at you! I think I tell myself “This isn’t permanent” a lot, and I couldn’t see myself doing this with more or older kids unless I was doing something I felt was a calling or had no other option.

  6. says

    Today is one of those days where I feel like my family isn’t winning when I’m at home, and they aren’t winning when I’m at work. Today is just one of those days I feel like it’s impossible for us to win, regardless of what I do. I guess I know in my heart that isn’t true, but today, it’s hard. Thanks for your perspective on this particularly crappy day of mine.

    • says

      Regardless of my “motto” it is hard trying to find a work/life balance, particularly on those days when either choice seems wrong. I do know we all have those days, whether or not we’re employed, working, called to a vocation outside the home, etc. There are always going to be days that beat us down. Hang in there friend!

  7. says

    Molly, I read this post and just kept nodding “Amen!” on pretty much every paragraph. I’m also an “employed mom” and yes, it’s a constant struggle. As a high school teacher, you do so much giving in your job, and then you come home to your young kids and you give some more. Summer vacation is the only thing that keeps me from utter burnout.

    But I too have realized the importance of focus on family. It occurred to me a few years back that I seemed to be giving my “first fruits” to my job, not to my kids. That was a bit of a wake-up call, and I’ve modified accordingly. I guess I’m not the first teacher whose experiences have changed after having kids.

    Also love your point about how what is best for the family is different from day to day. It is a shifting experience, rather like riding waves; you have to learn to surf them, or you’ll end up underwater.

    Anyhow. Thanks so much for this. Many blessings on you and your family.

  8. Colleen says

    Thank you for this. Like several other commenters, I love to hear from other Catholic employed moms – in both my neighborhood and in my office, I often feel I’m in the minority (few employed moms in my neighborhood, not many Catholics at work), so your words are hitting a sweet spot for me during a week when I really needed to hear them. Many thanks!

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