“I Can’t Do Play Dates”….and Other Mantra of the Working Mom

Brittany Norman

“We don’t really do play dates.”…  “Your child is measuring 2 sizes bigger than his current shoes.”…  “The nanny will be here with them (my son and your child).”…  “She’s not my mom, she’s my nanny.”…..  If you are a working mom, the list could go on, right?  And so can the guilt. 

When I co- founded my company, I didn’t even have kids.  My company “was” my first child and I could work as much as I wanted and when I wanted and all that I wanted.  The only person to coordinate with was my husband, who was in law school so as you can imagine, he was busy on his own.  So the life of an entrepreneur and being a mom had yet to collide.  But it did. 

Our son was born during the second year of my company, and since I was “efficient and organized and scheduled”, so was he (he was born to a Type A mom).  I had read lots of books and talked to friends and I had a plan.  And the blessing was that with some diligence, he fell very easily into a routine. That worked for both of us.  He ate, had waketime, and napped every 3 hours like clockwork and he was sleeping through the night by 8-10 weeks. Since I was working for myself (and my partners), I never took “maternity” leave and didn’t really skip much of a beat in my work life.  I had a home office so I could have him in a bouncing seat or be bobbing up and down with him while on a phone call with someone.  We were side-by-side all day and all night, whether at my desk at home or in my office in a meeting or traveling (yes, he and the ones after him would spend a lot of their early lives traveling with me).  I nursed so even feeding him was free and portable. It was easy. 

Then came the toddler years.  And some of the guilt-speak. I could no longer just have him sitting and playing quietly next to me.  So we went through a stretch of looking for and finding nannies and housekeepers because, as all women business owners or employees know, just because you have a job that pays you outside of the home, doesn’t mean that someone else does all that you have to do at home.  That’s one of the huge challenges, right?  You and your husband may both work for pay, but as the wife, you still feel responsible for the full-time job of running and maintaining the household even if your husband is sharing much of the labor (which mine was/does).  So you actually have two full-time jobs.  (more on this topic in another blog)

We lived in a neighborhood with young families, on a street with young moms and babies, toddlers and preschoolers. For some women, this would have been a dream come true: people in the same boat as you, kids and moms at the same stage, built-in distractions and therapy outlets.  But not for me.  Because I worked.  I wanted to work. I liked working. I believed it was my calling from the Lord. I was good at it. 

But I felt bad.  I (almost) always said no to play dates (and didn’t really enjoy them when we went because I was so “different” from the other moms and/or in a hurry to leave so I could get back to work). We didn’t spend afternoons at the children’s museum or at the park or in someone’s living room or backyard chatting and watching all our kids play together.  I felt like I was always running and juggling.  I enrolled my 18 month old in “school” because I needed the hours while other moms were contemplating home schooling or looking forward to 2-3 more years with their baby at home before kindergarten.  Guilt, guilt, guilt. 

Twenty-one years ago, I would have given you very prompt responses to questions about the rights, wrongs, betters, and “never would consider” options for education, schooling, childcare, working and juggling being a wife, mom, and business owner.  But today I will tell you that there aren’t nearly as many absolutes as I once believed.  Wisdom, time, age, pain, struggle, life and many family choices later, I tell my kids (I have 5 now) that the absolutes and forevers are salvation through Jesus Christ and hopefully marriage.  The rest of the choices life brings simply come with different outcomes. 

You may feel called to be a paid-working mom and wife—and that will bring challenges, choices, costs and benefits that a home-working mom and wife won’t face.   You may feel called to do paid-work for a stretch of your children’s lives and then stop for a while.  You may feel called to always be in the paid-working world and be intentional about the support staff that you hire to help pull that off (nannies and housekeepers, etc.).   What you have to hear and believe is that there isn’t a right and wrong answer to that dilemma.  In our culture, depending on which part of the U.S. you live in, there may be more or different social norms that you violate no matter what you choose. 

The key is, what has God called you and your family to?   Are you and your spouse in agreement?  Are you seeking the Lord in all that you are called to do?  Do you believe that He is the one calling, giving you the gifts, talents, abilities, opportunities, and desires that have you where you are? 

What I have learned through walking with the Father on this journey over the last twenty-one years is that His journey for me is not His journey for my neighbor or the mom at my church or the homeroom mom of the class or my sister or best friend.  It’s His journey for me.  And I can’t screw that up if I am willing to hear His voice and follow His call.  That will most certainly look different today than it will five, ten, fifteen years from now.  Don’t be afraid to walk your journey and don’t be afraid to change paths. 

My life scripture has become the passage at the end of John, when Jesus is restoring Peter and they are walking along the beach with John following behind.  In John 21:20-22, Peter asks Jesus about His calling for John.  And Jesus clearly says to Peter, “If it is my will….what is that to you? You follow me.”  That is the mantra that I have to keep before me, actively reminding myself and asking the Holy Spirit to not let me look to the right or the left and compare (Satan’s great tool for mom-guilt), but to keep my eyes fixed on Him and His call to me.  You follow me

Does that mean that I never again feel/felt bad about missing play dates (not a ton actually), or the fact that I missed field trips, that my child had outgrown his shoes, or that we have helpers in our household to help us keep it all going?  No, I still feel guilty when I let myself drift into looking around and making assumptions of how everyone else is “doing it all” or doing it “better”. 

But, twenty-one years and five children later, I am quicker at re-centering, recalling God’s faithfulness, and remembering that He has made me to be me, called me to a journey for my family that is not right or wrong, but it just might be different.  I have children who have had multiple passports, have a bug for “going” and doing, and are now starting to discern for themselves what God’s call on their lives might be and how that might “look different” from their peers.  And, in spite of several nannies, some shoes that were outgrown before I knew it, and missed play dates they have turned out to be amazing people and I look forward to walking alongside them as they enter the “real” world! 

Days of juggling are long; years are fast.  The path can change and that’s okay.   Stay fixed on the Father and His call for you, and do all of it as a service to Him.  Press on/in.  More to come!

Editor’s Note: If you liked this piece from Brittany, we encourage you to check out her other FDE blogs as well —

FDE Blog - Seasons Change…But God
FDE Blog - Yes, I have Staff And That Doesn't Make Me Inferior