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November 13, 2011

WOTHM Experience: Where Do I Fit In?

Over the years that I have been easing in and learning to walk with Christ on this path of being a WOTHM, I've been disappointed, at various times, in the level of support from the faith-based community for women like me.  But that disappointment is an opportunity for growth in humility and I would do well to remember that.

I have found myself in a sort of "no-woman's-land" socially.  In the past couple of years, I have reached out to others in an attempt to establish a relationship with other mothers -- both those who work outside the home and those who do not -- but I can't help feeling like it has often felt like a one-way street.  Again, this is more a reminder to me to humbly accept the opportunities I receive and not project my own feelings of inadequacy on others.

A woman blessed with the ability and means to be able to stay at home to raise her children seems to have many resources and lots of support, from my view.  There are mommy play groups that meet mid-week so the children can play while the moms have some social time.  Swim lessons, music lessons, sports practices (you name it) for your kiddos can be done during the week and during the day so that your weekend doesn't have to be filled with that.  For those moms with a faith background who desire a Bible study, many churches and parishes offer Bible studies (ENDOW, Familia, etc) during the week (some even offer child care!) to meet the needs of those moms.

I think that is great.  Moms who spend their days taking care of their children and home need to have those resources and that support network available to them on their terms.  

A woman blessed with the ability and situation to work outside the home during the day and during the week has options as well, although they make family life a bit more busy and jumbled.  There are swim/music/sports lesson sessions in the evenings...at 5:30.  If you have any kind of commute, it's almost impossible to make that without help from someone who can transport your child.  But for those of us with inflexible schedules at work, there is also the option to attend swim/music/sports lesson sessions on Saturdays.  Sometimes that works out and sometimes it doesn't.  Depending on the number of children you have and their ages, the times provided for children of double-occupation homes may or may not be convenient enough for your children.  For the WOTHM with a faith background who might desire a Bible study or a Familia or ENDOW group, she is often tasked with organization and obtaining other WOTHM participants...or it's something gone without.  It's just a fact.  

Perhaps my view of what is available is also clouded by my family situation with a husband who works full-time in the evenings with days off in the middle of the week.  Perhaps if my husband worked a Mon-Fri 8a.m.-5 p.m. job, the difficulties I experience would disappear.

I have read lots of SAHM blogs over the years and I know many SAHM's (my own sisters included) and I get the impression that social networks through Bible studies, swim/dance/gymnastics lessons are very important to them.  It "gets them out of the house" and "gives them routine" and helps them to meet people.  Many times they meet like-minded, similarly-situated women and form close bonds of friendship.  Especially for larger families, the moms find these connections invaluable...necessary.  It seems that an undercurrent runs through discussions with SAHM's though that "because they don't work outside the home" they need these things.  I would argue they need them regardless of their state in life.  We are social beings.  Women thrive on relationships and sharing experiences.  It seems that by insinuating that they might not need these things if they worked outside the home, they give the impression that a job outside the home for a WOTHM is her social life.

****Disclaimer****These are simply my observations around SAHM's.  I do not intend in anyway to lump all SAHM's in the same group and think they view things the same way.  I have a very limited view of it as an "outsider" but these are the things that have stuck out to me over the years.  And recently, an experience prompted this blogpost so I'm just exploring what I have observed, what I believe and how it impacts me as a WOTHM. ****end Disclaimer****

As a WOTHM, I readily admit that I have social interaction because of my job.  However, it's not necessarily what I would call a "social life" and I don't view my 40+ hours every week in the office as a replacement for fellowship and friendship formed in activities like a Bible study, Familia or ENDOW group.  Additionally, with all of the other things I need to work into my "off" hours (swim/music/sports lessons), there is even less time available for something like a Bible study in my schedule.  

Many of the women I associate with at work come from a very different background than I do.  This isn't bad, but it doesn't provide the most fertile ground from a fellowship/friendship standpoint.  I've been fortunate to have made and fostered one stronger-than-average friendship in the workplace.  However, when proximity of our respective jobs changed, it lessened the amount of interaction available.

And I notice I miss that.   

But most of the women I work with think I am one of those "crazy" people because I have five children and I refuse to declare myself "done."  I may discuss my children and their activities with someone at work, but it's more along the lines of informing and not necessarily a mutual sharing. 

There's not a lot of opportunity in my day for social interaction.  When I interact with those at work, generally, the interaction is a requirement to achieving a common goal that once met, will be replaced with another common goal which will require its own level of interaction and so on and so forth.  

Also, I'm the only Catholic in my work group.  There are other non-Catholic christians, but the connection is centered on the commonalities between denominations, differences are not (and should not be) discussed, so that aspect to social interaction I desire is missing from the bulk of my life.

My social no-woman's-land I referred to stems from the fact that I don't feel like I "fit in" anywhere. 

I don't "fit in" at work because my job is really a means to an end, not an end in itself.  I navigate waters of family planning carefully with women at work.  Many of the women I interact with have one, two or three children and know they aren't having any more.  I really can't fathom truly KNOWING that I am done having children.  That's not to say I don't entertain the thought of avoiding conception of another child for the remainder of my fertile years.  But "being done" is something I don't truly know if I can comprehend.  At some point, I will  hit that magical (haha) stage of perimenopause where I can start to see the years of an open womb coming to a close, and perhaps then I will understand and comprehend what it means to be "done" with childbearing.  And maybe I'll have five children.  Maybe more.  But this level of uncertainty is not a welcome sentiment in the working world.  And so, I wade in somewhat uncharted waters.  I know there are other women in the world who have worked while raising a larger family, but I just don't personally know any right now in my life...and right now is when I feel like I need that.

I don't feel like I "fit in" at Church/School either.  Many of the moms are able to be available to their children at school and at home much of the time.  Even if moms work part-time, they are often more available than I am.  I feel like I miss out on connections I could get with other moms.  Heck, maintining a connection with my own family is a challenge at times!

There are plenty of groups to get involved in - Familia, Bible studies, Ministry groups - but many of the meetings are while I am at work.  And even when evening meeting times are available, sometimes with kids activities and Craig working the opposite schedule, it's difficult without getting a babysitter. 

Perhaps I am feeling this way because volleyball is over now and I am about to lose the one thing I am "in charge" of and provides me a connection with some other parents.  I am about to replace that with organization of our parish 5K/fundraiser for the spring, so maybe the feeling is fleeting.

Perhaps I feel this way because we've been at our parish now for 5 years and at a recent event , we were kind of on our own instead of sitting, visiting with some people we had begun to cultivate friendships.

It's not a new feeling, though, that I feel like I don't fit in.  It's just that I had another wave of it recently.  And it's also not a new feeling -- this feeling that there's not a good Catholic faith-based network for us Catholic WOTHMs of larger families.

And it's also not new that I feel like it really wouldn't matter if there were anything.  Because with Craig's schedule and mine being completely opposite in times worked and days off...it wouldn't matter because our situation is so unique there's just no way to fit us in.  We really are in sort of a no-man's land.

It's times like these I retreat.  I try to remember St. Gianna, a WOTHM and a great pro-life witness.  I need an inspiration of a woman who has children, and also fulfills a purpose outside of the home, too.  And I have to take some time to reflect and remind myself that it's okay that I work outside the home.  We are able to provide for our family through this sacrifice.  And I am living these fleeting years of motherhood realizing that the days really are numbered.  And all the social outlets that I find my life lacking at times are there, if I look hard enough.  I have to be a bit unconventional in how I go about getting what I need.  And yes, I often have to extend the invitations, make the phone calls, etc.  I never have been one to sit by and wait for someone else to pick up the reins and direct a relationship.  And while on some level, it would appear that I would like that, I don't think it's realistic to expect that to change.  Besides, I have found a level of support in the blogosphere that is unavailable to me in my day-to-day "real life."  I am grateful for bloggers like Jennifer Fulwiler and Rebecca at The Road Home and Sarah at Fumbling Toward Grace and Elizabeth at That Married Couple.  There are really too many blogs to mention here, but those were some of the early ones I started following and continue to reap benefits from their writing.

So, I will keep on keepin' on as they say.  What other option is there?  My job beckons.  My children's needs are always there to be met.  At some point, I will have to learn to work my own needs into the equation and I should not wait on someone else to come along and work that out for me.  Perhaps that means an individual time of prayer and bible study with a guide for one (as opposed to a group).  Perhaps that means I continue to invite myself along on things I can make it to.  And most definitely it means that I must continue to pray for the virtue of humility, to accept the opportunities that come my way and not to disparage those things in which I am not included.

5 comments:

  1. I completely understand where you're coming from... while my husband doesn't work night-shift, he works retail hours so he's often working in the evening hours.

    I was always very frustrated as a young mom that even the activities like Wee Joy Sing or baby-mom classes that I wanted to do to bond with my child were never available after 5. My only faith-based activity at our parish that I've been able to participate in was being an RCIA sponsor. Even that took a lot of coordination, but of course it was worth it. I just couldn't commit to doing it year after year because of the toll it took on my family & support system (sitter a.k.a. Grandma).

    It seems as though the grass is always greener on the other side...

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  2. You've articulated one of my fears about motherhood beautifully here. I will (God willing) be a WOTHM someday and I worry about how to fit it all in. I've learned (quickly) from working FT in ministry, that I MUST take time to allow myself to be ministered to and 'fill my own cup' so to speak, and that has only added to my fears.

    From the outside looking in - you do an awesome job and your kids are super blessed to have you as a momma!

    And I know I'm not around to give you real hugs, but I send them your way and lots of love too!

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  3. You are fabulous with "keeping on" but I really wish that we as a Church could find our way to get our act together to provide support for all women. It isn't like having a job outside the home puts you in a small minority if one considers actual demographics, not just what much of the church manages to see.

    I noticed long ago that all of the "women's" groups were clearly geared toward SAHMs/retirees, but I could just shrug it off since I am not in the stage of needing the special support required when parenting. It isn't like you can just run off for a weekend retreat!

    Anyway, I am glad that you are talking about this, and sorry that reality is what it currently is.

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  4. I really enjoyed reading this, Michelle. I am a SAHM to my first child, a 16-month-old, and I am constantly wishing that I had at least a part-time job for social interaction. It is refreshing to hear your perspective, because it is a good reminder that social interaction at work does not a "social life" make! I really wish that there were more Church groups that met when WOTHM could go, both for your/their sakes and my own because I would like to meet more women like you!
    Oh, and I SO hear you on the "being done" thing. It scares me to hear friends talk about being done having children...in their 20s! I cannot fathom it, either.
    I pray that you are able to find more opportunities and outlets! :)

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  5. Hi Michelle, I feel fortunate to have found your blog tonight. I absolutely love my Catholic faith, I love being a mother to my children, and I work outside the home. My work does not define me, I'm doing it because we have bills to pay, my husband is an underpaid high school teacher, and we need my income in order to make it. The other mothers around me (that I interface with at my children's day care for instance) do not place any importance at all on religion.. some of them are self proclaimed "Anti-Catholic" Catholics, have one child, don't want any more, and don't even attend Church. Religion just isn't important to most of them. It is very sad. I try not to be judgemental, but I sense that I am resented by most of them for having a stronger Faith life. On the other side, though, I don't homeschool and my kids attend public school and day care so that I can work outside the home. (You understand the combined guilt and challenges of that!) I know there are other women of faith whom I admire, that look down upon the choices that I have made or silently disapprove of how we are raising our family. Nevertheless, I do the best that I can. I work 40+ hours a week, I have a long 88 mile commute (roundtrip), my husband has to pick up a lot of the slack when I have to work late due to work committments... etc. etc. but we attend Church together every Sunday, we read the bible together every night and I spend precious moments with my young children every night before bed teaching them their Catholic faith. At times I feel trapped between two worlds, and I agree with all of what you are saying in this post... Other women at work just don't agree with my points of view... I want to be more involved in my local parish, but all of the mom's groups meet during my work day, (or occasionally at 5:30pm-6:00pm, which is while I am still commuting home, or when I am walking in the door and about to sit down with my family for dinner.) It's a hard balance. There are not many people that I have found that live the life that I do or can understand what it is like to be a sincere devoted Catholic mother who works outside the home. It is nice to meet you :-)
    I am following you now.

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Thank you for reading. I enjoy reading other perspectives, please feel free to share yours. :)