In writing this article about the role of a woman as a mother and as a career woman, I didn’t realise how much “stuff” it would dig up for me: “stuff” I am dealing with from the decision to have children, balancing that with my career, and then choosing to stay at home and assume the responsibilities that come with that.
For some, the decision to have children, to have a career, or to have both is clear. Some might ask, “What’s the big deal?”
For some, financial necessity makes it a non-decision. It has to be done and women find a way to make it work and balance out to the best of our abilities. For those who have the choice, like myself, finding the balance between having a career and raising children is not always so clear-cut, especially emotionally.
From a young age I was taught that I should work hard, get a good education, go to University, and get a good job. That was my life plan. I never thought about having children or a family; that was something other people did. Then I met my husband Gary and he slowly began to introduce me to the New Church and it’s teachings, particularly around marriage and family.
The first of Swedenborg’s writings that I was exposed to was Married Love. Rev. Lawson Smith gave it to Gary and me. He was pastor of the Westville New Church in Durban, South Africa. We read it together in London, where we lived at the time, in classes held by Rev. Fred Elphick. It didn’t make much sense to me then, but its teachings are all much clearer the older I get and the more of life I have experienced.
I have been fortunate to meet some beautiful people along the way, whom I am proud to call my friends: people who knew that their life plan was to get married, have children and raise them. I have been on a spiritual journey for the past several years with the love, support, and friendship of other like-minded New Church women whom I have met here in South Africa. I’ve been learning that marriage is a three-way covenant among a husband, a wife and the Lord. If a couple looks to the Lord together, each seeking the wellbeing of the other, they can receive the blessing of a true spiritual union, a precious gift from the Lord. (Source: New Church Vineyard, “Marriage is a Gift from God”)
Gary wanted children. I had never considered it, but because I adore my husband and it felt like the next step on our married journey together, I was prepared to take that step forward. I love all three of our beautiful children. I have to be honest in saying that it was difficult, and still is at times, for me to reconcile the balance between having a career and feeling fulfilled as a mother.
In London, I had a great job which I loved. I worked long hours, travelled a lot, but was well rewarded. This meant that we had a great lifestyle. I worked because I had to but also because I enjoyed what I was doing. After we had children, I had to go back to work after 6 months at home because we couldn’t afford for me not to work. It was a strange feeling. I’d struggled with being at home, feeling a little bored because I was used to stimulating my brain all day. It was hard to be at home, and it was a relief to go back to work and feel useful again. After our second, my thinking changed. Our eldest child was in daycare from 7am until 6:30pm every day of the week, I travelled a lot and I started to wonder who was the biggest influence in her life. It certainly wasn’t me…. With our second, we knew we had to do something differently, not for me but for our children. What was the point in having children if we couldn’t be there raising them, being the role models we wanted to be?
That is why we moved to Durban in South Africa, where Gary is from originally. We moved here so that I didn’t have to work but could stay at home and raise our children. However, something niggled at me. How could I be at home and still feel fulfilled?
My intention in writing this article was to write about women and our roles and balancing careers and motherhood – but there are no clear-cut answers. Everyone’s situation is different: we come from different backgrounds, have different cultures, and in some cases speak different languages. For some people working is a necessity, for some it is not. I am not so attached to material stuff that I need to be wealthy, but for me it is a feeling of being financially secure and fulfilled. Can a woman be fulfilled being at home with her children? Can a woman balance a career and being at home successfully?
I enjoyed being at work, but I saw the impact that it had on my children not having me there during their formative years. I had to ask, “Who is influencing my children the most?” and “Are my children happy?” On the whole, I believe they are, because they are secure in the knowledge that we love them unconditionally, and that we are here for them no matter what, whether we work or not. For me, it is not a question of whether to work or not; it is a question of whether I can live with the decision to work or not.
Now I use my time wisely. I work for myself teaching languages, writing, and proofreading articles amongst other things in the mornings while they are at school. But my main job is raising my children, and I want nothing else to interfere with that, so I am here if they need me at any time during the day. I believe that “Children are a heritage of the Lord” (Psalms 127:3), and so I make time to be with them and to be present with them when I am with them (not thinking of other things I have to do). The balance is not always right, but as humans we are not perfect.
I have also found that “a love of little children is forever conjoined with true marriage love,” (Conjugial Love 385). Our love for our children strengthens our marriage by bringing us closer together as we look to the Lord to try to raise our children to be useful adults in this world and potential angels for the Lord’s kingdom.
Every day is a new day with no mistakes in it.… I try to do the best for my husband, my children, my family and friends, and those around me each day. There are days where I struggle emotionally with the challenge of being at home and raising children, and I wish I was out working all day. Then I remember all the moments I may have missed and find new and creative ways to feel fulfilled in my day with the children. Together we have discovered a love of gardening, sewing and painting, which I may never have taken the time to find out if I was working. There may come a time when I want or need to work. When the time comes, I will trust in the Lord and step forward in the knowledge that our children are loved, cared for, and nurtured no matter what my decision is.
I have met many women over the years who have struggled with the conflict between work and children. There are no right answers. I am lucky in this day and age to be able to stay at home with our children. Many have to work, and others choose to work. I have met still others who never had the opportunity to go to university and have a career before having children; they wonder whether they have missed out something in life. We are all unique, but I find comfort in the knowledge that other women too struggle with the same kind of issues.
I encourage you share your experiences and thoughts with us here. What is your experience of the career/children balance? What ideas can you share with others on resolving the emotional conflict that comes with working and raising children?
We would love to hear from you.