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Finding harmony working and mothering

May 17, 2013

Someone recently did a Google search and found my blog using the search phrase, “finding harmony working and mothering.” It showed up in my blog stats and of course I pounced on it for a topic I’ve been meaning to write about.

But you see, I haven’t written about it because, let’s face it, I raised my kids while holding down a half time job a generation ago. Swallow. That makes me sound old but since I’m finally gonna be a grandma I can deal with it. (If you haven’t read about that yet, it is here.)

And truly, raising children in the 80s and working outside the home was done without cell phones or smart phones or texting or even the Internet or blogs or Facebook. Mostly I wonder how I managed childcare and a career and all that juggling without a cell phone. But I think I’m glad I didn’t have to deal with the distractions of Facebook and smart phones where you are tempted to be “always on” even when you’re playing with your kids.

Michelle enjoying the electronic piano at the sitter's house.

Michelle enjoying the electronic piano at the sitter’s house.

Mostly we did it with the support and wiping-noses-and-bottoms help of a wonderful neighbor, Linda, who took care of our children when I worked, for most of their first five years, and before and after school until they were old enough to stay home on their own. Linda was loving, involved, nurturing, and took time to read, color, play and more with the children. She was in many ways their second mom.

Oldest two daughters with babysitter's children.

Our children loved their “big brother and big sister”, the sitter’s children.

I have written about these years extensively in my column and also a book, Working, Mothering and other “Minor” Dilemmas that was published in 1984 by Word Books who even put out a hardcover edition (some hardcovers apparently still available thru Amazon). It was one of the first mainstream Christian books published on the topic, I believe. If I had written that book today I would have also had to be blogging about the topic, tweeting about it, Facebooking, yeah. Getting books published, especially by a major Christian publisher was a lot easier in those days.  Our staff photographer, Al Brubaker, from Mennonite Media even did a low key photo shoot for an article and the book jacket.

Taking children on business trips.

Article on “Taking kids along on business” appeared in Christian Living.

But the work of raising children, whether you are a mom or dad and holding down a full or part time job, either in or out of the home, has never been very easy. Many a morning my arms ached getting out the door with a baby in my arms, a toddler tagging along, while toting a diaper bag, briefcase, lunch bag, and pocketbook (if I was dumb enough to tackle that without making multiple trips). I’m afraid I drug my kids out of bed and to the sitter’s many a morning looking like rag muffins.

Honesty in blogs: Rag muffin number 3 looking bright eyed and very bushy tailed.

Honesty in blogs: Rag muffin number 3 looking bright eyed and very bushy tailed.

And even when you had the best babysitter in the county and the best back up and emergency plans, then chicken pox would come along and that changed everything.

Sick children and childcare

What do you do when the kids get chickenpox? You hire the cat sitter.

When the children reached the age they could go to preschool, that brought them new friends and activities, but also new juggling as we tried to manage running them to preschool, then back to the babysitter’s, and then back to work. I had a very understanding employer.

Carpooling children to nursery school.

Tanya, smiling cheesily like kids do on the back row, light blue shirt.

My job did involve some travel which I enjoyed even though it was another “dilemma”—can I take one or more of the children along? Who could I drop off en-route at Grandma and Grandpa’s house? Can the whole family go?

Traveling with children on a business trip.

The trusty old station wagon carried us to Lancaster, Pa. for a Sunday night speaking gig.

I think each of my now-grown daughters would say they never really resented my work outside the home, and even find it somewhat reassuring as they contemplate how to do the same in the future.

Travel for job and parenting.

Doreen’s very first dorm room, when I took her to the Mennonite convention, Normal, Illinois, 1989.

They turned out—with the help of Linda, a supportive family (Mom and Dad never complained when they had to help pitch in when I dropped them off on my way to Chicago or meetings in Indiana or one of many Mennonite church conventions), our church and their mostly wonderful teachers in our public schools—AMAZINGLY well. My oldest daughter wrote her own take,“The Daughter’s Revenge,” here.

Me and my oldest daughter, Michelle, lingering a few minutes on the babysitter's porch.

Me and my oldest daughter, Michelle, lingering a few minutes on the babysitter’s porch.

But of course I’m prejudiced. And thanking-my-lucky-stars-and-the-good-Lord-happy.

Babysitters and childcare.

Dropping off Doreen at the babysitter’s house.

Photo credits and more: My unending thanks to our sitter for all her love and care, and also for the top two and bottom two photos from her home.


From → Faith, Family Life

  1. Love the honesty (I can relate!) and gentle touches of humor!

    • Thanks for your comment. One of my Facebook friends said she ‘didn’t want to think about it.’– I need to ask her what she meant–if her memories of that time period were that overwhelmingly difficult or what. I’ve meant to convey it was a juggling time but very good years that I also enjoyed.

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  1. Finding harmony: I used to draft designs for mobile homes | findingharmonyblog
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