Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I've worked outside the home on a couple of occasions since giving birth to my first-born over 23 years ago. I'm working outside the home now, as a cashier at Wal-Mart. Part-time, an average of 25 hours a week.

And I have to say it again: When Mom works a significant amount of time away from the nest, the family is compromised. Not the identity of the family, perhaps, but the soundness of the family, the family's heart. It has something to do with the soul of the home, something I can't quite put my finger on. Trying to understand this, I feel like I'm straining to get a clear view of a shadow in my peripheral vision.

I am not writing this as a holier-than-thou stay-at-home mom who is shaking her head and clucking her tongue at all those "career-minded women who sell their children for a paycheck, " or those confused women who think that raising someone else's children or working for someone else's husband gives them more significance than pouring their talents and energy into their own families. No, I am writing this as a woman who has a family, who loves and values this family above every other earthly relationship, and who drives away from the nest every night to pull a shift at Wal-Mart.

Steve has put it this way: We are a one-income family trying to make it in a two-income economy. However you put it, the reality of trying to raise a family and the expenses that entails - even just the very basics of shelter, food, clothing - in today's economy, that almost demands the household have two-incomes. A gallon of milk is going for the "great value" of $4.28 in Union City this week. A jug of milk, a loaf of bread, and sales tax - that adds up to one hour behind the cash register. And we've got to eat, folks, even if it's not beef and fresh asparagus.

Do I enjoy my job at Wal-Mart? I like it just fine, and I work with a super bunch of people. Am I glad I have a job? Yes indeed I am. I am thankful for this job every time I swipe my employee discount card at Wal-Mart, knocking about $25 a week off our grocery bill. I'm thankful for this job when I pump gas into the car. I'm thankful for this job today, as I write out a check for the last payment for the fees for Tom's classes at the UTM. Hallelujah!

Is my working outside the home a good thing? Yes.

And No.

My husband and my children no longer get the best of me. Oh, they get the best of me that's left now that I'm running on six hours of sleep a night. Yes, they get the good dinner I put in the oven before I left for work...but they don't have me at the table, participating in the conversation and laughter. They get me less stressed about some of the financial issues...but more stressed about how to juggle schedules. They get me struggling to wake up in the morning and hurrying to get everything done before I leave in the evening.

Women who have never worked outside the home would, I think, have difficulty imagining the thousand small and not-so-small stresses their working sisters shoulder, stresses that inevitably seep out into the life of the family. Likewise, women who have never dedicated themselves to staying at home full-time cannot conceive the thousand small and not-so-small benefits of this more centered lifestyle. All this to say...

This life sure can be hard sometimes!

I know as I write this that some woman will read what I've written and write in defense of her decision to work outside the home, or in defense of her friend. She'll tell me that she really can have the best of both worlds, do it all and do it all excellently. And I can tell you now - she's wrong. She's believing a lie. She may be juggling two worlds without dropping and smashing either, but she is not giving either world her best.

Someone else will read this and say, "That's why I stay home," smugly implying that because she doesn't work outside the home, she must love her family more than the woman who does work. That is a lie, too. While many career women are no doubt motivated in their work by purely selfish reasons, I think many more are working precisely because they do love their families, love them sacrificially.

Wouldn't it be awesome, ladies, if each of us could do it all, could be Wonder Woman?

But, then again, Wonder Woman didn't nurse babies. Even with super-human powers, maybe she understood that she just couldn't do both and still pretend to be a super hero.


Jessica said...

This speaks to my heart, Camille. As a mom working out of financial need I long to be home with my baby, but instead I spend 1-2 night shifts a week helping bring other people's babies into the world. Thank you for writing, and understanding!

Anonymous said...

I love you Mommy!