No matter how many times we hear expressions like "it takes a village," and we bond over the undeniably common ground that is #momlife, a divide still seems to exist between moms who work outside the home and those who are stay-at-home parents. Lauren Shelor recently experienced that firsthand while shopping for pants.
"I was in the line for the fitting room at TJ Maxx last weekend when the lady in front of me commented that she really liked the pants I was holding," Shelor wrote on Love What Matters. "'Thanks,' I said. 'I’ve really been needing to buy some post-pregnancy work pants and I really like these too.'" The woman asked where Shelor's baby is while she works, to which she replied, "He goes to daycare and really loves it there. He has a lot of friends!"
"As she walked away and made her way to her fitting room, she mumbled, 'Must be nice to have a vacation from your baby every day, woman,'" Shelor recalled. " I felt tears well up in my eyes, because I know she didn't see it. When she said that—I knew she just didn't know."
The 29-year-old Virginia mom went on to share the various things that this stranger in the dressing room was unaware of:
"She didn’t know that my boss moved Heaven and earth to help me keep my job and health insurance after being out of work for half a year to help Sawyer recover from the eight-hour open heart surgery that saved his life at three months old. She didn’t know about the $1.8 million dollars that his medical care cost last year," Shelor noted.
She continued, "She didn’t see the way I sobbed until I couldn’t breathe the day, I dropped him off at daycare for the first time. The weight of everything that I was going to miss was so heavy. I don’t know that that feeling every really goes away.
She hasn’t been there for any of the weeks that I’ve ran back and forth 20 times between daycare and work to take Sawyer to all of his therapies and medical appointments, while also trying to be a valuable member of my team at work. She doesn’t see the tears that fall onto the top of my sandwich some days during lunch as I scroll through pictures of my son, wishing he was there to share that sandwich beside me."
The woman in the dressing room "couldn’t have been thinking about way that" Shelor said she wakes up every morning at 5 a.m. "to get everyone in my house ready to get out the door on time—stopping to cherish a sweet hug and kiss from Sawyer in between hurriedly packing his bag for daycare and going over the presentation I’ll give later that day."
"She wasn't thinking about the way I often feel guilty for leaving work on time, not being able to stay late, or attend evening functions—because those evening hours are the only ones, I have with my family each day," Shelor wrote. "She doesn’t know about the way my heart races with anticipation every time I pull into my parking spot at daycare to pick Sawyer up. She doesn’t see the tears welling up behind my eyes when he beams from ear to ear as soon as he sees me round the corner. I know he missed me."
She doesn't know about Sawyer's "firsts"—like his first word—that Shelor missed while she works hard to provide for her family.
The proud mom admitted, "Some days are really really heavy. The weight of all the time we’re missing sets in and we wonder if our children will suffer because of the decisions we’ve made to be working moms. Are we wrong for loving both our jobs and our kids? Are we, as special needs working moms, selfish for wanting to work hard to provide every resource, support, and therapy our children need to reach their fullest potential? Are we being judged from every angle for prayerfully following a path to both work and parent?"
She took aim at the stranger's assertion that she gets a "vacation" from her child every day. "Working moms aren’t on a glorified vacation," Shelor wrote. "We’re missing our kids every minute of the day, wondering what they’re doing, counting down the minutes until we’ll see them again, and cherishing every single minute that we get with them in the evenings and on the weekends. Many of us are working hard to provide resources that they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to enjoy apart from our decisions to provide those things by working. Many of our children with special needs are desperately dependent on the health insurance that our employers provide. And many of us have been on our knees for countless hours crying out to the Lord to help us make the best decisions for our families, whatever that decision may be."
She asked her fellow moms to "hold one another up in love and encouragement, not to tear each other down. Our world has enough malice, enough hate, enough judgment. Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt—heck, let’s sit in the weight of these hard things together—lifting each other up in prayer and loving each other well."
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Because ultimately, "whether we’re working moms, stay-at-home moms, or anything in between— we’re all just doing the best we can," Shelor wrote. "And that—is enough."
With hope, Shelor's emotional perspective will resonate with moms who work outside the home and those who don't. Her experience makes it all too clear that all moms should be on the same team, supporting one another's efforts to do what is right for themselves and their families.