Free Advice Friday: I feel guilty when I work because I’m putting my baby on the back burner.

Published November 30, 2012 by joypatton

I was talking with a young mom this past week, and I asked her how her part-time job was going.  She said it was going well and that she enjoyed it, but that she felt guilty when she had to put her baby “on the back burner” to do her job.  This was what I wanted to tell her, but didn’t at the time.

To me her comment was a red flag that some lies had possibly crept into her thinking.  I wonder if any of them sound familiar to you.   If I’m not 100%focused on my child, than I’m a bad mother.  My child should be my #1 priority.  What I want doesn’t matter because I have to take care of my child.  If I need other people to help me take care of my child, I’m not a good mom.  These sound good and right at first glance, but they are beliefs that can lead to destructive behavior for you and your child.

As mothers, we have made some assumptions about life on the stove.  The simple fact is that not everything can be on the front burner all at the same time.  We assume that if it’s not on the front burner, it’s not getting what it needs.  We tend to think that the pots in the back are neglected and forgotten. We have been taught that it is more right/Christian to put ourselves on the back burner than to put anyone else on the back burner.  We think that everything needs the same amount of heat and attention all the time in order to be good.  Perhaps the biggest false assumption is that we are the chefs standing at the stove.  That it is up to us to decide what gets put on the front burner and what gets moved to the back.

I would suggest a different picture at the stove.  The Father stands at the stove, closely monitoring all the pots.  Sometimes a pot needs to be carefully watched and brought to a boil.  He moves it to the front burner, so that it gets the attention it needs.  Sometimes a pot needs to sit and simmer over low heat.  Things are still cooking, but he can put the lid on while the heat of the stove does the work.  Sometimes he moves a pot to the back burner because it is waiting to be combined with one of the other dishes.  He hasn’t forgotten or neglected any of the pots on the stove.  He is giving all of them exactly what they need, when they need it.

I’ve realized that I need to move out of the chief cook position and learn to be a pot on the stove myself.  Sometimes the Father moves my baby to the front and asks me to take care of him.  Sometimes my kids have needs that require my full attention and focus, and he asks me to join him in his work.  Sometimes the pot that holds my marriage gets moved to the front burner.  He gives time, space and money to go on a date with my husband and remember that we really do like each other.  Sometimes he moves me to front burner and asks me to use my gifts and talents for his glory.  So while I’m there, I trust him to be watching the baby pot and my marriage pot.  Or sometimes me asks me to sit with him and simmer on some things. I trust him that when those things need more attention, he will give me time, space, wisdom and energy to join him there.

In a practical sense, I’ve learned to invite him into everything, every moment of the day.  Sometimes I ask him if I should do the next load of laundry or answer emails.  After all, he knows how much of both has piled up and needs to be done.  I ask if this is the time to engage with the kids or take some alone time.  He knows I need to do both, but can’t do both at the same time.  When I do take some time away from the kids to write or go on a retreat or read a book I want to read, I enter back into life with my kids more energized, more grateful, more myself.  I have been refreshed and am able to engage in ways I can’t when I’m tired, grumpy, depressed and burnt out.  My kids and my husband benefit too.  My husband remembers how hard it is to be the only parent.  The kids see me taking care of myself and following my dreams.  My son Kyle keeps asking me if I’ve found a publisher for my book yet.  I know he is praying and hoping for the best with me.  The hardest part is learning to trust what God says about me more than striving for the impossible standards the lies have created for me.

So, my friend, you are not the one who is putting your baby on the back burner.  The Master Chef has moved your baby to the back burner of your stove, so that he can produce a masterpiece in your life.  Don’t worry…he has not forgotten or neglected your baby.  He knows that in order for you to do what he has asked of you, the baby has to be somewhere else.  He has provided a safe place with loving people for your child.  He is big enough to take care of your baby, even if you can’t be there.  Trust him to move you where he needs you to be.  If you feel guilty about being on the front burner for awhile, tell him.  Then trust him more.

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