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Feelings of Inadequacy as a Work-at-Home Mom

ORGANIZED UNDER: Parenting // Women

Getting it Backwards

The words cut like a knife. And I asked my husband to repeat his comment three times to make sure I heard him right.

I’d told him I was getting a babysitter the next day because I had a radio interview, novel galleys to read, and important emails to answer. “If it was only an 15-minute radio interview I could have Alyssa sit on Grandma’s bed with Grandma, but I need to do something with her since I’ll be on the phone for an hour.”

“Don’t you have that backwards?” he said.

“Excuse me?”

“I said, ‘Don’t you have that backwards?’” he repeated.

“I don’t understand what you’re saying,” I said again. The truth was, I knew what he was saying, but I was hoping he meant something different.

“Don’t you have that backwards? Instead of saying ‘I have a radio interview, and I need to find something to do with Alyssa,’ shouldn’t it be, ‘I have Alyssa, so I need to figure out this radio interview.’”

The tears came quick, hot, fresh. My chest tightened and my throat grew thick. Suddenly, it wasn’t about a radio interview or getting a babysitter for half of a day. The message coming from my husband’s mouth was clear: “You don’t have your priorities in order. You’re putting work before our 2-year-old daughter—before our family.”

Those Critical Voices

I cried myself to sleep that night, but not right away. Before that, I gave ample time for the voices of doom to fill my head. The voices that are just below the surface at any time:

You have been working a lot.

Why is a radio show so important anyways?

Do you want your daughter to know you as the “just-one-more-minute-and-I’ll-help-you” Mommy

If your husband is saying something, it really must be a problem.

It’s easy for the words to spiral from there.

You’re a bad mom.

You’re a bad wife.

Who do you think you are writing books and blogs and giving others advice?

Who do you think you are?

More tears.

The Voices of Truth

Yet every now and then rays of light dared to try to poke their way in.

You spent hours with your daughter today, reading, dancing, playing with toys. You spend hours with her every day doing that.

She spends more time (far more time) with you than with a babysitter.

You love your children.

You open your heart to others and give advice not because you’re perfect, but because you’re learned to turn to God.

Dealing with Inadequacy

I can’t say that I have the perfect answer for balancing work, homeschooling, and family. After being a mom for twenty-two years—and a homeschooling mom who works at home as an author—I’ve NEVER thought I did a good enough job at any of it. (And just typing those words brought another rush of fresh tears.) The truth is, starting over with a little one opens my mind up to all those voices of doom every time I feel I’m falling short.
So what am I going to do about my feelings of inadequacy and my role as a work-at-home mom?

  1. Get a second opinion. I’m going to continue to talk to my husband more often and ask him to give me thoughts about what I can do better. God gave me John as a life partner to help shape me into being a better me. Daily, like sandpaper on wood, my husband rubs against my rough spots. God made marriage for that.
  2. Speak the priorities in my heart. Deep down I know my role as a mother is most important…but sometimes I forget to speak what’s in my heart. I need to make sure that by rattling off my to-do list that I don’t make my husband or kids feel less important.
  3. Share the truth with my family about why my work is important. As a Christian author I’m able to share the good news of Jesus with others through blogs, books, and radio. This is an important calling with God. It’s also important as I contribute financially to my family. Our summer vacations, Christmas presents…and, at times, groceries, depend on this income.
  4. Realize I have control of my schedule. Yes, I’m a work-at-home, homeschooling mom with lots to do, but I’m still the one who choose what goes on that schedule. Over the last week I’ve been using the words, “I’d love to do that but my schedule is full,” and amazingly, people understand. Just because I can do a great job on a work project doesn’t mean I need to do it at this time. Or just because my daughter wants to play tea party doesn’t mean I have to stop my work at that exact moment—keeping a promise and having a tea party later works, too. I don’t want to look back at my life and just have memory after memory being rushed and overwhelmed.
  5. Remember I’m not alone in this journey. Like Isaiah 40:11 says, “[God] tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” I’m so thankful for a gentle Shepherd! The only way I’ll have any success as a mom will come when I turn to God, depend on Him, seek Him, and allow Him to lead me.

But is the conversation over? Will it ever be over?

There will always be times when I don’t feel like I’m doing a good job, but when I turn to God, seek advice from my husband, and take control of my schedule things work better. And speaking the priorities of my heart helps others agree, too!

Tricia Goyer is a homeschooling mom of ten and an acclaimed and prolific writer, publishing hundreds of articles in national magazines. She has also written books on marriage and parenting and contributed notes to the Women of Faith Study Bible. Her fiction includes historical novels set in World War II as well as Amish fiction. Tricia lives with her husband and children in Arkansas. You can find out more information about Tricia at

  • Ann Hibbard

    Thank you, Tricia! I needed to read this today. But, I also want to share something with you. Part of the reason I love you as an author (and an “e-friend!”) is that I see real in you. Everything I see from you encourages me to keep my priorities in order, but to also realize that some of my seemingly far-fetched dreams are possible even as a homeschooling mom with a full plate. Today’s post just confirmed that once again. Thanks so much for writing and for being willing to share the tears as well as the victories!

    May 18, 2012 at 9:47 am Reply
  • Shelley

    I think the problem here is that when you talked to your husband, you were already feeling bad about it in the first place, and that just got reflected back. The more priority I put on my business without backing down, and the more proportionate preparation and spending of time I put in, the less frequent these types of conversations are! I’m still going to check out a few preschools for this fall, because I feel like “formal” homeschooling will be like adding a piece to the overstuffed pie! U That said, up till now, it’s been very unstructured and casual teaching my soon to be four year old things. He has learned a lot, but we are spiraling into a pattern of all-day free play….might be checking out a few programs for this fall. Why pay a sitter when he can learn something and have fun, structure, and social interaction, PLUS something exciting to share with mommy. *gasp*

    May 18, 2012 at 10:30 am Reply
  • Jen

    This is awesome. Thanks so much for putting into words that tension that many of us feel, wanting to do well with both homemaking and working from home. I, for one, have been blessed by your writing, and I will pray for you, as you strive to keep that balance! Blessings to you. 🙂

    May 18, 2012 at 4:35 pm Reply
  • Jennifer

    No perfect answers either, but it is encouraging when our husbands can help us with the right perspective. It is hard to find the right balance even when they are much older than 2.

    May 18, 2012 at 7:45 pm Reply
  • Alyssa

    oh the mom guilt. I know it so well. I can TOTALLY relate.

    May 18, 2012 at 11:10 pm Reply
  • Jan Verhoeff

    Tricia, as a single home school mom, working full time, I can fully appreciate your position and the need occasionally to spend a day “actually” working instead of dividing your thought process between various priorities. I found it difficult at times to balance the load, and more often, difficult to balance the load and find any time at all for myself. Often “me time” came at the end of a long day as I cried myself to sleep, shouldering a toddler, work and a to-do list that was busting my… well, I’m sure you’ve been there too.

    Sometimes it’s good to just let it all go and feel the tears tumble down… They freshen your spirit and allow God to love you through it… whatever IT is.

    Hugs and blessings,

    May 18, 2012 at 11:27 pm Reply
    • Tari Faris

      Thank you for this. I have been feeling this stress so much lately as I try to take my writing more seriously. Balancing my 3 young kids, homeschooling, finding to write what is on my heart… It was as if you were in my head. (except I don’t have a radio show 😉 ) I really needed to hear this tonight. Thank you for sharing your heart once again.

      May 19, 2012 at 12:32 am Reply
  • Tari Faris

    Sorry. That was suppose to go under general reply. Iphones font always make things easier. 🙂

    May 19, 2012 at 12:34 am Reply
  • Shawn H.

    How relieving to know that I am not the only mom who wears so many hats. I homeschool my 15 y.o. dd, work from home part-time, and go to school part-time. Most homeschool moms in my area don’t understand the need to work, and the working people most certainly don’t relate to my homeschooling lifestyle. Though my husband is awesomely supportive, I always feel the need to make sure he knows what I was doing “at home” all day. Thank you for your words of hope 🙂
    Shawn H

    May 19, 2012 at 1:25 am Reply
  • Vicki

    Love the post, Tricia. I’ve been a working mom for 16 years now- and a homeschooling mom for 20+ years. I understand those feelings completely.

    One thing I know about motherhood: It’s all about guilt 🙂

    We’ll never be adequate no matter what the circumstances. Fortunately we know that if God called us to something, HE’S sufficient, and more than sufficient. Sounds trite, I know, but us working, homeschooling moms are forced to believe it and cling to it. (Interesting you wrote this just now, I had just loaded a post on being a working mom for next week. God understands and is working, too. We’ll all have to pray for each other, I reckon 🙂

    May 20, 2012 at 12:48 pm Reply
  • jane

    Deep down I was touched by the genuine and powerful words. So much admire your spirit and your love for family!
    I know it is hard to balance family with word, personally I am the one who always struggles to reach a perfect station.
    Again, I know I am not the only one to make effort.
    Thank you!

    May 21, 2012 at 2:55 am Reply
  • Beth Matthews

    Both of my daughters are homeschool “grads”. One of them is 29 yrs., the other is 23 yrs. old. I am now in a new season of life with an older parent. Those feelings of inadequacy, just-one -more-thing-to-do-then-I-can-rest-a-bit, what/who should be my priority now, are not just memories, they are still around. I want everybody taken care of and everybody happy! Oh well . . .

    Matthew 11:28–30 has been the Word our loving Heavenly Father comforts me with. Years ago a wise friend asked me, after reading this Scripture with me, “What ‘yoke’ or ‘burden’ are you taking on that is not His?” The Lord can certainly put things in perspective!!

    I pray these thoughts help someone along their way .

    May 21, 2012 at 11:51 am Reply
    • Diane

      Dear Beth,

      Your words helped me, mom to married daughters turning 34 and 30 this year. I have an elderly father in Seattle and a young grandson and another grandchild on the way in Savannah–far north and south on two opposite coasts!–plus another grandchild on the way here in Ohio. I have a husband who just turned 75–a young 75, but still older than me, whom I want to spend time with and take care of. I write and edit from home, I want to expand my service to my community, and it’s very important to me to be an available grandparent. I do feel stressed and inadequate on many days! Thanks for reminding me that I’m yoked with Jesus and he’s the one in charge.

      Thanks to Tricia for such transparency too! I sometimes wonder how you do all you do … and now I know it’s not quite as simple as you make it look.

      May 25, 2012 at 3:30 pm Reply
  • Jennifer Sikora

    WOW! That is exactly how I feel every single day. I love your list and it is definitely going to help me get my priorities back in order.

    May 23, 2012 at 8:49 am Reply
  • Rebecca Barlow Jordan

    Tricia, You expressed so well the feelings and struggle of so many moms. I remember one day when my children were very young and I was feeling stressed with not enough time to write. I complained to my husband when he came home, “I can’t get my work done because of the kids.” He gently reminded me they were my work. But truthfully, I think there will always be a struggle for us as moms (or grandmoms even) to keep the “balance.” Priorities change, and we with them, but I’m so glad for the grace God offers through our whole sorting out process. I love the suggestions you made in your blog. So helpful. God cares about all of our work and ministry! Thanks for your good words of encouragement.

    May 23, 2012 at 4:47 pm Reply
  • Aubra

    Thank you so much for this post! I had this guilt all semester while I was trying to balance my own school schedule, homeschooling, and being wife/mom. I had some extra guilt too because my major is Education so I felt like I was being a terrible example of a teacher by streamlining our homeschooling curriculum so that I could study on my own. I do have an incredibly understanding and supportive husband who helps me find perspective.

    Thanks again!

    June 11, 2012 at 1:08 am Reply

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