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When You Experience a Shift in Roles – From “Staying” to “Working” and Everything in Between

Have you ever caught yourself offering someone else advice about a situation and realized mid-sentence that you need to listen to your own wisdom?  You’re trucking along, sharing what you’ve learned, only to discover you need to start taking notes during your own sermon.

I was talking with a friend last week about changing roles.  She got married a few months ago and is learning how to take on this new role of Wife.  I listened and nodded empathetically, remembering that season of life fourteen years ago and the challenges of finding and redefining myself in marriage.

It was easy for me to spout off about marriage, because I remember that first year clearly.  I felt askew, like I wasn’t sure how to be myself with this person in this new city with this new job.  Everything was new all at once for me back then, and maybe after all these years, I’ve forgotten how to do new.

Halfway through the conversation I realized that I’m in a new season of changing roles and need to listen to my own advice.  What was the advice?  I’ll get to that in a second.

I’m going through an interesting season in parenting right now, one with which maybe many of you can relate.  While our culture likes to pigeonhole us into “working moms” and “stay-at-home moms” and “work-from-home moms,” I know that lots of us waffle in and out of those categories and the arbitrary lines can blur.

I’ve considered myself “stay-at-home” for a lot of years now (which is crazy hard work, right?), but as my kids are getting older and I’m spending more time on writing, I’m still home a lot, but I’m also working on things other than parenting.  The truth is, a lot of us moms have experienced work in and out of the home, we’ve stayed at or gone out or returned home, and our roles as moms and women continue to grow and develop and defy category.

I am all for defying category.  I have tremendous respect for moms working in and out of the home, and last year I wrote a thank you note to those moms working outside of the home.  Staying or going, in or out, we are women and moms together and we are all on the same team.  We need each other.

Recently, one of my new favorite bloggers, Lisa-Jo Baker, wrote a post for the mom on her way to daycare drop off.  Whether or not you’ve ever dropped off your child at daycare, read it.  She has a way of hugging us with her words.  And the fabulous Sarah Bessey wrote this post about working from home that washed over me like a flag of freedom.

As I navigate my shifting role of mom-plus-writing-career, I walk into my husband’s office at least once a week, sometimes three times a day, and plop my head on his chest.  I moan desolately, “I feel like I’m failing at everything.  I feel resentful of the kids for bothering me, then I feel guilty for feeling resentful.”  He pats my head and tells me everything will be okay, then invites me to leave his office, because he has his own work-from-home to accomplish.

Have you ever struggled with feeling like there’s not enough of you to go around?  About a month ago, I tweeted this:

Sometimes I try to be funny.

And then I was on Facebook and saw that someone had shared my post with the following commentary:

BOOOOOO!!!  This is why mothers should stay at home and not be materialistic!

It made me laugh, because I’ve never been flat-out BOOOOOOed before and it’s obviously written by a person who doesn’t know my heart, but it did make me notice how some women can shame others when it comes to roles.  I know mothers who work for many different reasons, none of which are materialistic.  We make different choices for how and when we work, and for some of us, those choices are made for us.  The last thing any of us needs is shame.  Especially over Disney jokes.

No matter where you work, what you do, and how many hats you wear, listen to me:  you’re a great mom, you love your kids, and they know it.  Let’s all be proud to be women together, proud to raise our kids together, and proud to serve on the same team.  I’m high-fiving all of you right now.

So back to that conversation with my newlywed friend.  What advice did I give her as she assumes a new role?  It’s advice I’m telling myself as the hours in my day realign.  When you experience a shift in roles:

1. Be gentle with yourself.

You’ve just taken on a whole new role and it’s overwhelming.  Don’t expect yourself to function exactly like you did before.  Let yourself rest, develop margin, and treat yourself lovingly.

2. Give yourself time to adjust.

It’s going to take time to develop a new rhythm.  Don’t rush.  Take time to breathe and enjoy where you are.  Your schedule is different, how and where you spend your time is different, and everything isn’t going to fit exactly where it fit before.

3. Figure out who you are in light of your new role.

Taking on this new role affects every aspect of who you are.  You’re not the same, and it may take awhile until you feel comfortable in your own skin in this new role.  Give yourself the grace to flounder.  You don’t have to be completely confident all at once.  Relearn YOU, what excites you, what relaxes you, what you need to thrive and recharge.

4. Remember God’s faithfulness.

Look where God has brought you.  Remember where you’ve been and trust Him for where you’re going.  He has accomplished beautiful things through you up until this point and He will continue to carry out His purposes in your life, even if it all feels really kerfloofy right now.

Has anyone else navigated a shift in roles?  Maybe you went from “work outside of the home” to “work from home” or “stay at home.”  Maybe you went back to work after staying at home while your kids were young.  What did you learn?  Where did you find support?  What would you do differently?