Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Book Review: Working Mother

It's so offensive to me that a short story entitled Working Mother would be listed as historical fiction. Have Christian authors so little experienced the reality of moms working outside their homes that all they can write is fiction?

With the birth of my first child, I took 6 weeks off from a job that didn't offer maternity leave and then returned to work full-time. I couldn't understand why I was so tired. Plenty of women have babies and continue holding down a job outside the home.

Then I became the full-time working mom of a one-year-old and a baby, and I can't tell you much about those months, because all I remember is a haze of people and places and babies.

When I read the introduction and reviews for Working Mother, I just rolled my eyes at all the Christians saying nice things about what was no doubt a cheesy conjecture of a storyline, probably written like middle school fan fiction. The Virgin Mary working outside the home while the Holy Family lives in exile in Egypt? Oh please.

But this story is stunning. Shut my face up stunning. 

For me, there was something worse than leaving for a daily commute that left kids at the breakfast table, my mind wandering at work about missed first words and first steps, and those awful brief nights punctuated by sleepless children and occasional rest. 


Surrounded constantly by co-workers, babysitters, and kids, working an opposite schedule from my husband, I felt so much alone.

Working Mother is a simple storyline, insightful without being preach-ey or virtuouso. It doesn't reduce "God's Will" to whatever circumstances we hate but can't seem to change in a helpless, Pollyanna imitation of holiness. (There's not a single omniscient third person admonition to "Let go and let God," "Persevere in Prayer," or "Offer it up!")

In an attempt to pull myself out of the depressed isolation of full-time working motherhood, I stopped by our parish to see what small groups were available. There was a subset for "working moms" on the application, and I couldn't wait to meet other moms who would understand this life I was living.

A few weeks later, the church sent me a letter: two apologetic paragraphs informing me that the group I selected didn't actually exist, but they'd be in touch when it did. All my insecurities and frustrations were confirmed.

Erin McCole Cupp's story is so affirming to working moms, and really, to any mom who struggles with the idea that helicopter parenting is the ideal, that anything less than us-at-our-best-24-7 is eternally detrimental to our children.

Mary finds herself in a situation to best care for her family by working outside their home. I easily dismissed the plausibility of this entire premise, assuming Mary's motherhood would somehow be diminished, were she not directly involved in every moment of Jesus' life. But I was underestimating both a woman's role in her family, and the spectrum of ways God works through individuals and families. 


  1. Hey Charlene, I am listening to today's episode of Fresh Air. It's about the American insurance and health care industry. I think you should tune in. -Kira

  2. That was so insightful! Thanks for linking that. I just read the transcript and realized I've been villifying insurance companies disproportionately to medical providers. I was appalled at the billing experience from bed rest and the twins' birth. I hope our country will be able to get health care under control.