As a mother and frontline worker during a pandemic, I have been feeling a sweet and sour mix of the urgency and importance of my job while deeply missing time with my kids. I have always believed in the significance of my work, but these days working with a high-risk vulnerable patient population has reminded me that extra care and guidance have been essential to my kids’ well-being as well. My children have fears and questions and concerns about this virus. 

I have been COVID testing daily at my clinic and also providing in-home COVID testing to patients who are unable to leave their homes. Sitting with my patients and hearing their fears and concerns has become a balm to their weary souls. This moment has brought a greater tension between my impact at work and my presence with my family

I walk into my home at the end of long working days, strip my clothes at the door, scrub my body in the shower, still thinking of that last patient I spoke to as she cried about her husband in the hospital that she can’t visit. I step out of the shower trying to release every last detail to the care of a Being greater than myself and breathe deeply as it’s time to shift gears. What a sweet relief to see my bouncy, happy kids ready to play with their mommy. It’s late, I try to soak up every moment and squeeze in every cuddle and hug before bedtime and before I have to leave the next morning to do it all over again. The guilt of leaving my babies who bring me joy and life gets shoved to the backburner as I slide on my personal protective equipment and remember the harsh realities of sickness and fear. 

If I allow my thoughts to swirl, I wonder if the impact I have with my patients is worth it? I wonder if my kids will remember watching their mom leave for work with pride or sadness? Maybe both?

I started a project with my husband three years ago called Love or Work, asking the question: Is it possible to change the world, stay in love and raise a healthy family?

We curiously asked 100 other working couples this question and led a research study surveying 1500 people to gather even more data. One of the most surprising and reassuring findings that emerged was:

83% of couples say that working has made them better parents.

That statistic invites me to take a deep breath. Breathe in. Now breathe out that mom-guilt. May this collective data reassure you that you can work and be a great parent. When I think of my own life, I see that work has given me a purpose, a place (away from home) where I can use my gifts to contribute to a community beyond my immediate bubble. Work tethers me back to myself, the person I was before kids, the person I am and always will be, the person who seeks justice for the oppressed, who uses medical knowledge to heal, who fights for those overlooked in society. When I return home and find myself in the mundane of cleaning house, cooking dinner and folding laundry, I am reminded that this is not all of me. This is not my whole life. This is a part of me, but not all of me. Work is a part of me, but not all of me either.  My purpose and my family both have their significance in my life in different ways, and they both matter greatly.

Maybe you too are also feeling this tension between your work and your family. Are you working from home juggling work zoom calls and praying your kids don’t streak by the computer screen naked? Are you an essential worker praying you don’t accidentally bring this virus home to your beautiful family? 

During this season, we are all feeling the tension tenfold. Though I often get overwhelmed in the details of my day to day and how in the hell we are going to make it work, I have realized that a birds-eye view might be more helpful during this season. A bigger picture mentality that acknowledges the difficulties, yet remembers that this will be a blip in our children’s lives. Will they remember mommy telling them to “BE QUIET” while on her computer? No, I am guessing they are going to remember when mommy was home all the time. They are going to remember presence. Or if you are like me and still leaving the home every day, maybe our kids will remember our impact.

Presence and impact. Two words that matter. Two words to remind us of something bigger and more long-lasting. Maybe these words can help you as you navigate staying home or working away. Both matter.

Maybe one day in the future my kids will look back and remember when I walked out the door in my scrubs every day and think: Yes, my mom worked and what she did mattered. So I too, want to find a work that matters in this world.  

André Shinabarger
André Shinabarger

André Shinabarger is an adventurer who loves seeing the world. Born in Bolivia, she has a deep passion for building a community with marginalized people groups. She works for Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta as a Physician Assistant and is an adjunct professor for Emory University. She is an Advisor to Plywood People, host of the Love or Work Podcast, and Co-Author of the Love or Work book.

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