Working Mama Files is an interview series designed to support and encourage working moms along the path to having a fulfilling life.
Today I’m delighted to host Johanna from the blog These Prices. She is a beautiful writer who never fails to inspire me and touch my heart. She has a deep faith and I have so loved following her story of the adoption of her two children. Recently she made the transition to stay home with her kids, but before that she had a full-time job in ministry. I’m excited to share her with you today!
Who lives in your house?
My husband Aaron, me, Harry (3.5) and Posey (22 months). Plus two dogs, Eller and Scout.
Up until recently you were working a job that, as you say, wasn’t “just a job” to you. Will you tell us about it and how you ended up there?
I was the communications director for a large, multi-site church. We began attending there shortly after we moved to Minnesota, and about a year later, I was hired FT as part of the Communications team. About two years after that, I was promoted to director. No one goes to work at a church for money or glory; I definitely felt called there, and I stayed there after I became a mom because it wasn’t just about paying the bills. It was about doing Kingdom work, and I knew that was where God wanted me.
What led to your transition to staying home with your kids?
Shortly after I went back after my second maternity leave, I started to feel a stirring that it might be time to move on from full-time ministry work. (Which can be really hard at times.) But other times, our lives really worked. I’d been on a 32-hour a week schedule since my oldest was a baby, and for the most part, our lives worked. I felt fortunate to have that extra time with my kids while also getting to do work that I loved and work that I was really good at. But that schedule was also hard; there were Fridays where I felt like I wasn’t present enough with my kids, because I was checking email or answering phone calls. And there were many times where I felt like I wasn’t leading my team well, because I wasn’t there on Fridays. Or I always had to leave on time, because I was the one who needed to get home first to relieve the nanny. And just “like that” (not really that quickly, but it was one of those things that felt like it happened over a long period and also all at once), one day the pieces fell into place for me to be able to leave FT work. I felt like God had released me from that calling and that He was calling me home for this season.
A big part of your story involves adoption. Will you give us a brief overview of how that came about?
The short story is that we struggle(d) with infertility, but knew we really wanted to be parents. After two years trying to get pregnant, and losing one baby, we made the decision to pursue adoption. We were chosen by our son’s birthmother the same day he was born. About a year and a half later we were connected with a woman who was looking to make an adoption plan, and she chose us to be her baby’s family. Our kids were born two years apart, to the day.
How did your job do maternity leave?
I was able to take up to 12 weeks per FMLA. Because I didn’t give birth, I was of course unable to have any of that time paid the way most American women have their leave covered (short-term disability). So with our son, I only took 8 full weeks. I then took my remaining hours spread out over a 10 week period at 15 hours a week. (Something a lot of peple don’t know is that FMLA is broken down by the hour, so you actually get 480 hours). It was hard to go back when he was so little, but it was great to only work 3.5 days for several months. When my leave was used up, I was able to go back as a limited full-time employee. Because we had a longer lead time to prepare for our daughter, we were able to save so that I could take the whole 12 week leave at once.
Even though your kids are adopted, you were able to provide them with some breast milk. How did that work?
Incredible mothers! We received enough donations for Harry to have at least one bottle of breastmilk a day for almost a year. But with our daughter we were blessed like crazy, and her diet was almost exclusively breastmilk. There were several women who donated to us multiple times, and one woman even pumped just for Posey for a time.
When I think about you, I think about faith. I’m in love with the posts you write about keeping the faith in this motherhood journey, and especially how you link the adoption of your kids to our adoption as children of God. How do you keep your relationship with God a priority?
That is really kind of you to say, because sometimes I don’t feel like I do! I connect with God through singing, so I listen to a lot of worship music. And this might sound kind of simplistic, but I just think about Him a lot. Psalm 1:2 says to meditate on his word day and night. I kind of think that’s what that means. Not that we’re cloistered away reading scripture by candlelight, but that we’re just always thinking on Him. Staying attentive to His spirit. He wants to talk to us. He wants to guide us. But our lives are so noisy; so jammed full of stuff (sometimes literally), we can easily crowd him out. I want to live awake.
What kind of things do you do to teach your children about God? Anything structured or does it just flow naturally?
One thing we’ve started doing over breakfast is read a daily devotional written just for preschoolers. But the biggest thing is to pray with them. Now that Harry’s almost 4, he has started requesting who he’d like to pray for. The other night he wanted me to pray for stars and sheep. At first I had no idea how to pray for those things, so I just started talking, and I ended up praising him for his awesome creation and talking about how we are his sheep, and how grateful I am that He is shepherd who guides us and loves us. The other thing that I think really helps—both for me and to show my kids who God is to me—is for them to hear me praying when I need help. When I feel impatient or frustrated, I pray out loud. Even when it’s them I’m impatient and frustrated with!
What was your biggest doubt, fear, or resistance in being a working mom? And now that you’ve experienced both perspectives, what do you see as the benefits of it?
I never saw myself as a working mom, so when I first went back to work, I struggled with that identity. I also allowed lies and people’s judgments to crowd out what I knew was right for both my family and my faith. It took me awhile to stop letting those lies color the way I viewed myself as a mother. Other than providing financially for my family (we never would’ve been able to pursue a second adoption had I not been working), my children learned that other people can love and care for them. I learned to allow people to do that. I contributed to a mission I believed in, and I was walking out my giftings and the calling God had placed on my life. Being a working mom taught me that God’s grace is big enough. It’s big enough to cover your children while you’re away from them. It’s big enough to fill in the gaps when you feel like you’re not good enough.
Do you have any practical tips or ideas to pass along that help you lead a more joyful, fulfilling life?
Learn to rest. Be present. Be proactive about finding the way that you connect to God and then do more of that. (I’m still trying to get better at doing all these things myself.)
Now a few questions for fun…
How do you like your coffee? Or are you a tea drinker?
I like coffee all ways! Now that I’m Whole30, I take it with coconut milk. Not sure if I’ll ever go back to cream (at home), but I also definitely like a coffee-shop treat from time to time. (And when they’re allowed. Looking forward to a PSL in October!)
What was the last good book you read?
Reading 11/22/63 by Stephen King right now. It was a really random purchase, but I’m enjoying it. Gone Girl is probably the most recent book I’ve read that has really stuck with me.
What’s on your nightstand?
My Bible, a photo of my husband, phone charger, an antique lamp that belonged to my grandmother, and a stack of books
Favorite social media site?
Instagram, hands down. I could do without the others if I had to, but not Instagram
Can you recommend one blog you read?
I read everything by Kristen Howerton at Rage Against the Minivan as soon as she posts. I like her no-nonsense approach to parenting, and I really look to her as a guide and mentor in transracial, adoptive parenting.
See all the posts in this series here.