The Table Podcast

Mothers Working Outside the Home

In this episode, Kymberli Cook, Drs. Andi Thacker, and Christina Crenshaw discuss various issues related to understanding working mothers.

Timecodes
00:00
Thacker’s and Crenshaw’s backgrounds as working moms
04:48
Thacker explains the pressures she faces as a working mom
11:16
Crenshaw explains the pressures she faces as a working mom
14:25
Understanding the bi-vocational nature of working moms
21:21
How to manage responsibilities as a working mom
27:27
Working moms and the church
32:36
Managing “the heart tug” working moms feel
39:38
Helpful resources for working moms
Resources
Transcript
Kymberli Cook
Welcome to The Table Podcast, where we discuss issues of God and culture. My name is Kymberli Cook, and I am the senior administrator at the Hendricks Center, and today we’re going to be talking about working moms. I am joined by Andi Thacker, one of our – one of the assistant professors of biblical counseling here at DTS, and also Christina Crenshaw, and she is the speaker, author, and lecturer at Baylor University in literature and leadership, and Christina is a mother of two. Andi is a mother of three, and I am a mother of one, expecting another one.
Andi Thacker
Oh.
Christina Crenshaw
[Laughs]
Kymberli Cook
And so we all find ourselves in this situation of being working moms, thus it’s a helpful conversation to have for the three of us. So to get started, I just want to give you both an opportunity to kinda tell us about yourself. How did you end up in this situation where you both have a professional life and a home life with kiddos and the fun that happens in the midst of that?

Andi, let’s start with you.

Andi Thacker
Okay. Well, I was a counselor long before I was a mom. So I started my career in 2006 after I finished my master’s here and worked for several years, and went on and got my doctorate at UNT, and then we had kids, or started having kids after I finished my doctorate. But during that time, I was working in private practice and also started adjuncting here and then went full-time about five years ago. So I still have a small private practice, but emphasis on the word small, very, very small, tiny. And then my husband and I have been married for almost 15 years, and we have three kids, like you said. Our daughter Emerson is 7, and our son Will is 5, and our littlest one is 2.
Christina Crenshaw
Oh, man.
Kymberli Cook
I have a 2-year-old, too. Wow.
Andi Thacker
Yeah. They’re a lot.
Kymberli Cook
They are.

I haven’t had three of them.

Kymberli Cook
Christina, what about you?
Christina Crenshaw
Yeah, so we have very similar narratives. I teach at Baylor University, and I was an assistant professor, and I did that. I was out in California at California Baptist University, and I was an assistant professor before I was a mother, and I knew that I was called to work. I knew even after I had children that that was really what the Lord had for me. I don’t think I quite anticipated how hard that would be to have these dual vocations, to be both a mother and an assistant professor. And I did that for a little bit until I had two within 20 months, and [laughter] I really, you know, spent some time praying about that and was feeling this nudge to step off the tenure track.

But every time I saw advice on that, people said, “Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Do what you have to do to make this work.” But I think that was a real season of trusting the Lord with my career and being obedient and purpose in calling. And yeah, so I think I’ve experienced both. I’ve experienced the full-time, working-mom, tenure-track, you know, two kids under two. And then I’ve also experienced the stay-at-home for a year of maternity leave, and your sense of calling and purpose is really primarily in the home. I did some outside-of-the-home contract work with an anti–human-trafficking organization, and but then slowly went back to work. Started teaching part-time again, and then that developed into a full-time teaching position.

So I feel like I have had the gamut, the spectrum of, you know, working-mom full-time, working-mom a little bit, working-mom part-time, to back to full-time, so, my story, yeah.

Kymberli Cook
Well, there are a lot of women like us in the workforce, according to the Department of Labor. We make up 47 percent of the workforce, so almost half, and interestingly out of that 47 – I guess not necessarily out of that 47 percent – 70 percent of mothers of children under 18 actually work. So 70 percent are in the workforce on some level. I was kind of floored to see that.

My goodness, there are a lot of women doing this. And out of that 70 percent, 40 percent are actually the breadwinners.

Andi Thacker
Oh, interesting.
Kymberli Cook
So almost half of them are the ones who are providing the majority for their families. So there are a lot of working moms out there, but we do want to be sure to affirm – and like you said, Christina, you’ve been in a lot of the different seats, and we want to affirm those who do choose to stay at home with their children. They – it is absolutely work.
Kymberli Cook
It is not parenting if you’re not working on any level [laughs], and it’s just that each set of those who stay at home and work at home, and those who choose to work outside of the home each just set face a different set of challenges. And so today, we’re really going to be focusing on the challenges facing the mothers who decide to work outside the home.

So the first challenge that when I was trying to think through this kind of the obvious one, it almost seems that comes up, is the pressure or judgment that sometimes still comes for women who choose to – who make that choice, and there are some who still argue – particularly it feels like in more conservative Christian circles – there are some who argue that women shouldn’t be working outside the home and that their place is in the home. Andi, can you unpack a little bit about that? Like, what have you heard, those arguments. Has anything ever been said to you?

Andi Thacker
[Laughs]
Kymberli Cook
Just kind of what are your thoughts kind of generally to get us started?
Andi Thacker
Yeah, so – well, my background – well, I grew up in a home where my mom always worked, and my parents were business owners, so they had a lot of flexibility. But I didn’t know anything but a mom who worked outside the home. And then when my husband and I married, his mom also always worked outside the home. When we began attending a more conservative church faith community is where I first encountered the thought process that women should make every effort to make the home their main priority by not working outside the home vocationally. And it was a little shocking ’cause that’s not what I was accustomed to, and I grew up in a religious background.

So that’s where I first encountered it, and I’ve noticed in my talk with friends and students that there’s different subcultures, and specifically different churches that have different belief systems and different pockets of the population where it’s predominantly work-at-home moms, whereas other places it’s work-outside-the-home moms. And so I think the setting that a woman finds themselves in, as far as their main community, really influences the messages that they hear, and I think from a biblical standpoint, there’s a lot of disagreement between different groups on this subject that women need to make every effort to be at home, and that’s their place, and their kids really need them, and the thought process being that their kids would suffer if they’re not the main one providing care the majority of the time, as opposed to the thought process of women can work outside the home, and it’s not gonna be harmful at all.

I have definitely felt that judgment, and even as a woman who works outside the home, I employ childcare services, and I’ve even had people on social media talk about that in reference to the choice we’ve made of how childcare workers are the ones raising my kids, or I know in passing one time, I had a woman say, “You just need to find someone good who can be the one who raises your kids.” I’m like, “Oh, I’m raising my kids. I’m just not there all the time.” So I think it is – it’s hard enough to be a mom, just because of the struggle of, am I doing it right? And is this what’s best?

But to have other women in the same foxhole with you throw darts at you makes it especially difficult. So I love what Brené Brown says about this, that “as women, it’s so important to support one another and create an atmosphere where we can be vulnerable when we have those days of this did not go well. My toddler’s running around naked, or – and refuses to wear clothes, or my older child is struggling in school, that if we create an atmosphere of judgment, we lessen our ability to support each other from a community standpoint.”

And so I just think about from a biblical standpoint, it is so important that we rally around each other and be a good community. And part of that comes from knowing, I think, that this is a stewardship issue, whether or not you work inside the home or outside the home or both, it’s stewardship of what’s the best thing for my family in this season. And that may be different for somebody else, and that’s okay.

Kymberli Cook
And really, Christ kind of gives us that example when he in his interaction with Mary and Martha – when, you know, he never actually corrects Martha for working, and ironically, the situation is almost a little flipped from what we’re talking about. But he – what Jesus was upset about was what Martha trying to dictate what Mary should be doing. And kind of Jesus was saying, “You know, no, that – how she has decided to follow me is good, and, you know, that should be honored just how you’re deciding to follow me.”

And the demoniac is another good example. The demoniac who wanted to follow Jesus – like, everybody else was following Jesus, and Jesus said, “No, I have something else for you to do. You need to stay here,” you know?

And Peter, he – when he found out that he was gonna have a suffering death, and he said, “Well, what about John?” Like, “what about this one?” And Jesus says, “That’s none of your business. I have what I have called and the path I have laid out for these people,” and, you know, Jesus never expressly says this, but, you know, and our role with one another and in the church is to support one another in what we feel like the Lord has called us to do and to, you know, get behind each other, and whether that’s supporting a working mom or supporting a woman who probably needs to work financially but really wants to stay at home.

Maybe there’s something the church can do there to support her, or stay-at-home moms. But any of the options are ones that we need to be getting behind instead of, you know, yeah, like you said, just casting judgment. Christina, did you have – have you had any kind of pressure in this area?

Christina Crenshaw
Oh, certainly. But you know, it’s interesting to bring in the other side of that coin. I’ve experienced judgment from more of an academic community when I decided to step off that tenure track. Everybody within my collegiate circle had an opinion on that, and I don’t know that I felt a lot of support, and I think it really went back to discerning what was best for my family in this season and knowing that every yes is a no to something else and that there are consequences to really obeying what you feel like you are supposed to do in that season and owning that, accepting that. But it was really interesting to see that the judgment was more on, “You’re not stewarding well. Everything that we’ve poured into you, or everything that you’ve been called to do,” and I think it was a moment of saying, “I’m just pausing to rest and be obedient, and to follow this other vocational call on my life, but that doesn’t mean I’ve dropped it completely.”

There is a season to everything, and so being able to, you know, to really walk out in – so the season has changed a little, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t come to fruition in another season, and I’ve experienced that even in the six years of being a parent. I’ve seen that rhythm of, you know, there’s been some judgment on whether I should work or shouldn’t work. But within a faith community, I don’t know if I’ve experienced as much judgment on the shame of working. But I have experienced it on the flip side of, “You should be working.” So it’s interesting how your communities influence, you know, how you even filter the world, you know, and your working worldview, so.

Kymberli Cook
That’s so true, and I’m working on a Ph.D. right now, actually here, and everybody is obviously fantastic. But I have felt that pressure, too, of I don’t want to disappoint the people who have poured so much into me in an education sense, but as well as my job, you know. And because I work for Dr. Bock, who is fantastic and incredibly flexible, and very passionate about making working mom – like the life of a working – a young working mom work, and he work – is very flexible with me.

And so then, I feel that pressure of they’re doing everything to try to help me, and it’s still sometimes, things can get a little hairy, and I – yeah, you’re right. You feel pressure on both sides because you really don’t wanna fail or disappoint those who are really trying to help you have it all. [Laughs]

Christina Crenshaw
Yeah, and I think some of that might be the expectation that we put on ourselves, too. I mean, that’s not to say that pressure from outside voices – that’s not a real pressure, but sometimes I think it’s almost managing our own expectations and saying, “Okay, but what am I called to do, you know, not what does this community say I should do, or what does that community say I should do, but what is best for me, for my family?” And then, it – you know, the rest is just white noise, you know? I haven’t mastered that –
Andi Thacker
[Laughs]
Christina Crenshaw
– but I know that is the right approach.
Kymberli Cook
So let’s dig into this idea of vocation a little bit. How – it is different? How do you – is it – I’m trying to think. The only other type of double vocation I can think of [laughs] is a pastor who works full-time and, you know, he has that going on as well, and I don’t know. Is that what it is? Is it a double vocation? Is it – I don’t know. What do you all think? Andi, what do you think about that?
Andi Thacker
I’m – part of me says yes because so much goes into running a household, and I’m so thankful to be married to a man who helps a lot, and we’re very much a team. This doesn’t work if he’s not fully onboard. But I know that I probably take it upon myself that this is my main responsibility and not –
Kymberli Cook
The household?
Andi Thacker
– the household, that, you know, to organize kids’ schedule and to do homework stuff and whatnot. But at the same time, he is an equal partner in that with me, and so in some ways I would say he’s also bivocation in that because of the role he plays and his willingness to play that. But then there’s part of me that’s like, this is just what you do. You have a family, and that’s just part of life.
Kymberli Cook
[Laughs] That’s how you grew up. So it’s – everybody makes it work.
Andi Thacker
Right. And I didn’t train to be a mom. Even though I’m a counselor who works with children specifically, that doesn’t seem to actually transfer to my own kids, unfortunately.
Kymberli Cook
[Laughs]
Andi Thacker
I didn’t train to do it, whereas I’ve trained to do this and spent a lot of time and effort getting to this place.
Kymberli Cook
Christina, you’ve done some thought in the area of vocation and I think even to a degree in this. What are your thoughts on it?
Christina Crenshaw
Yeah, so I teach a class in vocation leadership at Baylor. It’s to affiliate sophomores, and they’re learning what it is they’re called to do, and we sort of start with the premise that if you feel called to do something that there must then be a caller, and kinda go from there. And I think, you know, it’s – vocation has several different definitions depending on who you’re reading and listening to.

I think the most simplified version of that is, what is it that sets your heart on fire, and where do you see a great need in the world? Specifically, where can you do this common good work? And so for me, I have found that it sets my heart on fire to teach and to work with students and that I am not fully alive, and I am not fully human if I am not walking out in that.

And so there might be seasons of stepping back from that a little bit in order to invest in motherhood or to invest – even when I was investing in my education, I couldn’t teach nearly as much as I would like to because I was a student taking classes. So I think knowing that what I’m really called to do that sets my heart on fire is working with students, teaching, reading, researching, all that nerdy stuff.

Christina Crenshaw
And I am more fully alive when I am bringing my gifts and callings to the table for the common good, and that doesn’t make me less of a mom to do that. There might be times when motherhood calls me away from that calling a little bit more than other times. But I am very much still a mom if I am standing in front of a group of students or if I am at the gym or I’m getting my hair cut or I’m recording a podcast. I don’t cease to be a mother, and it’s interesting how that’s the one vocation that we call into question. Can you do these other things and still be a good mother? And there’s not any other calling in life that we do that to. You know, nobody would ever really question, you know, can you be a good wife and a good mother. You know, there’s tension, but we accept that those are dual narratives.

So I think we’re all bivocational or trivocational by nature because we’re all called to do so many different things. In my mind, I picture it more of a Venn diagram, you know? I like to limit how many Venn diagrams are [laughter] layered on top of each other.

Kymberli Cook
Life has a lot of Venn diagrams.
Christina Crenshaw
But it’s a lot of Venn diagrams, right? You know, the idea of balance hasn’t ever really sat well with me because life isn’t really balance. But life is a Venn diagram, and there are so many overlapping spheres, and they touch each other. They influence each other, and so I think when we start to look at our vocations, you know, like, motherhood is a large part of what I do. It is arguably the most important thing that I do other than my marriage. My family is the most important thing I do, but it is not exclusively the only thing I do, and so looking at my vocation through that lens, I mean, I’m called to do multiple things, so.
Kymberli Cook
Yeah, I really like that, and I hadn’t – I think I hadn’t necessarily thought about myself having had the vocation of motherhood. Just my particular story was that I wasn’t necessarily looking for it to happen –
Andi Thacker
[Laughs]
Kymberli Cook
– and I wasn’t opposed. It was just something I’m – I don’t know. Really, when I think about that, it’s kinda scary, kinda not. I don’t know, you know?

And so I wouldn’t have considered that being – now having a child, it does – I would say I would echo what you were saying as far as when I research and when I, you know, my area, my discipline is hopefully gonna be theology. And so when I’m digging into the fathers and digging into those kinds of things – like I feel my heart on fire. I do that, you know? And I feel that a little bit, as cheesy it is, of the Chariots of Fire thing, like when I run, I feel God’s pleasure. I feel like God’s like, “Yeah. There it is. I have been waiting for you to see it,” you know? And so there is a sense of vocation there. But I also have found that I feel that way with my daughter, and there are times where, you know, whether – probably when she sleeping ’cause she’s two –

– and she’s really tough right now, but [laughs] even, you know, there’s times where she’ll just lean over and put her head on my shoulder, or I’ll see that she’s just really struggling emotionally, like having, you know, trying to deal with what’s going on, and I feel a very similar heart-on-fire, “I’m here to help you,” and I feel God saying, “Yes,” like, “this is part of what I have for you, too,” you know. And so I hadn’t ever really thought of it as two vocations.

But I think there is – or I guess one, your general vocation of seeking to serve the Lord and work toward human flourishing, and it happens in multiple areas. And so that’s kinda one pressure that we see working moms, one challenge, is pressure and judgment maybe coming from the outside or even on yourselves as to whether you should even be doing this. [Laughs]

Another pressure that I feel regularly is that of logistics. So just straight up trying to make it all happen, and I really would love to come back a little bit to the idea of the husbands because I think that that is key. But Ann-Marie Slaughter, who was a – in the political world and an author, wrote a pretty infamous article a while ago, though I was teased about saying it was a while ago ’cause of my youth –

Andi Thacker
[Laughs]
Kymberli Cook
– in The Atlantic on why – and she – it was called “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” And she was making – essentially making the argument that working moms are gonna struggle and are essentially always behind everybody else in the workforce because they just have so many things pulling at them. And she hammers away at logistics and just what it takes to run a household, and like we’ve been recognizing, running a household in and of itself is its own job –
Andi Thacker
[Laughs]
Kymberli Cook
– and so what it takes to run a household as well as have an entire other profession. So Christina, would you just speak to the pressures of logistics?
Christina Crenshaw
Sure.
Kymberli Cook
How have you all experienced them? What are the general ones that working moms experience? And then we’ll hear from Andi.
Christina Crenshaw
Yeah, so I would say – I think it’s fair to say my husband would probably say this, too, if he were here – that it – we’ve been married 15 years, and it has been a learning process. He grew up in a very conservative home. His mom stayed at home. That was his preference when he married me, but we know each other well enough to know, you know, that – I went to grad school, and he’s like, “Oh.” I went to grad school again, and he’s like, “Okay, here we go.”

So I think he, because he loves the Lord, and he loves me, he’s willing to be teachable in that, and in return, I have had to say, “Okay, this is a season of deferring to you.” So in – you know, when we first had children, really felt like I needed to defer to him, you know, in order, you know, for him to flourish. And then the past couple years, I would say it’s really been a place of him being a little bit more deferential to what I’ve been called to do so that I can make it up to Dallas for a fellowship, so I can make it here for a podcast, or the other various things that I’ve called to steward.

And so it really – it’s this place of, which is such a picture of marriage in general, of, you know, this is a season of getting behind you and supporting you, and this is a season of getting behind you and supporting you. And I don’t know that in our 15 years if there’s ever been one dominant narrative, that it really has been this place of support, defer, support, defer, support, defer with each other, and that that’s been a really healthy place for us. And you know, even though he’s very much the leader in the home, it is just this place of mutual support that we need each other to do that.

So I would say going back to your question about men and being a partner, I was raised actually in a single-parent home, mostly. My mom was a teacher. My parents divorced when I was really young, and she loved what she did, but she also worked out of necessity. And she had summers off, and, you know, if you’re going to work, that’s a really great profession to be in, to be a teacher. But I think sometimes women are in a position where they don’t have a partner, so it’s great to pause and recognize sometimes when women are working outside the home because they have to, and they really are doing it alone, and that is a hard hustle to do alone. That’s a great place for the church to come in and say, “How can I pick your kids up from carpool? How can I get them to church activities? How can I get them –”

Kymberli Cook
They almost certainly need to – I mean –
Christina Crenshaw
They need it. Right, and then where we have husbands who are helpful, I think it’s great and not at all chauvinistic or, you know, anti-against rhetoric that is in support of women to say, “My husband is a copartner, and I want to honor that.” You know, it doesn’t make him any less masculine. It doesn’t make me any less feminine. It doesn’t – you know, it’s just this place of we co-labor together. He leads, but we co-labor together, so.
Kymberli Cook
And there might come a point where I need to step back and allow and put some emphasis toward his vocation, just like he’s been willing to do for my – I mean, we’re in the middle of a Ph.D. program right now, and my husband is carrying the team.
Kymberli Cook
But – and we’ve recognized, you know, this is a time where he has intentionally said, you know, it’s – you know, he has big things going on in his life and in his ministry as well, but right now, this is – our family is kinda about making sure that you have this opportunity, and this is what we’re trying to do. Yeah.
Christina Crenshaw
And it might shift after the Ph.D. program –
Kymberli Cook
Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
Christina Crenshaw
– right? There may be some things calls him to that requires you to kinda give him a little bit more.
Kymberli Cook
And that’s kind of the dance of making it all happen. Andi, what are your thoughts on logistics?
Andi Thacker
Well, I think about as a parent and as I work with families, I always come back to, our premise is we want to prepare our kids for the path, not the path for our kids. And one of the things that I think is so healthy for kids to learn early is that there are limits. We are limit – we are limited, and we are finite, and so to know that, you know, because mommy works, you’re not gonna get to do more than x number of activities outside the house, and that will not be bad for you.

And so they can learn it within the confines of our home, and I think that’s something I always kinda come back to, especially if there’s days that I feel guilty or bad, is that it’s okay for them to learn that every choice that we make has a consequence, good or bad, and it’s important to be able to role-play those consequences, and so as I manage logistics and figure out schedules and when I’m gonna travel and when my husband’s gonna travel, it’s okay for our kids to see us say, “You know, we just have to draw this boundary,” ’cause hopefully, they’ll get to a place as adults where they can do that same thing and know that I can’t do everything. Your dad can’t do everything, and that’s okay. We were never created to do it all.

Christina Crenshaw
And it’s okay to bring in outside help. The most – one of the most glorious seasons of my life was when I went back to teaching at Baylor and we employed two of my former students who also went to our church to help with my kids. And they were more fun than I was, and they were newer than I was. My kids loved going to the zoo or, you know, the museum, in town with them, and there was a place of struggling, you know, feeling like, “Oh, I should be doing that with my kids,” but I do do that with my kids. It’s okay to allow other people to also do that with my kids. And really, those were sweet friendships that my kids still have with those girls, and one of them is now a mom. So it was good training for her, so I think bringing in community is really good for logistics as well.
Kymberli Cook
And I feel like – you’re right, and I think sometimes we have, because we’re just such an individualistic society, we think, “Well I’m supposed to – we’re just supposed to have it all together in the Cook household, and no, we don’t need anybody. We don’t – you know, like, to have to ask anybody except maybe our parents quietly, like when things get really bad.

You know, we don’t need – and really, as far as, like, childhood development, you would definitely be to speak to this, I feel like it’s helpful for kids to get loved on by other people –

Andi Thacker
It is.
Kymberli Cook
– and to be exposed to a variety of other – and just from an ecclesiastical perspective, I feel like that allows, you know, different people in the church to love on them and for them to come to understand and love the church in a different way than you would if you were just kind of rolling along, you know, and doing everything on your own.
Andi Thacker
Yeah, absolutely. I think about your example, Christina, that you gave, and what you just said, Kim. So our family, God put it together uniquely. Our first two kids are biological from us, and our third child was adopted, and he came with a sweet little gift, and that is that he has a sister who is a year older than he is, and she was adopted by a single woman who lives near us, and to see her community – my son’s sister’s adoptive mom, her community loves her so well.

They come around her. They help out, and she’s equally as willing to ask for that help, and that sweet little girl is so blessed by the different people in her life that aren’t necessarily blood relatives, but they’re part of the body of Christ, and they’re her family, and it has just broadened her – she is loved by so many, and it works the way the body of Christ should work, and so it’s just such a beautiful picture.

Kymberli Cook
So I’m hearing logistics as far as – certainly requires support, especially if you’re in a single situation. But even if you are married, it definitely, usually necessitates the support of the husband and his willingness to kinda pull double duty as well. But I also think, even for a married couple, and I know we’re in a little bit of a season right now where things are crazy because I’m in my first trimester, which means I’m not feeling well, and we’re in the middle of Ph.D. and working and all of that, and so many people of the church – people have just started bringing us food.
Andi Thacker
Aw. That’s so great.
Kymberli Cook
And I wept every single time because I was like, thank you, ’cause I just don’t want to cook but I didn’t know what to do, but we have to eat food.

And, you know, and even then I think support is so necessary for people to just – and really, I feel like that’s life. Like, that’s – everybody could benefit from that every once in a while. But I – so support, but I also hear boundaries, what you brought up, Andi. It’s – if you’re going to be living this life, and the logistics pressure is bearing down, part of it is here is where we say no, and we kinda just look at it and say it’ll be good for our kids. It’s good for us. It’s the only way we’re gonna make it. Here’s where we say no, you know. And that’s a tough – that’s so hard. I’m not very good at saying no. [Laughs]

Christina Crenshaw
And back to the Ann-Marie Slaughter article, you know, you really can’t do it all and particularly not all at one time, which I think was really what she wanted to emphasize in that article. And she – I think she’s a dean at Princeton now. She worked –
Kymberli Cook
That’s right, yes.
Christina Crenshaw
– in the political sphere in it, and she had talked about how I was always able to manage these roles when I was in the academy, but as soon as I stepped out into politics, it got crazy quickly. But I think she had that epiphany, that revelation, that, you know, there’s nothing inherently wrong with a woman working. It’s good. It’s great. But I think when we started to have that expectation that we can logistically do it all is when it quickly falls apart because it’s not sustainable, and it’s not true, and there’s nothing holy about thinking we can be an island unto ourselves, whether the island is us or our family. But you’re right. We are – we were created for the body of Christ. Let’s invite them in, you know, to this calling and journey.
Kymberli Cook
So the – a third pressure I thought of when I was kinda thinking through this – and I think sometimes it can be the most painful one, is what I’m gonna call the heart tug. So the – that maternal part of yourself that just – you know, here’s the perfect example. The other day, my husband actually, he’s a pastor, and so he has Fridays off, which is fantastic because he’s able to spend an entire day with our two-year-old. She’s not in daycare on that day, and he – they’re – they call it Hattie/Daddy Friday, and it’s just fantastic.
Christina Crenshaw
That’s sweet.
Kymberli Cook
And so they’ll often come down and have lunch with me here on campus, and so recently, when it’s gotten toward the end of lunch, and we were kinda finishing up wherever we are, like, at the restaurant, and all of a sudden, she started looking at me and saying, “Mommy no go to work –”

Andi Thacker and

Christina Crenshaw
Mmm.
Christina Crenshaw
That’s hard.
Kymberli Cook
And just saying it over and over, and there’s just this part of me that dies on me inside [laughter], and I’m like, “I know. I don’t want to,” but I do, and so I’ve started answering her. “Well, Jesus has some other things for Mommy to do today, you know, and so we’re all trying to follow Jesus, so Mommy needs to follow Jesus because he has some of these other things for me to do today, but I’m gonna be home soon –”
Andi Thacker
[Laughs]
Kymberli Cook
“– and I’ll see you, and we’ll play then,” you know, that kind of thing. So how do you all manage the heart tug? Christina, let’s start with you.
Christina Crenshaw
Yeah, yeah. I – I mean, I think I often refer to this as working-mom guilt. I mean, being a mother, there is guilt-induced no matter if you’re inside the home, outside the home, you know, you’re always wondering if I’m doing this to the best of my ability or even somebody else’s ability, unfortunately, and that comparison trap can really get us into a rut. But I think for me, I don’t know that there’s any formula, but I think just really giving my kids vision for what it looks like to give attention to them and also give attention to work and using – now that they’re in school – they’re four and six – I can use that as an analogy and say, “You know, just like you’re in school for a little bit these hours, you know, I’m at work for these hours, and when we come home, it’s time to be together,” and so that helps a little bit for them. It is a little harder when they’re two, so I wanna validate that.
Christina Crenshaw
But when they’re little, I mean, life is harder when they’re two, but much less logic. Logic’s not on when they’re two. But I think as they get older, kind of giving them vision for, you know, just like you’re not in school all day, or you’re out for summers, you know, I’m not always working, helps them, I think, get vision for, you know, their different places, and I would not say this to my kids, but I say this to myself. I like them better if I’ve had a break from them.
Andi Thacker
Amen.
Christina Crenshaw
So I’m a better mother, and I don’t know if this is true for every mom, but if we’re really honest about it, we take breaks from our kids when we go to a workout class or we go on a date, or we have a mom’s group, even. I mean, we need breaks from our children to get refueled and refreshed. I may just need a little bit of a longer break.
Kymberli Cook
[Laughs]
Christina Crenshaw
And I like my breaks to be, you know, walking out in this calling of teaching and researching and that sort of thing. So I think it’s okay to recognize, “I feel a little guilty, but I need this break if I’m gonna really be a great mom and flourish in that vocation,” and then walk out in teaching, researching, and flourish in that vocation, then this is necessary. So I don’t know there isn’t a way to, you know, negate the guilt, but I think you can abate the guilt by really saying, “Okay, but this is right,” and talking to your kids as they get older, so, yeah.
Kymberli Cook
Andi, how do you manage it?
Andi Thacker
A lot like you do, Christina.

I always come back to I have to talk to myself, not listen to myself –

Christina Crenshaw
Oh yeah, that’s good.
Andi Thacker
– because if I listen to myself, what I’m saying is not always truthful or honoring to how God created me. And so I try to remind myself that, first and foremost, just like you said, kinda the oxygen-mask principle, if your air-cabin pressure on an airplane loses oxygen, you put it on first because if you’re passed out, you can’t help the kid next to you or the person who’s acting like a kid.

So I know as a mom, and this was hard for me for a while ’cause I was kinda mad at God about this, he created me as an introvert, and so I recharge by being alone, and that seems like such a death sentence as a mother [laughs], especially little kids ’cause, like, the two-year-old. If I go in the bathroom, here come his little hands underneath the door or the knock, “Mom, mom, are you in there?” and then realizing, kind of sensing him saying, “No, no, no, Andi. I created you intentionally like this. This isn’t a sentence you. This isn’t a flaw. This is who you are, and it’s okay to embrace that.”

And part of the self-care oxygen mask for me is working because I feel so much wonderful things when I sit with students, when I teach, when I counsel, and so it’s just a – I’m a better woman because I get to exercise my gifts in different areas. And then I was really, really blessed this summer. I read the book by Bill Hendricks that talks about giftedness, and he talks about how God specifically gifts some women with the unique gift to really exercise that at home and be fulfilled at home, and they’re gifted in that way, whereas other women aren’t necessarily gifted in that way and going outside the home is very appropriate for their gift exercising.

And so that was such an affirmation to me of, this is who God made me as. It’s not a flaw. It’s not a sin issue, and what my job is, is to do the best I can and just – in those places where he’s put me. And on those days where I feel like I’m dropping the ball, I just go back to that, like, she did what she could.

I’m just gonna do what I can, so today it means cupcakes that I bought from Walmart. They’re not homemade, or I’m not publishing as much as other counterparts, like, ’cause, I feel that on the academic side of I’m not teaching as many courses extra, and I just gotta do what I can in the place where I’m at.

Kymberli Cook
And you just think, and I’m embracing the opportunities God has given me, and that’s the most I can do. You know, and he doesn’t expect any – I don’t think he expects anything more of me, you know, and nobody else really does, either. And if they do, that’s kinda their deal. [Laughs]
Andi Thacker
Right. That’s their baggage.
Christina Crenshaw
That’s on them. That’s on them. We don’t need their stuff.
Kymberli Cook
So you brought up a book. Are there any other resources that you all have found, like, helpful for either working through all these different pressures that we’ve been talking about yourself as a working mom, or that you would think, “Man, this would be really helpful if I pastor or a church kind of was aware of this, and, you know, it would help them support.” Are there any resources that you guys have seen?
Christina Crenshaw
Maybe not specifically for working moms, which leads me to think maybe we need some of those.
Andi Thacker
I know. I was trying to think of one, too, and I don’t know that there is one.
Christina Crenshaw
Katelyn Beatty has a book, A Woman’s Place, which isn’t specifically for working women, but it’s probably a great book for all women who, you know, feel called to do, like, motherhood and something else, ’cause as a society we were created to do things for the common good, and to really contribute, I would say probably be the basis of her book. As far as vocation, I think Bill Hendricks’ book is great. I just got done reading that as well.
Kymberli Cook
That’s so good.
Christina Crenshaw
Gordon Smith has a lot of great books. Tom Nelson, Why Do We Work, if we wanna discern, kinda like what am I called to do? Faith at Work Movement, kinda the Timothy Keller, they’ve got a lot of – a lot of these things you can actually find through the Hendricks Center.
Kymberli Cook
You can. Now that you mention it, I can bring it up. I think for discerning vocation or how do I use my work towards building God’s kingdom, that would be a great resource. I don’t know specifically for working moms or working mom guilt, but do you have any thoughts on that, Andi?
Andi Thacker
I don’t know any resources specifically geared toward working-mom guilt, but I think about Brené Brown’s resources, The Gifts of Imperfection, and talking about from more of a global perspective, how do you deal with guilt and shame and vulnerability? I think that’s a great launching pad for working through guilt and shame, and how as a community do we embrace one another so that we can really lean into the calling the Lord has placed on our lives and support each other, not throw darts at each other and judge?
Christina Crenshaw
And from Brené as a working mom, it’s worth printing out.
Andi Thacker
She is.
Kymberli Cook
And really, you’re right, and that part of it, that self-expectation, is something women just tend to put on themselves in general, and so those kinds of resources would be helpful even if you’re personally applying it to the motherhood or track part of what your vocation is. So I’m hearing that it’s – to face these pressures, it’s best to seek support from those around you –
Kymberli Cook
– and not from those who might, you know, pass judgment and seek to be a part of a community that is really onboard with what you feel like the Lord has led you and your family to be doing and for those people that community of which we are even a part. It’s not that working moms are just recipients and aren’t giving as well, you know, for those communities to really pitch in and help when they see a family that’s just struggling, and it doesn’t have to be like things are coming unwound, but, you know, and maybe having a sensitivity for dual-working families, like, you know, things are probably run on a pretty tight ship anyway, and if something happens, then it really –

– goes off the rails. And then [laughter] – really, and then finally, just encouraging women in what their vocation and where – maybe even pointing out where – how they are helping the community and flourish. It – particularly for women who find themselves in situations where they have to work, and they don’t necessarily wanna be doing that, but they’re doing it to provide for their family and for their children, and even pointing out, you know, if you’re working at a fast-food restaurant, which I have, you’re feeding people, and you are actually helping working moms, and [laughs] you are helping a lot of these people survive because we eat at restaurants a lot –

Andi Thacker
[Laughs]
Kymberli Cook
– and there are – and really seeking to support other working moms in all of those ways, I think, is the best way that we can all kind of –
Christina Crenshaw
Rally around each other.
Kymberli Cook
Rally, yeah, around each other. I like that. So I just wanna thank Christina and Andi for being here. It was a lovely conversation on working moms, and thank you for listening.
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Andi Thacker
Dr. Andi Thacker is an assistant professor of biblical counseling at DTS. She is a licensed professional counselor and registered play therapist. She is married to Chad and they have 3 kids, Emerson, Will, and Webb.
Christina Crenshaw
Dr. Christina Crenshaw is a Cultural Engagement and Leadership Fellow at Dallas Theological Seminary’s Hendricks Center. She also teaches as a Full Time Lecturer of English and Leadership Studies at Baylor University, where she earned her Ph.D. Christina has extensively researched and presented in the areas of faith and work integration and human trafficking prevention education.
Kymberli Cook
Kymberli Cook is a doctoral student in Theological Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and serves as the Senior Administrator at the Hendricks Center, overseeing Cultural Engagement events and efforts, pastoral relationships, and creative design. She holds a Master of Theology from DTS and resides in Dallas with her husband and daughter.
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