JJ Heller on the tension of being a working mum.

JJ Heller
JJ Heller

Two to three times every month, I kiss two sweet little faces and tell them I love them and that I'll be home soon. Sometimes everyone is fine with it and we simply accept it as part of life, and other times I cry on the 40-minute drive from our house to the airport. My heart aches as it is pulled in two different directions. I want to leave and I want to stay.

When Lucy and Nora were still itty bitty, I wrestled with a significant amount of Mom Guilt. I knew sharing my music around the country was what I was meant to do, but it felt terrible to leave my two precious girls at home. It was during this season that I received a hurtful comment on my Facebook page.

Unfortunately, I think everyone knows what this feels like. If you don't, it's kind-of like juicing a lemon and remembering too late that you have a paper cut on your finger. Here are the commenter's exact lemon-juicy words:

Your songs have been a big help to me, but I do feel very sad for those lovely daughters of yours who so often have to miss out on having their mommy around. :(

Cue the song, "Cat's In the Cradle" and my ugly cry.

Am I an unloving mom who heartlessly chooses her career over her children? Every time I asked myself that question, the answer was clearly, "No way!" So why was I so torn up? When I spoke to my mother-in-law about my emotional wrestling match, she offered a bit of wisdom that I keep tucked in my pocket wherever I go (figuratively, not literally. I don't always wear clothes with pockets). She said that God has clearly called Dave and me to a ministry of sharing our songs and stories. And since Lucy and Nora are part of our family, they are called to this ministry too.

For a long time I thought it was an either/or scenario: career/calling or children, but I don't think that's an accurate equation. We, as parents, don't have to choose between our children and our career because they aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, a significant part of my music ministry is to my kids. When Dave and I are putting our heart and soul into work that we believe in, it gives us purpose and makes us healthier people and better parents. What an honour to model what it means to pursue our dreams even if it looks different from other families!

Yes, it's still hard to be a mom and also have a career, but God is so gracious and ever-present in the tension and the joy. I don't ever get used to the goodbyes, but I'm starting to accept it as part of the process. I acknowledge the sadness while also knowing that even when I'm far away, I never stop being Lucy and Nora's mama.

And wherever I travel, I'm reminded of them. I see them when we pass a toy store or an amazing playground or a pastry case full of decadent desserts. In those moments I wish they could be with me, even as I know they can't be. We are apart because I'm singing songs for people and fulfilling part of my purpose in life. They are home, going to school, learning how to make good choices and be independent. These are not decisions our family has taken lightly. We pray for wisdom and do our best. One day at a time.

I think that's the best any family can do. In this life we all have highs and lows, lemons and lemonade. Sometimes we stay home and sometimes we go on adventures. What a gift it is to have little people I love to come home to. My girls remind me why I sing. The hardest part of my job might be saying saying goodbye to Lucy and Nora, but no matter where I go, my journey always starts and ends with them. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.