Authors: Susan DiMickele
For Nicolas, Anna, and Abigail
I love the story of Jesus healing the ten blind men. Unfortunately, I identify more with the nine who rode off into the sunset instead of the one man who came back to say thanks. Because I'm one of those people who always forget to send thank-you notes, I'm going to say thank you here, right up front.
Truth is, I could never attempt to be Superwomanâlet alone write about itâwithout all the wonderful family and friends surrounding me, starting with my parents. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for your love, faith, simplicity, and devotion to family and each other. I'm so proud to be your daughter. And my four wonderful sistersâMona, MaryBeth, Amy, and Janieâyou are my best friends for life. As the saying goes, “a sister is a friend forever.”
Of course so many others inspire and support me on a daily basis, like the Go Fish Women; Jane Armstrong; Bishop Holloway; Pastor Eric and my friends at Upper Arlington Lutheran Church; my colleagues at the firm; my neighbors on Henthorn Road; my prayer partner, Cheryl; and my Bible study partners, Shelly and Jen, who hang out with me late at night, keep me laughing, and help me to see beyond myself.
I knew absolutely nothing about the publishing process until I connected with my fabulous agent, Rachelle Gardner. Thanks, Rachelle, for taking on a first-time author and opening the door to the team at David C. Cook. And a very special thanks to my editor and now dear friend, Susan Tjaden. Last, but certainly not least, thank you to my husband, Doug, for always putting our family first and for supporting me as I spent many evenings in front of my laptop while you wondered what the heck I was up to! Now you finally know.
Can a mother of young children be at the top of her profession without sacrificing her family or her faith? Will society and the Christian community allow her to try?
As a mother of three young children in a fast-paced legal career, I wrestled deeply with these questions. What had other mothers written to address this dilemma? While I found lots of good books on parenting and managing life as a working motherâlike finding a good day care, better managing my time, or putting the family on some unrealistic carpool scheduleâI was surprised that no one had written candidly about the complex spiritual struggles of the working mother. Lots of people out there had advice, but I was more interested in an authentic dialogue. I knew from talking with my friends that so many of us have the same questions, and we're really tired of it when someone gives us the same old pat answers we have heard over and over again. Even more troubling, none of the working-mother books I could find even addressed a working woman of faith. It was as if faith was completely divorced from the lives of all working mothers.
Hence the idea for
was born. Of course I had a lot of excuses as to why it wasn't the right time to write a book. Between practicing law full time, maintaining a healthy marriage, taking care of three young children, and family and friends who needed my attention in between, I could never find the time to write a book. Besides, I couldn't even find time for
not to mention a relationship with God, so I figured I'd probably have to wait until retirement to write this. Life was full for the next decade or two.
I might have just stopped there, but I'm incredibly impatient. I couldn't quit thinking, “If not me, then who?” While the Christian community sometimes operates under the assumption that the only women attending church are traditional stay-at-home moms who act like the Church Lady and belong to the PTA, this stereotype doesn't address the fact that more than 75 percent of mothers with school-aged children work outside the home.
As one of these women, I needed to write a book that would address our faith
Most parents agree that one of our greatest challenges is the spiritual development of our children. As parents, we must have an authentic and vibrant faith to provide meaningful spiritual guidance to our children.
Yet mothers like me who work outside the home arguably have less control over our childrenâmaking it even more challenging for us to model a vibrant faith and ensure that our children receive our much-needed attention. In writing
, I confront the basic fears and insecurities of most working mothers through my own imperfect and humbling experiencesâwill my children turn out okay? How can I make sure I tend to their spiritual development? And can I really trust God to take care of them, even when I'm not there?
I know other working mothers must wonder,
Am I the only one who feels like a bad mommy when my cell phone won't stop ringing in the pediatrician's office?
Most of us are running ourselves ragged, pretending to be Superwoman, and feeling guilty when we achieve something less than superhero perfection. Who says we can't have it all? The problem? It's a miserable existence to run around in circles and try to do it all yourself. Most days, I fall far short of being SuperwomanâI'm tired of chasing perfection, and I just really want someone to carry me. (Okay, I'd even settle for a day at the spa.) The other problem? I don't want anyone to put me in a boxâespecially when I've yet to figure it out myself. So, if I've learned anything through my adventures as a working mother it's this: Only by God's grace do each of us have the freedom to run her own course, and a loving and gracious God will be paving the wayâeven holding us at timesâevery step of the journey.
I'm blessed to have a supportive husband who stands beside me as I wrestle with it all. When I told Doug I was going to write a book about the struggles of being a working mother, he was instantly supportive. But he also said he had one rule. He gave me his serious, piercing look so I couldn't later claim I thought he was joking and said, “You're not allowed to write about me.”
So I really tried hard to respect his privacy, and I went out of my way to completely avoid mentioning him in my first writings. I didn't write about our first date to the homecoming dance or the fact that we were high school sweethearts or that he put me through law school on a shoestring budget. And I didn't dare write about the ups and downs of marriage, our disagreements over parenting, his distrust of organized religion, or his arm's-length relationship with the church. I left out the part about how he stayed home with the kids full time after our caregiver's adoption and until Abby could enter preschoolâeven though it cost Doug his own career and temporary sanity. I really
to write about the incredible romance that still exists after sixteen years of marriage and the thick glue that holds us together tighter than ever, but I knew he would die of embarrassment and would probably kill me if I put all the details on paper. So I simply left him out.
As hard as I tried to keep him out of the first draft of my manuscript, I could tell something was missing.
was missing. So I said to him, “You know, I really can't write a book about my life unless you're in it.”
It was hard for him to argue with my point.
Doug suggested a compromise: “Just don't use my real name.”
So I tried writing about being married and raising kids with Rob, but it just wasn't the same. All my neighbors and friends would read it and think I was getting divorced, or worse, was some kind of polygamist. So I went back to calling him Doug. I just warned him that if he wanted any editorial control over the book he would have to get involved in my writing.
He graciously left me to my own devices.
I'm also thankful to have three amazing children to write about. At the time I wrote this book, they were ages seven, four, and two. Nick is my firstborn who thinks deeply about life and follows the rules. He is followed by Anna who is my princess and fashion queen. Abby is our babyâwe can't imagine life without her because she makes us laugh and keeps us young. Like most working mothers, I wear lots of superhero capes, but my mommy cape is by far my favorite.
As a lawyer, I fully admit that I'm writing from a narrow perspective, and some of my nonlawyer friends tell me it's hard to relate to the world of Lady Lawyer. I apologize for that up front. It's all I know. Lady Lawyer has a nasty habit of talking down to just about everyone when she's in her element, and I'm thankful that I have Doug to regularly remind me when I get too far off on my high horse. I don't pretend to understand or even typify most working mothers, many of whom have jobs that would make Lady Lawyer feel silly for complaining even the slightest bit about her own demands and struggles. I only hope that my journey can resonate with the millions of hard-working mothers out there who, for a variety of reasons, spend much of their days away from their young children and pray in their hearts that everything will turn out okay in the end.
While I write from a decidedly Christian perspective, I hope that my writing will be inspiring to all working mothers who struggle on their own faith journeys. Yes, the road can be a steep climb, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. Thanks in advance for sharing this journey with me. Together, I pray that we can stop chasing Superwoman.
The Superwoman Within
In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.
Matthew 5:48 (MSG)
Most people hate lawyers. This is why so many lawyers marry other lawyersâno one else likes them. Fortunately, I met my husband, Doug, before I became a lawyer, and he still likes me. At least that's what he tells me.
If I have to be honest, I really don't like Lady Lawyer. She brings out the worst in me. Given the choice, I would much rather put on my mommy cape and play Devoted Mommy. But most days and more nights and weekends than I would care to admit, Devoted Mommy is busy playing Lady Lawyer. I didn't set out to give Lady Lawyer this much power. It just sort of happened. I always insisted my career would take a backseat to the more important things in lifeâmy family, my faith, my soul. I never thought Lady Lawyer would move in, take over, fire the staff, and change my identity. She's known to get her way. Lady Lawyer is shrewd, self-sufficient, demanding, impatient, and arrogant. She gets right to the point and doesn't waste your time. Why would any of her clients pay her exorbitant hourly rate in six-minute increments for anything less than the best? She doesn't make mistakes, and if you work for Lady Lawyer you'd better not make any mistakes either. The standard is perfection. Who said anything about forgiveness? There are no second chances.
Devoted Mommy is quite the opposite. She's warm and patient. She wastes lots of time picking up toys, reading books, and sitting on the floor playing patty-cake. As much as she likes to be efficient, her children always want to help her, so everything takes twice as long, and she makes lots of mistakes and lots of messes. Devoted Mommy knows the important thing is to say you are sorry and ask and receive forgiveness. After all, no one is perfect.
Okay, maybe Devoted Mommy isn't warm and patient
the time and maybe she would turn into Evil Mommy part of the time if she stayed at home with her kids all day, but you get the point. Lady Lawyer would make a terrible mother, which is why I have to keep her away from the children. Not to mention she has a terrible mouth on her. It's not intentional. It's just that most lawyers don't understand plain English unless it is laced with heavy profanity.
If only I could play Devoted Mommy more often.
The Evils of Television
At least Lady Lawyer and Devoted Mommy actually have something in common. They both hate television. Lady Lawyer has better things to do. For her, TV is the ultimate waste of time and an exercise in inefficiency. Simply put, TV is for idiots. It's mind-numbing, unenlightening, and unproductive. Why watch TV when you can bill hours instead? So Lady Lawyer watches TV only as a last resort, when she's multitasking. Sometimes it's faster to catch the local news and major world events on the tube. It becomes a necessary evil.
Devoted Mommy hates TV for different reasons. It's not a necessary evil, it's just plain evil. It's like inviting the Devil into your home and asking him to raise your children. “Gee, Satan, would you do me a favor and watch the kids for a few hours, 'cause I'm really busy right now and I'd prefer to have them hypnotized and brain-dead so that I can get some work done.”
The other day while I was playing Weekend Mommy, Doug and seven-year-old Nick were watching
The Bad News Bears
. I was appalled. The language was filthy. These snotty-nosed kids and their recalcitrant coach had no respect for authority or each other, and Nick would soon be talking like a potty mouth if we continued to let this trash into our living room. Suddenly, Devoted Mommy transformed into Fundamentalist Mommy.
“I don't want to hear that language in our house ever again, and I want that filthy show turned off.” Doug and Nick just looked at me. I continued, “TV is straight from the pit of hell and I can't sit by and watch you fill your brain with this garbage.”
Doug may be incorrigible, but I still have to exercise some moral authority over my children.
I learned that from my own mother. We had knock-down, drag-out fights over
. I would sneak downstairs and watch these shows with my older sisters over my mother's deep disapproval. (Which was worse, Jack and Chrissy living in sin, or Farrah Fawcett showing her cleavage? I never got an answer, I just knew they were both bad.) What kind of mother would I be if I let
The Bad News Bears
ruin Nick's innocence and lead him down a path of destruction?
So later that night, after I put the girls to bed, I told Nick that we needed to talk. We sat in his bed before prayers, as we do every night, and I explained to him that some things on TV are wrong, and the Bad News Bears really shouldn't say bad words.
“Did you hear bad words in the movie today?”
Nick responded, “I'm not sure. I know
is a bad word.” Nick is a smart kid, so he saw this as an opportunity to ask me, point-blank, what the other bad words were that had caused me so much concern. Now I was stuck. Fundamentalist Mommy was going to have to feed her own son swear words. So we talked about how “hell” is a bad word, and why you wouldn't want to tell someone to “go to hell,” because that's where Satan lives.
Nick asked, “Is it still okay to say âfor heaven's sake'?”
“Yes,” I said. “That's still okay.”
I was thankful he still had some innocence left. And I didn't have the heart to tell him the other bad words in the show. We'll save that for another day. Fundamentalist Mommy can take a rest for now.
I don't turn into Fundamentalist Mommy very often. But Devoted Mommy clearly needed to have more of a spiritual focus, especially with Lady Lawyer sucking her dry all those hours during the week. I actually prefer the term “Spiritual Mommy.” The Fundamentalist label has way too much baggage, even though I'm thankful for my roots.
So Spiritual Mommy decided to teach Sunday school. I could kill two birds with one stone and spend quality time with the kids on the weekend while exerting Spiritual Mommy's much-needed moral authority. Maybe I could even reverse some of the brain injury from all that TV.
Given my schedule during the week, Doug and most of my friends thought I was downright crazy for taking on another weekend responsibility. “Suz, just what you need, another thing to add to your schedule. Haven't you ever heard of the word
Actually, since I became a mother,
has almost evaporated from my vocabulary. I reserve it for when I really need itâlike when I'm asked to make cupcakes for the bake sale, organize the parent phone tree, or volunteer to be the lunch monitor during lunch bunch. After all, I can't do
right? But when it comes to the spiritual development of my children, Devoted Mommy reminds me that, unlike baking cookies or being a lunch monitor, I really can't delegate that one very easily.
To my pleasant surprise, Sunday school became my favorite hour of the week. I wear casual clothes and comfortable shoes, sing silly songs, play duck-duck-goose, and sit on the floor with the children while teaching them that God is your friend, even when you can't see Him.
I remember my own Sunday school days vividly like they were yesterday. I'll never forget that poster in my classroom of Jesus knocking on the door to your heart. Of course there's no door handle because the door can be opened only from the inside. It was during that Sunday school class that I asked Jesus to come into my heart. Some people say that young children can't understand spiritual things, but I beg to differ. Life has become much too complicated. Sometimes I want to go back to the simple faith of my childhood, but I can't. So I do the next best thing. I live vicariously through my children. I never realized until after I became a parent how entirely normal it is to live vicariously through your children. Every parent does it. That's why so many of us spend inordinate amounts of money on Christmas gifts and Disney World. (Who said anything about the kids?) I barely remember going to Disney World with my parents, although they love to talk about it like it was yesterday. I hear the same stories over and over again: “Remember when Susan screamed and cried because she wanted to go on the rides with her older sisters, and then we had to ride âIt's a Small World' over and over again?”
I used to think,
“Don't they get tired of telling these old stories? Do they really think anyone is listening?”
Now I understand why.
Lady Lawyer, of course, doesn't have time during the week to prepare for Sunday school. It would cut into her billable hours. Yet sometimes Spiritual Mommy convinces her to help gather Sunday school materials, particularly if it involves Internet shopping. I looked all over the Internet for that picture of Christ knocking and finally found one that is similar to my own childhood memories. I ordered it immediatelyâthe shipping and handling cost more than the poster, but I willingly gave over my credit card number. It was worth every penny.
The Unveiling of the
When the Jesus picture arrived, Nick and Anna were bursting with curiosity. How many of my online purchases arrive in a long tube the size of Texas? Lady Lawyer had outdone herself.
A new toy? A treasure map?
The possibilities were endless. Unfortunately, the kids always raid the mail before I get home from work. I should have had the picture sent to my office, like I do with Christmas gifts. Last Christmas I bought Doug a new office chair online and sent it straight to my office. The only problem I hadn't considered was getting it home. The box was too heavy for me to carry from my office tower to the parking garage, so I had to beg a few guys in my office to help. That cost Lady Lawyer a few favors. But a poster? I could have carried that myself.
Nick and Anna desperately wanted to open it, but I told them they would have to wait for Sunday school. It was going to be like the unveiling of the
. I could hardly wait myself. At minimum, I needed a sneak preview. After all, what if they had sent the wrong picture? It might be a poster of Daniel in the lion's den, the last temptation of Christ, or worse yet, what if they had mistakenly sent some trash from a pornographic site? I couldn't take that risk with the spiritual future of fifteen preschoolers resting on my shoulders. So after the kids went to bed, I pulled out the poster. I gazed at the picture longingly, relieved to see Jesus knocking in the familiar scene. For the next fifteen minutes, I couldn't stop staring. Could faith be this simple? Maybe when I was five years old, but not now. Not in my world.
For most people, seeing is believing. “Show me the money.” “Do you have the goods?” “The proof is in the pudding.” I get tired of living by these rules all week. Preschoolers are different. Their hearts have not yet been hardened by the cold reality of the real world. Most of them haven't been sued yet.
Maybe if I just brought the picture of Christ knocking and put it in my office, in place of my diploma, things at work would be more spiritual. I know that Jesus is there, even when I can't see Him, but I frankly forget about Him when I step into my office. Spiritual Mommy thought it was an excellent idea to bring the poster to work. That way, when Lady Lawyer gets out of line, she can just look at Jesus knocking and be reminded of her deep faith. I've been told my office really needs to be redecorated.
Lady Lawyer quickly squashed that idea. People would think I had completely cracked. Besides, lots of people would be offended. What would happen if the six o'clock news came to get a headshot of me at my desk and the picture of Christ knocking was hanging in the background? The audience would think my law firm was some kind of religious cult, and I'd never hear the end of it.
So I left the picture of Christ knocking at home. One of these days when Lady Lawyer is shopping on the Net, I'm going to make her order a frame. We'll hang the framed picture right next to the TV. That way, when Doug and Nick are watching
Bad News Bears
or some other trashy show and I'm not there to turn it off, Jesus will gently remind them that TV is evil.
Better yet, we'll hang it in place of the TV.
One of the Sunday school parents asked me if I was a teacher. I laughed out loud. When I told her I was a lawyer, she looked surprised. Spiritual Mommy had successfully kept Lady Lawyer muzzled, which isn't easy to do. I took her surprise as a compliment, and said thank you. I explained to her that the reason I enjoy teaching Sunday school so much is that it is so dramatically different from my everyday life. After dealing all week with grown-up problems, complex legal issues, and the politics of a large law firm, I welcome Silly Putty and puppet shows.
I've gotten good at checking my lawyer cape at the door when it comes to church. No suit, no high heels, not too much lipstick, no cell phone or BlackBerry, no dirty looks, no potty mouth, and lots of confession and forgiveness. I wear my hair down with comfortable shoes and suburban clothes, smiling pleasantly while I'm holding Abby in one arm and my Sunday school bag in the other. Let's face itâmost parents don't have high expectations of a Sunday school teacher. They just want an hour of peace.