Working Motherhood and the Story God is Writing for Me
Letter from Chelsea Solomon
My dear sister,
I grew up Catholic, the youngest of four with incredible parents and siblings, always burning a healthy fire for God in my heart for as long as I could remember. I figured I’d probably get married and have children one day, but the logistics and reality of marriage and motherhood weren’t necessarily something I dwelled upon. From my childhood into my early twenties, my first love was music, followed closely by teaching. I met my husband in our sophomore year of college while we both were pursuing music degrees, and we were married in December of 2016. We each began extremely busy careers in music education, and in September of 2018, we were blessed with our daughter. She’s our light and our greatest treasure. Well-intentioned, yet nosy people love to ask if her existence was “planned” or not.
The short of it is that she was not “planned.” Though we were discerning to avoid pregnancy at the time, I hadn’t had a true cycle in almost 3 years, had no common fertility signs, and had yet to hear a diagnosis. Obviously, this made charting extremely difficult, and my “stomach flu” in February 2018 turned out to be our sweet baby. Though I still am unsure of what causes my lack of cycle, I thank God each and every day for our Elizabeth. He clearly knew we needed her now, though, at the time, we didn’t feel ready.
The birth of our daughter made me a better human overall, more selfless, caring, compassionate. It brought me closer to the heart of Our Lady and I can’t help but marvel at the Divine’s plan to bring her to us. I was then, more than ever, so incredibly certain on the Church’s teaching—why miss an opportunity to grow more holy by taking away one of our most amazing powers—to give life to a new person? I was suddenly all-in. Bring on the babes. I quietly daydreamed about more babies and sunshine and trips to the library with a van full of littles in tow during my seven-week maternity leave.
Soon enough, though, it was time to return to work, full time, at a job that I’m so incredibly passionate about: teaching preschool-8th-grade general music, band, choir and orchestra at our parish’s Catholic school. As the head of the youth music department, I’m also responsible for masses such as first communion and confirmation, as well as co-directing a spring musical. It’s a thriving parish in a mid-size city downtown, with a ton of support for the arts. A brand new Performing Arts and Events Center was recently built on campus, and it is truly a blessing to be as busy as I am. So, even if I had the financial ability to stay home, I’m not sure I would take it.
I wasn’t prepared for the intense guilt I would feel sending my daughter to daycare. I wasn’t ready for the feelings of being a bad mother or a bad Catholic for wanting to work full-time. This wasn’t part of the daydream. Would my daughter (and future children, should I be blessed again) bond with me? Am I truly living out my vocation of wife and mother if I’m also balancing a full-time job? Will her earliest memories be of her daycare provider and not of me?
And almost equally, I wasn’t prepared for the intense guilt at my job—the guilt of leaving my principal to find a maternity leave sub for me (not an easy feat, as not many people are just jumping out of their seats to teach 400+ kids with blasting instruments), the guilt of leaving my students and parish to piece together masses, concerts, shows and festivals without a true, present music director; and upon returning, the guilt of pumping during my planning period instead of working with different musical groups and creating top-notch lessons.
As I look ahead to my many years of fertility left, I’m often overcome with the anxiety of having another “unplanned” pregnancy, what with my non-existent cycle and lack of normal fertility signs. Many well-meaning coworkers commented on my less-than-ideal due date of right at the beginning of the school year, when things are crazy. And they’re absolutely right! Why couldn’t I plan better? Why couldn’t I just chart and cycle and plan accordingly, like every other woman? More importantly, why couldn’t I just stay home for a few years while having a few babies and then go back to teaching, accompanying, performing and directing?
Why couldn’t I just figure it all out?
I sincerely wish I could do both: stay at home with my kids and simultaneously teach my other “kids.” I wish I could carefully coordinate subsequent pregnancies, to deliver at opportune times in the school year and somehow plan the perfect spacing of baby-to-school-age kiddo. I wish I could just be in two places at once (though I absolutely adore my daughter’s daycare teacher, I wish *I* was her daycare teacher!). I wish I could look to the future and know my family will be financially stable, regardless of how many of us there are, even with two musician-teacher parents.
But the thing is, I can’t. I can’t know what lies ahead. I can’t stay home and work full time. I can’t piece together each part of my life perfectly, like God does, for the simple fact that I am not God. I’m not sure why I have such a hard time “mastering“ NFP (but really, does anyone do it “correctly” ?) or why I feel such a strong calling to teach. But what I do know is that each day of juggle and wonder and struggle and worry is stretching me to the shape of God’s intentions.
His plan for me is so much greater than any “ideal” story I tell myself in my head or compare against someone else’s. And though I’m currently struggling with “balancing it all” as a working, Catholic mother, I know in the end my story is pushing me toward my ultimate salvation. Just as I slowly teach my sixth-grade band students to read music note by note, or slowly teach my daughter to say “mama”, “dada” or “please”, little by little, God is teaching me to become who He meant me to be.
If you’re in a similar situation, feeling pressure to be at two places at once, not feeling whole at home or at work, please know that you are enough. Women are incredible, you are incredible, and there is a reason God has placed you here.
Love and grace, always,
About the Writer: Chelsea Solomon
Chelsea Solomon is a wife, mother, and full-time music teacher in Lawrence, Kansas. She holds a bachelor’s in Music Education and a master’s in Music Ed-Choral Pedagogy, both from the University of Kansas. Many of her evenings are spent in various music rehearsals for her parish and around the community with a baby at her feet, singing along. In her free time, she enjoys reading, running, traveling with her husband, and margaritas on patios.