Ask The Expert: Mother vs. Leader


I wholeheartedly believe that you should at all times, in every situation, be your best, most authentic, self completely uncompartmentalized. I do not have a work personality, a volunteer personality, a home personality, etc - however, I am finding it very difficult to transition my mindset from a fast-paced leadership role at work to a understanding, supportive wife and mother when I return home. Is there any advice you can give to help manage the tension between these two roles?

--Jamie Hembree


Dear Jamie,

You’ve got a pulse on a challenge that many women face—the phenomena called “The Second Shift.” The second shift is about the life you live after you finish your workday—a challenge for every woman who’s called to lead both at work and at home!  The challenge of this life is that we sometimes aren’t sure how to draw boundaries around our priorities without neglecting one role for the other. Here’s a few ideas that might help:


Cultivate Self-Control

 Often we think of self-control as the ability to avoid lying, lusting, cheating or stealing. But self-control is also about the way we take our thoughts captive to Christ. For many leaders I know, this means trusting God at the end of the day and leaving work in his hands. If you are driving home to your family still fully immersed in your work, it will be tough to create a separation between the two. Several years ago, my children were brave enough to tell me that they are disappointed and sad when I walk through the door still on my cell phone. I realized that they probably weren’t upset at the calls, necessarily, but about the tension and double-mindedness I was experiencing when I tried to be a mom, wife and leader all at the exact same moment.


What I realized was that I wasn’t practicing self-control as a leader. As important as I’d like to think I am, there are almost no real emergencies that require me to be on the phone when I’m walking in the door from work. Now, I either finish the call at work, or I firmly tell the other person, “I am walking in to see my family. I will call you back in the morning.” This is NOT my first instinct—as a leader, I want to help move people forward, and I want to care for them well. But self-control says, “my work can wait.” Self-control says “every time I say yes, I’m saying no to something else.” And I decided that I have to say no in order to come home at peace and ready to engage with my family.



I’ve developed a few breath prayers that help in the actual transitional moments between work and home. A breath prayer is a time of focusing my mind on the truth that God has provided us in his word. I will often inhale “Be still” and exhale “and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10). I will inhale “let the peace of Christ” and exhale “rule in my heart.” (Col. 3:15) I’ve realized that as much as I enjoy going and doing, it’s actually my presence and peace that is the biggest asset to both my leadership and my marriage and family. It is my responsibility to cultivate that peace within my own heart, so that I can lead from that place.  A few minutes of placing my whole mind, body and spirit under Christ’s lordship is an absolute necessity. It’s much easier to be a generally pleasant woman when I’m pledging every day to bring my words, thoughts and actions under the authority of Christ!


Be a Learner

When I see my challenges with my children or husband as a place to grow, I’m more likely to embrace the inevitable tension and frustration that are part of work/family life. For instance, if I’m using my authority at work as the way I get what I want, and then I’m frustrated when my husband doesn’t acquiesce to my wishes, maybe God is teaching me about cultivating collaboration rather than relying on position. If I’m finding that I get stuck at my job because I don’t speak up, maybe God is using my honed instincts for discipling my kids as a way to be more courageous and firm at work.

God is not surprised by what’s on your plate. He didn’t accidently make you a leader and a wife and mother. He knows what He’s doing, and He can use all of it—together—to grow you to maturity in Christ.


Nicole Unice

Nicole Unice is a counselor and author of She’s Got Issues and Brave Enough (releasing August 2015). She is the ministry director at Hope Church in Richmond, Virginia and wife to Dave and mom to three fabulous kids, age 7-12.


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