“So what do you do for a living?” For the past 11 years, I’ve answered, “I’m a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, specializing in treatment of children and adolescents on the autism spectrum.” This should have been my last week of maternity leave, I was scheduled to return to work the first week in January. The past several years, my husband and I have discussed many times if I should resign to stay home with our children. I have always ached to stay home with them, yet have always been able to list a number of reasons why it was not the right time. These reasons always had dollar signs in front of them.
Do we have more money in the bank than we did five years ago when I was pregnant with our first? Nope. Home ownership is not cheap and inflation has hurt us all. Worthwhile sacrifices will be made. I will miss having Dunkin delivered multiple times a week. Our families toxic addiction as we call it.
So, here I am, trying to wrap my head around being a stay at home mom. I started at my first job the summer going into my freshman year of high school. That was a while ago, so needless to say this is quite the transition for me. For the past 22 years, I have always had a title, something that provided recognition to the work I was doing.
In November, I attended a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting at my church. The speaker shared about different life events that helped her find appreciation for her role in the “background.” How she came to find peace with her current role as a stay at home mother as someone who had previously loved to be center stage, literally. Her testimony deeply resonated with me. I am not someone who has ever desired to be solo on stage in front of an audience. It would be dishonest of me though, to say I do not appreciate recognition for effort put into my different roles. As we move through life, our roles changing, it can be a huge heart challenge to feel as if your work is being overlooked.
The role of a mother is the role of a lifetime and by far it is the most incredible job I have ever had the privilege of “working”. Yet, so much of what a mom does is unseen and it can feel like it is taken for granted. On my most sleep deprived and cranky days, I have found myself wondering if anything I do is appreciated or even noticed. I have said to myself, “May as well stop doing everything and see what they (meaning my family) think about that!” Not a pretty picture I’m portraying of myself, but it’s an honest one. It speaks to how we as fallen humans can get swept into a cycle of idolizing ourselves and the titles and accolades attached to our name and actions.
In a world where we have grown accustomed to receiving immediate “likes” and reactions, it can be hard to recognize that all the “background” work you are doing will return itself tenfold later. As mothers, we go through an identity shift, losing some pieces of our past roles as we add the title of “momma” to our resume. Feeling as if you have lost your identity somewhere in the blurred together unseen moments of motherhood can cause even the most cheery women to have moments of weariness.
In the midst of yet another toddler meltdown, refusal of your dinner or argument about sharing a toy that neither child cared about two seconds ago, you may wonder if what you are doing matters. Are your efforts futile? Are you and your efforts seen by anyone? Have you lost your identity completely? How do we mesh our new identity with this new role? How do we find joy and satisfaction in the unseen? How can we stop idolizing praise and appreciating the beauty that is being apart of a million mundane and unseen moments every day?
We have to put in the work to recalibrate our thinking. Anytime a negative thought pops in, replace it with a prayer and a rephrasing. Change, “I have to” to “I get to”. It may be unseen, but what an honor to be able to provide and partake in big and little moments with and for your family.
You get to show your love when you snuggle your child into your chest after they stumble and bump their knee. Yes, even after you told them to slow down.
You get to show your love when you take the time to read your child’s favorite book eleven times in a row.
You get to show your love when you hold them all night when they are sick or scared or lonely. What an honor it is to be their safe space.
You get to show your love when you have an impromptu dance party in the living room to cocomelon music, even though it makes your brain want to explode.
You get to show your love by making meals that nourish their bodies and minds. Even when it’s a battle to get them to eat something other than crackers.
You will never love every aspect of any job you hold, this is no different as a mom. I have been praying consistently for God to humble my heart. To use me as an example of His grace to my children. To find the humor in the ridiculousness that is raising three littles. Sometimes this prayer may be me asking God to help me feel less salty about having to do the dishes, for the 78th time that day. Sometimes it’s a prayer of desperation in the middle of another meltdown to help me handle it with grace.
I have become much more confident and comfortable in my current identify. I have found myself laughing at my son’s ridiculous antics more often than I am frustrated by the trail this little tornado leaves behind him. As a type A personality, I can relate to my daughters need to have everything done the way she wants it done. This helps me to be more gentle when I tell her, “no”. I may be more appreciative of her disposition, but I am still mom. This will always be a work in progress.
Identities of past and future will certainly intermix as the days and years tick on. Maybe I will return to teaching yoga one day. Maybe I will return to working part time when my children are older. What I will not do is take for granted the wonderful blessing it is to be able to call myself, “mom”.
“So what do you do for a living?” I am not sure how to best answer this now. My job description changes daily. Nurse. Educator. Therapist. Chef. Housekeeper. Entertainer. Human jungle gym. Researcher. Advocate. Usually all of the above in any given hour. I may not be able to sum up what I do for a living in one brief sentence anymore. What I do know is I can confidently and proudly say I have the best job in the world and I am so happy to work it “full time”.
The below verses are ones I find very inspiring. They can be applied to any role we have throughout our life. This verse in parricular, I love. “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.” Romans 12:6, ESV. Instead of focusing on what your children, husband, mother or other person in your life may not be seeing, I am seeking to use the gifts that were given to me through God’s grace and incorporate this part of my identity into motherhood. What a blessing.
"For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness." Romans 12: 3-8, ESV