“So what do you do?” This question usually follows some introduction by the other person about how he is responsible for the basic architecture of the internet, how he developed the concept of public key cryptography securing basic Internet commerce, how he is one of the pioneers credited for GPS, or how she’s currently translating her husband’s autobiography into Italian (he’s the gentlemen on your left who designed the first commercial microprocessor). Okay, so I might have been at an awards gala honoring the people who have basically shaped how we live today… But I live in Silicon Valley. You don’t have to look very far to encounter people changing the world.
I usually stare blankly for a moment before moving on. “So what do I do?” I’m the COO of an organization whose primary goal is to invest in the lives of specific young people to better the community in which they live, work, and play. In other words…I’m just a mom.
The question so often comes up, I contemplate the answer regularly…usually as I stand in the garage, literally pregnant, barefoot, and ironing shirts. I try to glamorize it and justify my choices. I pump myself up on my impressive CV pre-marriage and kids. But in the end, I can almost feel the judgment oozing off of me: “You couldn’t do anything better?”
Well, if I can’t invent new technology, revolutionize modern living, or right every social injustice, then I’m going to be a domestic goddess. I’m going to be a wonder woman whose house is immaculate, well-decorated, and Pinterest worthy; a supermom whose kids only eat organic, locally sourced, meal-planned everything, know two languages and how to play the piano by 3 ½, and don’t even know what a screen is; and a spousal queen who never “has a headache” and whose husband never has to lift a finger when he walks in the door. I’ve. Got. This.
Ha! You don’t have to take three steps into my house to realize that is pie in the sky. I’m just a mom.
Before I become inundated with messages about how “momming is the most important job in the world,” and “the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world,” and “you’re the most important person to your kids and husband,” I know these things. In my head, I understand the magnitude, responsibility, and value of my job. Getting my heart to believe it is another matter entirely. I know I’m not the only stay-at-home-mom who feels this way either. If you say these things to SAHM (as we call ourselves), I imagine she’ll politely nod her head in agreement while screaming internally.
“Kathryn, you’ve written half your blog and you haven’t mentioned Jesus once,” you think to yourself. Exactly! I know! When I let myself reflect on me and my “just”-ness, my life is miserable. What I’m essentially saying when I am focused on these comparisons is that I want to be important, recognized, and loved. But I already am! (Romans 8:35-39) I’m just looking in the wrong place.
Who am I trying to impress? Who is my boss anyway? Colossians says “Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people…” (3:23, CSB, emphasis added) The Lord our God is my boss, and His standards are superlatively different than those I’m trying to impress in my “just”-ness. Jesus makes it clear in His teaching that His idea of success and importance is counter-culture. His entire ministry can be summed up by this one upside-down concept: “the last will be first, and the first last.” (Matthew 20:16) The world says “It’s about what you do and accomplish and how you look doing it.” Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commands.” (John 14:15, CSB) And followed it by defining the most important commandment:
“…The most important is Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is, Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31, CSB)
God’s standard is based on loving, not my CV. And when I serve Him, I find the ultimate satisfaction no matter what I’m doing (Psalm 107:9).
I can’t help but remember a story my friend told me about her daughter while I was lamenting the above. She said they were reading the story of the empty tomb during Easter, and her daughter asked who “the other women” were who came to the tomb with Mary to spread spices on Jesus. “I don’t know…” she answered. We all may know Mary’s story, but we don’t know these “other” women. But God does. He knows them, and He knows their hearts, and He cares about them deeply. They were serving and loving Him just as much as Mary.
It essentially comes down to my twisted sense of pride. I start to internalize this information and think: Okay then, if Peter was “just” a fisherman, David was “just” a shepherd boy, if these were “just” the other women, and Jesus was “just” a carpenter, …I can be “just” a mom in exactly the same way! I’ll be like our superheroes in the Bible! I’ll be known and remembered and important! And…I’ve missed the point again. I switched from worldly pride to a weird spiritual pride like the Pharisees. I can’t push it down.
When I find myself struggling with this issue, I find myself hearing the words God asked Eve in the garden: “Who told you that…?” (Genesis 3:11) The most ironic part about this struggle is that deep down, I really don’t care. God made me to be a mom, and I’ve always wanted to be a mom, and I love being a mom (most of the time). If you’d ask me when I was little what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d answer “a ballerina and a mommy.” He made me to be in a position of support, a right-hand (wo)man. My gifts, skills, and dreams thrive in this environment. So “why, my soul, are you so dejected?” (Psalm 42:11, CSB)
In conclusion, I don’t know. But here is what I do know: We need to continue to encourage and exhort our fellow sisters in Christ, even if we know the other is screaming internally at the words she head-knows but isn’t currently heart-knowing. If this struggle is yours, please know you are not alone. Who told you that?, He asks. Why are you believing these lies? Rest in Me. I am for you.