I don’t travel outside my tiny world much these days but on the rare occasion I am at some social function with just Ben or meeting people for the first time there is a question that makes me panic, “So what do you do?” Mostly because I find myself answering the same way every time, “I’m just a mom, but I used to be….”
Ah the “Just.”
What do so many of us feel the need to dumb down our lives with a word that makes whatever we do feel so much less significant? Maybe its culture, and honestly Christian culture especially, measures the value of our lives by the number of things we are juggling. I often hear as a women the message that I must do more. I must manage my live like a well pinned board on the internet that looks neat and clean and pretty. Especially pretty. I would say men feel this tension too but my husband seems content with a pretty demanding job plus being a very involved father, I have yet to hear him say “just” when talking about his roles.
I met a friend at the park recently and we hadn’t caught up in way too long. I lost touch with a lot of the outside world for the first year after Briggs was born. I was asking her how life has been and what she’s been doing and she looked at her three year old bounding across the playground at her and said, “I’ve been doing this, I’ve been trying to do this really well.” She was almost ashamed, like that wasn’t enough, like she should be bringing baked goods to friends or crafting wreaths that make her front door look inviting in her spare hour a day before she collapses into bed in exhaustion. I told her you go girl, because I’m super cool like that, and genuinely understood what she meant.
There is no reason to water down what we do with the word “just” whether its “just” being a mom, or “just” being a college student, or “just” having however many little people, or “just” volunteering at the local church, or “just” being a good wife, of “just” an assistant, etc etc etc. What we do will not be measured by the titles we held but the people we impacted and loved well. I might “just” be a mom right now and that might mean writing gets put on hold and I don’t take all the opportunities that come across my plate but my title means a whole heck of a lot to two tiny people currently resting quietly (so I’m thinking nicer thoughts about them than between say the hours of 5-7). I have learned what my threshold for chaos is and I like to stay somewhere between “I’ve got this covered” and “I might lose my mind at any moment.” I hope one day I have a threshold for more, and I believe I will, but not today and probably not for a few years if I’m honest with myself. And that’s ok.
We are so used to seeing women in social media who have gorgeous houses, neatly dressed kids, and a side career that is a combination of both demanding, impressive, and puts her three littles in private school. Look I’m not knocking it but I also know that’s not reality for everyone. Sometimes its survival and your job is just ok, or your kids are just kind of clean, and your house… well it has enough baskets to mask the mess. Each of us is uniquely gifted to do something. That means our lives will look different and our metaphorical plates will be filled with different things. I think we should change not only our language but how well we measure our success. A friend told me tonight that she heard Jennie Allen say on a podcast that her idea of success was “being obedient to God.” That was it. It might not be the corporate chain or maybe it is. It might be the way we love our neighbors, it might not be how clean our kids clothes are but how intentional we were with our time with them, and then we can run our own race with our own titles and feel totally fine to say, I am a (fill in your own title) and its great. No just. No justifying and no shame if you wish you could do more but you JUST can’t. I am being obedient to the one who called me, the one who gave me what I have, and that is success.
“The master was full of praise. “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’