I don't often use the phrase "stay-at-home mom" because it pulls in so many negative associations and debates. I also feel it doesn't really do justice to what I do in a day (do our job titles ever?). But though I always wanted to stay home when we had children and am so thankful I can, I have lately felt "less than." I read about amazing women who balance it effortlessly--the part-time work, the full-time work, the start-up business. And I am in awe. I don't feel overwhelmed by tasks at home, and most days I end the day exhausted (in a good way), but as I read our college alumni magazine recently, I wondered, "Did I sell out? Wouldn't I feel so much better about myself if I still could call myself an English teacher when people ask what I do?" The irony strikes me because it's awful to complain about something I longed to do. And truth be told, I don't feel bored at all. I just feel that my overall life looks mundane now.
I wonder if it wouldn't be more efficient to put my son in group childcare. I would be free to teach another group of children. And it just seems to make more sense--streamlined, economical, normal. I could have my name on the door and wear my pencil skirts again. Maybe it would quell the nagging doubts about myself.
Except that it wouldn't. This feeling that my role isn't important is not new to this particular phase of my life. Every job has elements that seem mundane. As an English teacher, I remember the reading quizzes, the tests I made, sometimes even the books we read. I remember wondering, "Does it really matter if they take this test? Won't they just forget the material?" I know there must be a better way to do school--one that leads to lifelong learners rather than fact memorizers. But does this negate my job as a teacher?
In any job, there are questions. Am I doing this the most effective way? Am I being efficient? Is this even a necessary job?
At a deeper level, with almost any job, I would at least occasionally questions purpose. Does this book I'm writing really matter? Wouldn't the world go on if I didn't sell insurance? And yes, yes it would. Honestly, the world would go on if I didn't stay home with Liam or if I wasn't a mom or even if something happened to me.
Finding purpose isn't something a job gives us. I remember at first it felt so good to have a teaching job right out of college. I loved the feeling of saying I was a teacher. But there were hard days mixed in and days that felt utterly mundane. There were glorious days, the ones where I felt on top of my game when I literally bounded along with a spring in my step.There were days I messed up and days I felt I couldn't go on.
And I still have these days and these feelings. Yes, having someone affirm what you are doing is helpful. And it's even great to have constructive criticism. But this job I'm doing now also must be done. Someone must raise this boy, and I'm so glad I get to spend so much time with him teaching him, watching him, and learning from him.
This post isn't about being a stay-at-home mom. It's about purpose. I remember a professor giving us a quote that said we find our calling where the world's needs and our passions collide.
Many jobs could be done better--more efficiently, more streamlined. More parts of our culture could use a systemic overall (healthcare and education come to mind). Some jobs don't even need to exist. All of us find that there are moments of wasted time and wasted energy on our jobs. But we are to participate in society and must make a living. And we are called to be faithful, not to see and know everything about our impact.
Right now, my role is what it should be. For our family, it would create much more stress if I worked, and I know that I couldn't teach the way I want to and also be Liam's mother and Jon's wife at this point. But what I'm doing is important and significant, and no job will feel glamorous and fulfilling every single day. Fulfillment doesn't come from a title or a position created by a job but from living out the roles God has given us each day and finding our purpose and satisfaction in Him. The answer seems simple, but the living it out is anything but.