My face told him my approximate age. The awkward wedding reception silence told him to ask. I knew what was coming; the same thing that always came after the “nice to meet you” part.
“Do you work?”
It’s not a question I get down here in Baja; the majority of women stay home and take care of the kids, cook, etc. But when I lived in the States—a perfectly normal question.
I wanted to launch. I wanted to redefine his inquiry, spell it out, wrap it up and hand it back.
You mean like for money? No, last time I checked there’s no salary for washing, changing, feeding, clothing, teaching, loving, disciplining, toting, educating and driving your own small humans.
But I held it in and smiled.
“No, I’m just a stay-at-home mom.”
To which he gave the awkward nod toward the sky, shifted his weight and said, “Ohh… cool.”
Give me a break, big working man. We both know that’s not “cool” in your world.
While you type at your fancy computer with clean fingernails, I pick Play-Doh out of the carpet and wipe poop off the crib. You say the word and tall people hop-to. I say the word and short people cry.
I shouldn’t be so critical; I understand you have legit pressures and deadlines. Not that the color of your collar matters, but I do know you’re busy with highfalutin stuff. Emails don’t send themselves, decisions need sharp minds and projects need launchers.
Your job is important. I get it.
But when people ask what you do, I’ve never heard the word “just” in your title.
Zack White – Just an Engineer
Toby Wakefield – Just a CEO
Henry Nelson – Just a Professor
So why do I put it in mine?
It’s my fault, I guess. But when you give me that look, you reduce my efforts and calling from “important” to “babysitter.” From “feels like the hardest job in the world” to “must be nice to stay in your jammies till ten.”
Did you have a mom in your past, young man? I don’t mean did someone birth you—I mean the woman who fed your face, whooped your booty, rubbed your belly, wiped your barf and loved you somethin’ fierce.
Did your stay-at-home mom/grandma/aunt/sister have anything at all to do with your success? Did her words spur you on?
While your father rocked in his executive chair, that woman kept you from electrocuting yourself and rocked you to sleep. Never mind the normal dirt—you wanted to taste cigarette butts and lead paint, I know. But that lady who was “just a stay-at-home mom” wouldn’t have it.
Instead she engaged your mind, cooked endless meals, kept you in cool shoes and told you to press on because whatever you were studying for would prove worth it.
Are you the main man of a booming business or ministry? Good for you; your job holds weight. Keep doing whatever you do, but please make sure you learn the names of your janitors and kiss the lips of the woman back home feeding your children.
Unless you have a nanny. Then please don’t kiss her lips.
For the first ten years of being a mom my job felt mostly physical. Now I’m in a mental stage with my kids, but that does not mean I’m working less. Stacking blocks turned into stacking fractions, changing diapers turned to dealing with changing attitudes, and carrying children is turning into carrying more insurance.
And so it is with you, young mom. Your job in the home will morph and you’ll no doubt be thrown a plethora of challenges.
But one of your main problems might be the word “just.” Wipe it from your vocabulary before you start to believe it.
Is your job usually more than you think you can handle? Welcome to normal. You are not just a mom—you raise small mortals!
They start out utterly helpless and can barely feed themselves after two whole years. They’re arguing about bedtime on their ninth birthday, still tripping on their twelfth, and still wanting your approval through high school… college… life.
Doesn’t matter to me if your child ends up collecting my deposit at the bank, the trash off my dirt driveway, or my vote for office. If you teach your daughter the value of motherhood, well done. If you teach your son to value women in the workplace (regardless of the locale), thank you.
Because even if that man at the wedding table can only picture cufflinks and boardrooms when he hears “work,” we all know that’s a narrow-minded definition of a ridiculously broad word.
In My Face
It shouldn’t surprise me when God provides real-time examples while I’m writing blog posts, but it still does. Last month I sat here typing in my son’s high school library and one of the janitors walked by.
I see her every few days and I always say “Buenos dias.” But this time when she said “Good morning” back, she added something in passing I didn’t really hear until she had walked away.
“Buenos dias, profe.”
Whoa—she thinks I’m a teacher? Wait, why?
And again last week:
“Buenos dias, profe.”
I couldn’t let our relationship go on like this so I stopped her and we had a short conversation in Spanish.
“I’m not a teacher.”
“No, I’m just a mom. My son goes to school here.”
“Oh, I thought you were a teacher because you have a laptop.”
“No, I’m just a writer.”
Just a mom.
Just a writer.
Why do I do that? They sounded like perfectly good explanations, but I labeled myself, reducing my job, calling and passion with a four-letter word.
Teens, millennials, mid-lifers, retirees… we need to stop putting “just” in our titles. It’s a superfluous word that puts us down, wobbles our confidence and teaches the next generation to do the same. Plus it exalts those who hold no more importance than you or I.
“Are you the director?”
“Oh, no—I’m just the director’s wife.”
“Are you a doctor?”
“Oh, no—I’m just a nurse.”
“Have you written a novel?”
“Oh, no—I’m just a blogger.”
“Are you the head pastor?”
“Oh, no—I’m just a youth pastor.”
In God’s eyes we stand equal; do you act that way? Maybe it’s time we stop looking left and right and get back to the work He gave us.
Are you a first-year teacher? So what if you spilled oatmeal on your shirt, forgot your lesson book and stuttered when a veteran teacher asked about your experience. You work in a noble profession and you are not “just” a new teacher. You’re a teacher. Period.
Does your life revolve around the science of frothing, steady pour-overs and perfecting your Dirty Hippie? I’m guessing you’re putting yourself through school or putting food on the table. Keep going. Don’t let this season discourage you; “just a barista” is not your title, and your worth does not lie in your name-stitched apron.
Are you endlessly singing lame-sauce songs about the letter “J,” putting more diapers on your shopping list, and begging God for someone to talk to over three feet tall? Press on, mama. You are part of a bigger picture, doing an unselfish job, and your children will flourish because of you.
A New Question
Years ago a friend taught me this question to ask women, and I’ve used it successfully ever since: “Do you work outside the home?”
It validates the fact that working inside the home is indeed work, and it keeps the conversation flowing without putting anyone on the defense. Try it—it works.
Alrighty then… loud and proud, ladies:
“I am a stay-at-home mom. I work harder than I ever have and, except in the dryer, I never see a dime. But the benefits rock.”
So tell me… do you work outside the home?
“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”
~ Colossians 3:23, NLT