When I was a kid, I got straight As every year. I was well behaved, involved in extracurriculars, smart, and I always had friends. Over and over again I was told that I could do anything I wanted when I grew up. My teachers and parents encouraged me to “reach for the stars”–to do big things with my life. And I went along with it. I liked the feeling of the world being wide open, the knowledge that I was destined for something great, something special.
That belief–that I had special potential–shaped the way I approached and thought about my life for years. In high school, I chose not to take art classes, because that was what “slackers” did. I was better, smarter than that. (Don’t worry, I’ve since fixed my broken thinking on this.) When I went to college, I started out as an English major because I loved to read and write. But I soon changed my major to journalism and then advertising & PR because I thought that English was a waste of time. I wanted a degree that would translate directly into a professional setting, one that would take me to the heights of success that I’d envisioned as a kid. And after graduation, I went out and found myself a job as a copywriter with a local advertising agency. I wasn’t skyrocketing to fame and fortune, but as far as early career jobs go it was pretty impressive and a lot of fun. Things were going great for me.
Then my husband and I had our first child, and the bottom fell out. I was miserable trying to balance working with being a mom, and I wanted to stay home. But the fact that I was miserable also made me feel guilty. After all, I had a great job and I worked with wonderful people. And I was meant for an outstanding career–that’s what I’d been told my whole life. I was on my way to achieving that. So what was wrong with me? Why did I suddenly not want it?
My husband and I started talking about the possibility of me leaving my job and becoming a stay-at-home mom. I was extremely conflicted. On the one hand, my heart leapt at the thought of being home with our little girl every day. But on the other, I felt obligated to resist the idea of being “just a mom.” After all, I was smart and capable–I was meant for more. That’s what I’d been told my whole life: that I would do something big. Staying home felt like throwing my potential down the drain.
Still, I knew I needed something to be different, so eventually we made the leap. Becoming a stay-at-home mom was incredibly liberating, but it didn’t fix all my problems. For a long time, I continued to obsess over business ideas, to compare my life with those of successful independent artists and business owners I knew, and to feel the pressure to do something bigger. I leaned into those ideas and tried as hard as I could to create and keep up.
Somewhere along the line, though, I realized that running after “big” things wasn’t fulfilling for me. As much as I’d bought into the idea that I was destined for greatness, and as much as I wanted to do something that “mattered,” I began to see that it was the small pieces of life that carried the most meaning for me. Hearing my daughter start to string words into sentences. Getting a grin and a hug from her every morning. Figuring out how to cook and feed my family. Doing the laundry. What the world said was small felt big to me.
And I decided that that was OK. I let go of the expectations and the pressure and turned into my smallness.
It’s not that I don’t want to do something big and important anymore. It’s just that, I’m OK if I don’t. Being home has been an ongoing process of learning to embrace my smallness and see its value. It’s not always easy, but I’ve learned that small can be a positive force.
Because I am small, I can get down on my little girl’s level and make her feel big. Because I am small, I can take care of the regular tasks that allow my family to enjoy the fun parts of life. Because I am small, I have time to sit and enjoy simply being. I am small, so I can lift others up. I am small, so I can go slow. I am small, so I can make mistakes. Small is nothing to be ashamed of–on the contrary, small is good.
+ Small focuses on one person or one small group of people at a time. It builds people up.
+ Small lets go of comparison. It embraces uniqueness and individuality.
+ Small realizes that control belongs to God, so it stops stressing about things it can’t change.
+ Small is tuned in to emotions and thought patterns–it seeks intentionality, not habit.
+ Small seeks connection, not influence. It makes people feel loved, not overlooked.
Being small is one of the most powerful things you can do with your life. Embrace your small. Do something just because you want to do it–not because of its potential to become something bigger. Do something because it is loving, not because you might get a return on the investment. Do something that is true to who you are and what you value, not something that the world says is worthy.