I have a horrible habit that I really need to drop. I’ve noticed other mothers have this bad habit too. The problem is rampant really, especially among stay-at-home moms: it’s the need to justify what we do.
When my husband comes home from work, almost immediately, I rattle off a list of all the tasks I completed in his absence.
This is what our house sounds like, daily, around 5:30 p.m.:
(Husband opens the front door.)
Me: “Hi babe! How was your day? I know you probably can’t tell, but I really did clean the entire downstairs, I loaded and unloaded the dishwasher, I took the boys to the playground. Oh and I changed the sheets because the baby peed our bed last night.”
My husband: “Ummm, great . . . Hi, honey. How are you?”
Why do I feel the need to give an account of my work for the day? My husband is neither my boss nor my taskmaster. I know for a fact that he doesn’t look at the chaos in our house (because, with three young boys, it’s always chaos) and think, “What did she do all day?” He’s told me as much, many times.
It’s even more ridiculous when I try to imagine this scenario in reverse, expecting my husband to report to me, for my approval, every activity in his work day: how many emails he returned, which spreadsheets he created, what presentations he gave. Yet, I can’t help myself. I feel compelled to justify my work.
Or perhaps, I feel compelled to justify my worth.
I’ve spent a lot of time pondering why I feel this way and I think it’s because I have always been an achiever. I’m wired in all the stereotypical, Type-A, people-pleasing ways a person can be wired. Academically and professionally, there’s never really been something that I’ve put my mind to that I haven’t been able to accomplish.
Then I became a mom.
Now, I experience failure daily. I get cranky. I lose my temper. I miss countless opportunities to give grace and show patience. Some mornings, I come face-to-face with my own shortcomings before my feet have even hit the floor. Never have I been more aware of my inadequacies than I am now, as a mom.
I pour into my kids constantly, but at the end of the day, there is often very little tangible proof of my efforts. I might clean non-stop, but it’s like shoveling with a spoon in a snowstorm. I might prepare food all day, but there’s few leftovers when you’re feeding a pack of hungry wolves. I might lovingly encourage and correct behavior, but the tantrums still come, again and again.
Whether I do a “good job” at home or not, the appearance to an outsider could be the same on any given day.
But mamas, it’s not the same.
The important work we do as mothers will bear fruit. The timeframe may not be what we’d like (in fact, I can almost guarantee that it won’t), but weeks, months, or years later, there will be proof of our efforts. One of my favorite Bible verses is Galatians 6:9, and it is such a perfect mantra for parenthood. It says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
In this intensive phase of mothering, when the house regularly looks like a tornado blew through it, when much of what we do is barely visible, don’t become weary (at least not in spirit; some physical weariness in this phase is probably unavoidable). Keep doing the good, hard work, so that we can reap the harvest at the proper time.
In the meantime, let’s stop trying to validate our worth to others. Let’s just know it, confidently, for ourselves.