A few days ago when my husband was grabbing one last cup of coffee on his way out the door, he opened the cabinet full of coffee tumblers and I almost started crying. We have a whole shelf filled with the cute coffee cups I used to bring with me to school during my teaching days that rarely get used anymore. My job as a stay-at-home mom doesn’t require to-go cups.
It hit me in that moment how much I miss going to work. It’s been almost six years since we moved to Ellensburg and I last stepped into my own classroom to teach. Even though my last year teaching was excruciatingly difficult, I miss the satisfaction of using all of my competence to make an impact on others. I miss being recognized for a job well done. I miss being paid for my time.
Sometimes I’m tempted to think I would be happier if my life looked different than it does now.
Yes, I realize the work I’m doing as a stay-at-home mom is the most significant work I could do—shaping, training, molding, and pouring into little humans that will go and impact the world in ways I could never imagine. I am SO THANKFUL for the opportunity to stay home with my kids and watch them grow up before my very eyes. Truly, I wouldn’t trade it.
But I still miss going to work. Especially when my days at home are hard—which is often.
In the midst of conversation with Corey later that night, I found myself complaining about my job. He listened without judgment as I told him how I often get jealous of his freedom to drive to work by himself, have conversations with grown ups about significant things, stop at the store without bringing snacks or bribes for good behavior, and use his gifts in a way that makes the world better.
Jealousy is in the eye of the beholder.
He told me he sometimes gets jealous of my ability to play as much as I want with our kids, the flexibility of my schedule to do whatever I choose with our days, the sweetness of sharing ordinary moments with our babies, and especially freedom from the heavy weight of responsibility he carries every day for those he leads. Yeah, I guess I do have it pretty good, I thought.
Our conversation reminded me how the trap of comparison steals my joy even when I’m comparing my real life to the one I think I want. If I’m honest, my desire for something different isn’t really about going to work—it’s about longing to feel important.
I’ve struggled through my first four-and-a-half years of motherhood. Most days, I don’t feel very effective at my job raising our babies and running our home. This week has been especially hard—my short temper, angry voice, and lack of compassion have led to more mommy apologies and tears than I can count. I’m humbled every day by a life that isn’t exactly the way I pictured it.
I was never the girl that dreamed about being a mom. I dreamed about doing hard, important things like becoming a doctor or serving in the Peace Corps. And exciting things like starring on Broadway or competing in the Olympics. Prestige and glamour played a leading role in shaping my dreams. I always wanted kids, but I never considered how the privilege of shaping lives would require my life to change—I didn’t expect so much sacrifice.
Motherhood is neither prestigious nor glamorous. But it is hard and important. And incredibly humbling.
It turns out that I don’t enjoy being humbled. Anything that causes my sense of self-importance to die usually involves discomfort or pain. But some of my most humbling moments have also ingrained my character with hard-earned wisdom.
For example, I remember being sternly reprimanded by a coach I deeply respected after mouthing off during practice. His words proved that my integrity is more important than my talent.
I realized after I failed and had to re-take my final comprehensive oral exam in college that I should have asked my professors for help. Failure taught me the process of learning is more valuable than an impressive performance.
Marrying a man who sees all my junk and realizing it affects him too has shown me I can’t be fully loved unless I’m fully known.
Several years ago, I took time off of work because stress was affecting me both physically and mentally. I realized my capacity is limited because I am human, and creating healthy boundaries is a sign of strength, not weakness.
For now I’m setting aside my education, my career goals, and my desire to be professionally competent for full-time motherhood. I am learning through daily surrender to let go of what the world tells me success looks like so I can grab on more firmly to heaven.
It turns out that my insides are way more valuable to God than prestige or glamour. Since we tend to evaluate others based on what we see on the outside—their appearance, accomplishments, even possessions—it feels a bit backwards to consider my internal world worthy of cultivation. But it is.
I guess dying to my self-centered ambitions makes room for more of Jesus in me. And if parenting has taught me nothing else, it’s how far from perfect I am and how much I need him to intervene. I’m thankful that my kids regularly push my pride aside to make room for his divine perfection instead.
I recognize that there are many mamas who would love to stay home with their kids and can’t make it work financially. There are many wives who would love to be moms but deal with the ache of unfulfilled longings, or even the pain of miscarriage or infertility. I know many beautiful women who would love to be wives but wrestle with the tension between living fully in singleness and simultaneously longing for the right someone with whom they can share life. I share my struggle as a mom tenderly, recognizing that we are all carry longing in different areas.
No matter our story, difficult circumstances tempt us to turn our eyes toward the life we wish we had.
Instead of allowing the slippery slope of wishful thinking to pull us downward into discouragement and despair, may we diligently fix our eyes on the unseen transformation happening through surrender. God is at work in the longing. May we have the grace to see his fingerprints even when our days are hard.
Today I choose to cuddle instead of climbing the ladder and build a rocket ship instead of a name for myself. I’m trusting that God is not wasting a moment of my struggle because he is training me to lay aside my desires in favor of his purpose: making me more like him.
Photo credit for featured image: Kandice Halferty Photography