During our pre-marriage counselling our pastor asked us each to tell him what our perfect Saturday would look like. Mine looked like this: Waking late, lazily leafing through the pages of the weekend paper, walking to the beach where I’d work on the samurai Sudoku and swim, then meeting up with my husband-to-be for dinner, after which I’d wander home, flop on the couch and watch Gilmore Girls with my flatmate before finally collapsing in bed feeling sun-kissed and content and in love (*sigh*). My husband-to-be said, “Watching the cricket”.
Our pastor married us despite the fact that our ideal days involved very little time spent together.
That has nothing to do with the topic of this post, however; it was the introduction to an introduction that I've now scrapped. :o)
I’ve been thinking a lot about labels recently, trying to work out which to tag myself with. Labels are important; it sounds wrong to say that they let us know how to categorise people (no one likes to be boxed), but I think it's true. Sometimes lidless boxes are helpful. We’re asked to label ourselves fairly regularly, whether it’s filling out a blogger profile or introducing ourselves to someone new, and the way we label ourselves can reveal a lot about who we are. It feels good to have an interesting answer to the big “So, what do you do?” question. I used to enjoy being able to say, “I’m a linguist!”; now I’m not quite sure how to respond.
From the birth of my son I’ve been calling myself a full-time mum, but now that more women in my mother’s group are heading back to work I’m having to rethink that label. Those women are still mothers even when they’re at work; the ‘full-time mum’ answer seems as unsatisfying as saying, “I’m a full-time daughter!” – Yes, me too... But what do you do?
Well, today I fed my son and I kissed him when he fell and I put him to bed when he yawned and I continued to teach him what ‘no’ means and I prayed with him as we drove to mother’s group and I protected him from a rough kid at the playground. What’s the best label to capture that? ‘Stay-at-home mother’ seems too passive; an alternative for those who can't be bothered going and doing. There’s ‘domestic goddess’, which I like, but is it a tad blasphemous? And what does ‘housewife’ even mean?
Even if I find the perfect label for me being at home each day with my son, it’ll still be a description of me being at home each day with my son. Why do I feel like I need extra labels like ‘linguist’ or ‘student’ to pad this one, to make what I do with my time seem slightly more valid? It’s hard to measure my progress when the goal is raising a healthy and emotionally resilient boy who really loves Jesus and has a decent sense of humour; there are no daily to-do lists for this project, no deadlines to work to. I’ve found myself thinking back on some days and wondering if I’ve achieved anything at all, particularly when I haven’t even managed to get out of my pyjamas.
At this point I don't feel like I have any answers, although while looking at this passage in Bible study the other night I found comfort (yet again) from Romans 8:28: And we know that in all things – nappy changes, peekaboo and nighttime feeds included – God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
P.S. I feel like this article may help as I think more deeply and prayerfully through all of this.