Friday, February 15, 2008

On Finding One's Identity

I walk into the kitchen and notice the dirty dishes everywhere from last night's dinner, which of course I cooked.

I look at the dog, licking his lips, and notice that he has no water and has not been fed.

I dump monstrous piles of laundry onto my bed and wonder why I have to wash and dry and fold them.

I wonder to myself why everyone considers me the maid, and why I have to do all this stuff. Why doesn't anybody around here just do the stuff that needs to be done?

And then I remember: I am Jen the Mom. Jen the Homemaker. And I purposely choose to identify myself as Wife, Mother, and then via other assorted employments and talents and skills -- but always as Wife and Mother first.

There was a time, about 7 years ago, when this identity I now so love and defend was simply not enough. I wanted to be more; I wanted to be my own person. I took a class, I got a job, I got my own AmEx card, and I stopped cooking. I declared that everyone could do their own laundry and Hunk 'O Man could start dealing with all the female emotional drama of everyday life. I quit.

I thought I would be happy. I liked my job a lot. Cooking had always been a challenge, so I was happy about leaving that in the dust. There was enough drama and entertainment at work to keep me busy, so I didn't miss the drama at home.

But you know, it just got emptier and emptier. People you work with are wonderful, but they are really not your family or your church. I lost the closeness with the Saviour I so love. I still walked with Him, but not in a way where I honored and valued Him. He was more of a casual friend. I got through my life like so many people do -- working and sleeping and eating and working and waving at my family as I came and went. Day, after day, after lonely day.

Then I woke up. Really, it felt just like waking up from a bad dream. I realised that I had a husband who loved me desperately and children who thought I hung the moon. What had I been thinking? These people, my precious family, at whom I had snobbily turned up my nose and by whom I refused to be defined, who else had such a gift? Why would anything else in the world that God had clearly not given me be better this, than what He already had given me?

I resolved at that point to turn 180 degrees from my thinking. I vowed to love my family, and act as if I loved them until I felt like I loved them. I went home that night and cooked them dinner.

Since then, I have no longer balked and bristled when people ask what I "do." I have friends who enjoy their jobs more than they do the homemaker/family stuff; this doesn't mean they aren't great at being family people, it simply means that they are also great at a job outside their home.
I have never been great at any job I did. I conquer life, so to speak, so everyone thinks I'm great at everything I try. Go big or go home, I always say. But the thing I truly, truly love is being a wife and mom. And a homemaker: the one at our house who makes our house a home. The people I love the most depend on me to do this. And it is my pleasure to do it. I look at women who have millions of children and homeschool and grow massive gardens and put no emphasis on their personal appearance and live according endless lists and charts, and I wonder if they really know what they're missing when they say "I love being a wife and mother." Really? You think your husband really bargained for the pioneer wife you've become when he married you? You actually like being accountable to a white board? You like what you see when you wear no makeup or don't cut your hair fashionably?

But I stand corrected on a regular basis; because, after all, I am really questioning myself and just making sure I really love what I'm doing. And to each their own; after all, there are those women whose children are an accessory, and there are those women whose children are completely everything -- their identity, their hearts, their lives. I hope I'm finding the balance between the two.

So in the end, it's me who does the dishes, and me who feeds the dog, and me that folds the laundry. And all because honestly, I love doing it. I love serving these people with whom God has blessed me, over and above anything I could ever have asked or imagined.

I know it's a day late, but Happy Valentine's Day. Here's to those we love, and the way we choose to identify ourselves. And thanks to the God who gave His own family for us, so that we could be His family. Happy Valentine's Day indeed.


Christy Sews said...

I don't care what anyone says -- you are to be applauded for staying home with your family. It is a noble profession. My friend Bonnie used to complain so much about being a SAHM and still does. I have to constantly remind her that being in the workforce is no fun (I could kick Gloria Steinam) and that she has a very precious gift and to enjoy it. Kudos to you, my friend!

Shawnee said...

Wow, I think we must be soul sisters. I never did get to be a total SAHM but I have the same heart. I am so glad you decided to join my Apron Swap. You're very talented and I look forward to seeing what you product. Be sure to enter the current giveaway if you haven't already.