Sometimes I feel like a bit of a loser. It might be after getting off the phone with an old friend who balances being a mom and working her dream job. It might happen after spending an evening lounging on the couch and reading while my husband works at the kitchen table. No one is trying to make me feel like a loser, but I feel like one anyway. I find myself wondering, What am I doing with my life if I’m not working?
I had my dream job. By the time I graduated high school, I knew I wanted to work in ministry. By the time I married my husband, I was working full-time in religious education and youth ministry. When my son was born, I negotiated a telecommuting option so that I could continue working full-time without sending our son to daycare. People probably thought I had it all. I was working my dream job and had a beautiful family. I had everything a girl could hope for. And then I quit my job to stay at home with my kids.
I was groomed in an educational environment that encouraged women to seek success in the workplace. We boasted a 100% college acceptance rate, and we students were encouraged to shatter the glass ceiling, conquer the male-dominated workforce, go where no woman had gone before. We were coached to find our passions and transform them into a dream job that would allow us to support ourselves and any children we might have. There was a definite sense that we should not need to rely on men for our livelihoods. We needed to create a world where women didn’t need men to live, where women could get it all on their own.
There were plenty of people who understood my decision to stay at home with my children, but there were also many who didn’t. If I left now, they asked me, how could I expect to get back into it when my kids were grown? If I cut all ties, how would I stay “relevant”? And if I was able to do it all, why would I want to give any of it up?
I didn’t bother telling most people the truth. I didn’t want to go back. I loved my job, but I loved being at home more. Even after my kids are grown and I can go back to work, I might not want to return to my old job. And honestly? Having it all was never all it was cracked up to be. It felt like juggling, and I always felt like I was on the verge of dropping all the balls. I just didn’t want to live like that.
I was not made to have it all, not the way the world wants me to do it. I was made to be happy. I might have been good at balancing work and home life, but it didn’t make me especially happy. Not the way I’ve been happy since I decided to stay home. I feel fulfilled even though I technically have less. I am more satisfied with my life now than I was when I was doing more.
We are told that being successful will make us happy. We are told that we need to find a meaningful profession to be fulfilled. We are told that our job will make us happy. But it won’t. Because we weren’t made for work.
I was not made for work. I was not brought into existence so that I might grow up one day and get a job. My worth does not depend on my ability or desire to work. We have worth before we are old enough to have a job. We have worth even after our working days are over. And we have worth even if we don’t want a job.
We are not made for work. Work was made for us. Work was made to bring us closer to Christ, to give us a chance to use our gifts for the glory of God. We are not meant to be slaves to work. Work was not meant to control us; it is supposed to a form of service and an act of love.
My son attends a once-a-week Montessori program. He calls his activities there “works.” I don’t know much about Montessori educational philosophy, but I like to think that children’s work is play. Playing is my son’s work. He likes his work, and by completing his works, he is serving the Lord, glorifying God. My son’s work is a form of worship. He praises God in his play, which is his work.
My son doesn’t earn money for his work. His work is his life. His work is everything that he does that brings glory to God. There’s a saying that goes, “Work to live; don’t live to work.” In a way, the saying is right. Our lives shouldn’t be all about work to the detriment of our relationships with God and our family. Before we are workers, we are children of God, daughters of mothers and fathers, wives of husbands, mothers of children. All of these roles are more fundamental to who we are than our job. But our work is still meant to be a form of worship, and our work might not be a “job.” I don’t have a job, per se, but I do work. My life is my work.
My work is getting the kids out of bed each morning and making them breakfast. My work is changing diapers and cleaning up messes. My work is loads of laundry and loads of dishes. My work is making a little boy smile and a little girl laugh. My work is kissing booboos and applying bandaids. My work is mopping floors and dusting dressers. My work is hugging my children and kissing my husband. My work is cooking dinner and reading stories. My work is making sure that my husband and children get to heaven. That is my work and that is my worship. That is how I glorify God.
I am not a loser. I am a wife and mother. I am a daughter and sister. I am a child of God and a friend of Christ. I might not have a job, but I don’t need one to be fully human. I don’t need one to have dignity. I don’t need one to be fulfilled. I have my work, and my work is giving glory to God in all that I do- with every load of laundry, every meal, every diaper, every cleaned-up mess, every kissed scrape, every hug, every prayer, every moment, every breath. That is my work, my service, and my worship, and that work will not be done until I take my last breath. But that is a form of work worth living- and dying- for.