Be a Faithful Mom, Not a Busy One

I take the twins to a story time once a week at our local library. They love it because they get to meet new toddlers and play with new toys. I like it because I get to meet other moms who are doing the same thing as me—learning this whole mom thing one toddler step at a time.

Since the twins have turned one I have struggled a lot with what I do with my time now. One year was a big milestone for us. They finally started sleeping more consistently, which meant I had a little more freedom to do other things again—like reading and writing (and sleeping). With the new time has come a whole new set of challenges, like all changes bring.

As I talked with one of the moms at story time I was struck by the frequency with which she mentioned the other things she does in addition to being a stay-at-home mom. She is thinking of opening a small business again, does small jobs on the side, and tries to keep her foot in the career world she left behind. I get the pull to do other things. In fact, I do other things, too. So I’m not knocking the other things at all. I understand that seasons of a mom’s life lend themselves to more time for such endeavors. And those can be very good opportunities for us. But as I reflected on her insistence that she has a profession outside of her child the finger turned back on my own ambitions.

How do I define myself when I speak to others?

Or to put it even more specifically, how do I want others to perceive me? Do I want them to see me as just a stay-at-home mom, or do I need something more than that?

With this new season of time the twins have afforded me I have noticed a new struggle emerging. I want to feel like I’ve accomplished something. If I get to the end of a day with little tangible results for the labors of my day, I feel defeated. Did I do anything of value? Did I accomplish something important? Did I write enough? Did I clean enough? Did I work hard enough to justify my existence and worth in this family?

More often than not the answer is a resounding no, because even with the emergence of time, twins don’t always give me the time I am expecting. And I’m only human. I just can't do it all. Or even come close to doing all I want to do.

But I think the problem is deeper than simply wanting to be useful and productive. When Betty Friedan encouraged housewives to find their identity outside of the home the cultural acceptance of the stay-at-home mom was lessened. I agree with her notion that women should never find their identity in their home, husband, or children. But in a lot of ways, our culture has traded one identity for another. Maybe we don’t think a woman should be defined by her work inside the home, but we do define her by what she does outside of it. Feminism has made us all feel like we need to be doing something useful to justify our equality and personhood. Women have made great gains for us and we should be taking advantage of those opportunities.

This is true for the stay-at-home mom, too. The reality is we don’t often have tangible markers for how we spend our days, unless you count the fact that our kids are clothed, fed, and smiling when our husbands get home. But sometimes we can’t even boast in that. It’s easy to be discouraged when we can’t point to what we did with our day as the basis for our value. The truth is, sometimes we can’t even remember what we did with our day. We’ve given up a lot to be here, we think to ourselves, so we better earn our keep. I even often find myself telling Daniel all I did in a given day, with the secret hope that he will see that I worked hard. I did something useful. Like the mom at story time, I want him (and everyone else) to see that my busyness during naptime and playtime amounts to a lot of good old fashioned work.

But that is not how God views our work. As I’ve written elsewhere, a mommy’s worth is not marked by check marks on a task list, but by sacrifice and service. Those are not always results we can point to as evidently, but they are there nonetheless. But it’s also more than that, I think. In the same way that our culture values work outside of the home, it also values busyness. We think that if we are super busy than we must be doing something right. We are so important. We have so much to do. We are busy, busy, busy. But is busyness the standard for faithfulness? Is it the standard for getting things done? Is it true that the more we do the better we feel about ourselves?

I doubt it.

I’m coming to terms with some things with the extra chunks of time I get now that my children take a regular nap. It’s okay if I nap, too. It’s okay if I write and clean and do other things, but it’s not wrong to rest either. My children and husband are served more by a happy and rested mom than a mom who got her to-do list done. And I feel better for it, too.

One of the phrases I repeat to myself often is that “busyness does not equal faithfulness.” Work important. We were made for it, actually. But as a stay-at-home mom my work doesn’t always look like my work did when I sat at a desk all day, had lunch meetings, and wrote marketing plans. Sometimes it means I’m up all night with a sick little boy (and thus need a nap) and sometimes it means I’m cleaning, writing, and cooking during my free moments. As an image bearer, I was made to work. This is true. But I was also made to rest. And as a mom who struggles with wanting to find my worth more in my work (and not in my rest), I would do well to learn the balance of them both.