A few days ago, I gathered around the TV with my husband and three teenagers to watch American Idol after the little kids were tucked snugly into bed. It was not supposed to bring such tender feelings to the surface.
Kelly Clarkson took the stage at the end of the show, singing an emotional song called “Piece by Piece” that left both her and the judges in tears.
While I do not worry about the people I love walking away at this stage in the game, for which I am very grateful, one phrase in the middle of that song stuck out in my mind like a neon sign:
“I made something of myself…”
As I watched Kelly sing her heart out, I couldn’t help but wonder if I have made something significant out of myself.
For as long as I can remember, I have dreamed of being a mom with a houseful of kids. I got married young, graduated from college two weeks after Jordan was born (a year and a half after our wedding), and jumped right into raising children, just like I had always wanted to do.
I have been making a life for myself in the realm of motherhood ever since.
Now, as I approach the end of my 30’s, I do not have much in the way of worldly accomplishments to show for my nearly forty years of life. I have devoted my adult years to teaching, training, and caring for my family – a position that is often unappreciated and comes without fanfare or notoriety.
My resume, if I had to create one, would be pretty empty:
I worked at the library for four years while attending college, but that was 18 years ago.
I write an inspirational blog for a small audience. (But my writing is improving. I hardly ever write in the passive voice anymore…)
Oh, and I have spent nearly 18 years cleaning up messes, doing laundry, playing referee, being a taxi driver, cooking meals, and otherwise caring for children who roll their eyes, tell me that they hate me, and often flat-out ignore me.
Not really resume material.
For a split second while watching American Idol, I wondered if my offering was enough – if I was enough.
Thankfully, my thoughts only dwelt there for a second before I came to my senses. I looked at my teens sprawled across the couch and the floor, happy to be allowed to stay up late to watch TV on a school night (gasp), and I realized that not one moment of raising them has been a waste of my time.
Except, of course, the moments when I decided to ignore them while they yelled “Mom….Mom….Mom…” a thousand times while I looked at my phone or my computer, oblivious to all else. Those might have been a tiny bit of a waste.
But otherwise, the hard work of motherhood has absolutely been productive and worth the sacrifice. I would never trade it for extra letters behind my name, advanced educational degrees, global recognition, or a musical career that would have surely taken off and landed me in the finals of American Idol. (Stop laughing! Who cares if I don’t have the range of a soprano but can’t read music well enough to sing harmony? That is probably not even a requirement.)
Choosing to devote my life to a career in motherhood has been one of the best decisions that I have ever made. It has been crazy hard, but also fulfilling in a way that nothing else could be.
I may not be changing the world or reaching the masses, but I am helping to make life beautiful and worthwhile for the people whom I love most. I am down in the trenches, wading through the chaos and trying to keep everyone pressing forward, albeit sometimes more successfully than others.
I am actively engaged in shaping the
animals children that I birthed into real live humans who are kind, helpful and good. Except when they are not. Some days are better than others, but I see progress, I tell you. That is what matters.
I admire the women who have accomplished incredible things and have made a name for themselves in the public square. Quite honestly, I admire all women who are somehow able to hold it together while simultaneously working, managing a household and raising kids. You are amazing and I often wish I had the multi-tasking skills that you rock! There is no judgement here, I assure you. You go, girls!
But, for those of us who willingly chose to forego those things, at least for a time, while we focus on our families, may we remember that we are also making something out of ourselves.
We are growing in ways that we never imagined – learning empathy, patience, and love in the fire of difficult (and beautiful) experience. We are learning that motherhood does not define us, but it does refine us.
We are strong, smart and capable, and we realize that our talents are not going to waste – they are just being utilized in a different way during these fleeting years.
We still have hopes, dreams, and goals that we are slowly working to accomplish. Yet, we are coming to understand that there is a season for everything, and seasons pass ever so quickly.
We are making a difference for the people whom we love and care for so they can make a difference for others.
Our ripples of influence are more widespread than we know.
As the poet William Ross Wallace so eloquently said:
Blessings on the hand of women!
Fathers, sons, and daughters cry,
And the sacred song is mingled
With the worship in the sky—
Mingles where no tempest darkens,
Rainbows evermore are hurled;
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.
We must never lose sight of our worth.
We matter. We are vital. We are enough.
Have you ever felt like your contribution to the world as a mom is not enough? How have you overcome those feelings? Feel free to share, if you feel so inclined, so that we may all learn from each other.