“So what do you do?” The question hung in the air.
“Stay home with my kids,” I finally managed to mumble, feeling half the size I did a moment earlier.
Why did one simple question invoke such a shameful reaction? After all, I loved staying home with my children. And more importantly, I knew it was the best thing for our children. Nevertheless, the reaction remained … for years … each time such a question was asked.
Truth was, I felt insignificant as a “mere” housewife and stay-at-home mom (SAHM).
I thought of all the corporate executives, the biologists (in my field of education), the teachers, the nurses and doctors, even bank tellers and department store workers. While I was sitting home day after day, wiping runny noses, refereeing disagreements, and washing projectile food out of my hair, they were using their education to make a difference in the world. Others depended on them.
How silly were my thoughts. Who are more dependent and needy than our own children? And what mother doesn’t rely on far more knowledge than just the one area they studied in school? To offer 24-hour care to one or several children requires medical skills, some scholastic knowledge in every single subject area, a logistics degree (especially if there are special needs or older children), and an infinite amount of patience.
Nevertheless, the occupation question still often makes me squirm. Perhaps surprisingly, it often makes those who hold full-time, outside-the-home jobs squirm as well. Even after I added “freelance editor and writer and substitute teacher” to my resume, I still ducked my head at the question.
Why? Because I wanted to do something significant … make a BIG difference in a BIG way. And I didn’t feel I was doing that.
This seems to be a problem many of us have. Discontentment with our current positions and experiences. Thinking we should be doing more and influencing more. Perhaps that is the case with some.
Yet, what we fail to realize is that in God’s hands each little thing multiplies and grows. Each sacrifice and offering we give to Him becomes greater than anything we can imagine.
In the Lord’s mysterious ways, our few becomes His abundance … our little becomes His great.
I love this quote by William Bradford (of the Plymouth Plantation pilgrims), which sums up well the importance of little contributions made to the glory of God:
“Thus out of small beginnings greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing and gives being to all things that are; and as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many, yea in some sort to our whole nation; let the glorious name of Jehovah have all praise.”–Of Plymouth Plantation.
The impact and influence the pilgrims had on future generations is incalculable. Yet they began with a tiny settlement of starving individuals.
Every big impact begins in a small, quiet way.
A crack in the earth can become a canyon with the right conditions. A tiny mustard seed produces a large plant. A microscopic cell becomes a complex reasoning human. A grand pyramid begins with one brick. A great city starts with one house.
So don’t look on your occupation, your contribution, as having little significance. Instead commit it to the glory of God and trust that His grace will magnify it a thousandfold—to be even greater in Him.
“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12)
Share in the Discussion: Have you ever felt insignificant in your role?
Julie Sunne has been married to her husband, David, for more than 23 years and is a full-time mom to three amazing boys and a precious daughter who has special needs. In her spare time she writes, speaks, and edits. She is passionate about celebrating “the least of these” and living life by faith in the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. Julie and her family reside in a state park in Northeast Iowa where she posts her thoughts at juliesunne.com. You can also follow Julie on Twitter: @JulieSunne1 and on Facebook: Julie Sunne.
Julie Sunne says
Wow, Alexis, you’ve brought up another factor in a mom’s search for significance: homeschooling! Although I longed to homeschool, my children were always in public school (with the exception of 1 year in a Christian school), so I did not face the attitude often thrown at homeschool parents. However, I have many friends that have done a fabulous job at it. I love your perseverance–holding onto God’s validation, not man’s. Your children are blessed to have you for their mother. Have a joyous Christmas!
I just LOVE this article, Julie! Thank you for sharing your beautiful words with all of us today! Your words hit hard at the area I have struggled with so often….from doing what the world seems to consider as impressive and respectful to being at home full time, which sadly, is not looked upon nor held in the same regard nor always understood. I loathe the question and yet, know I need to feel proud, not ashamed nor embarrassed, for in that time and with that time, I am pouring into my children meaningful and hopefully, eternal values. Four of my husband’s sisters each went back to work after having their children as well as my own sister, and it’s in those moments of getting together where I sometimes feel more self-conscious about my choice. I feel as is if some are waiting for my next move like a game of chess now that my kids are in elementary school. (“So, when are you going back to work?”) I know this is an opportunity to focus on God and what He has for me and that He is my audience….I need to go where He directs. Thank you for the great encouragement and reminder to fix my eyes on Him in all that I am doing.
Julie Sunne says
Oh, Linda, I hear you loud and clear. I feel the same way. None of my siblings, or their spouses, stay at home. Now that my children are all in double digits, I’m sure the question is even more in the forefront of their minds. It puts more pressure on me to “succeed” in my writing.
Silly that I let other’s opinions matter so much.
It recently hit me that the son I sent to college this year will likely never be home again for more than a month at a time. It makes all those years of memory making and mommy/son time so very worth it. Cling to the Lord and follow His guidance. You can’t go wrong then!
Thank you for that great reminder of memory-making. We can sometimes get so caught up in the day-to-day that we are not looking at the big picture as you are now doing with your older son and the awareness you have of what time with him now looks like. You are absolutely right. We cannot at all go wrong when we cling to the Lord and follow where He is asking us to walk.
What an amazing article and one question that sure does raise the heat in every Mom. Why do we feel so insignificant in this day and age to be stay at home Moms? Is it that it is no longer fashionable? Thought processes change in society as the decades march on and focuses change. Certainly this is true to our culture of today. We sit in offices staring at computers. We sit at home staring at computers. And we sit in our daily lives staring at our high-tech phones. So why has this taken precedence over being a Mom plain and simple. And why is it so impressive to be that almighty tech person that comes to the rescue of our stay at home Moms? I won’t go on about this, but the truth remains that having been a stay at home Mom, it was the most important place I could have been. To give yourself to another who needs you in every way is the most unselfish sacrafice anyone could make. It deserves all the respect in the world and it is definitely not an easy job at it as well. We are the people who mold and secure the future. We take a life and make it important. We put a good product back into society called our children. And what is more important than a well-balanced, loving individual who is emotionally intelligent and of global thought. Even in today’s society there is no better and more important job description. So the next time you are asked that very question, feel tall and answer with pride.
Julie Sunne says
Shout it, Deirdre! I can’t say it any better than that!
Me neither. Thank you Deirdre for those beautiful words!
I couldn’t agree more Deirdre. I read once in an American newspaper that if full time moms had a salary, it would be around $120,000 per year because in a day we could be nurses, coaches, drivers, cooks, teachers, engineers, painters, magicians, diplomatics, conflict resolution counselors, priests, artists, researches, police officers, protectors and experts in other things.
Julie Sunne says
I would say at least that much, Diana, after all we are “at work” 14 or more hours a day, usually 7 days a week.
Brenda Quinn says
I love those examples at the end of the mustard seed, pyramid, cell, etc. So, so true. We moms really need to be people of VISION–we need to stand strong and hold on to the truth we know is true. Our kids have one chance in childhood to be shaped and nurtured and to watch modeling in the day by day, moment by moment life of growing up. It is people who are the arms and feet, the voice and life of Christ in this world. The more we can teach our kids and live with them in this life of Christ, the more they will have to give this world, both now and as adults.
I heard Tim and Kathy Keller talking yesterday on Focus on the Family about their new book on marriage. Really good. Tim made the comment that marriage is so hard b/c life in our culture is so very difficult, with constant false messages and models coming at us for how life should be and what matters. I so appreciated his words, especially coming from a man, b/c I feel this every day in such a heavy way, both for myself and for my kids. We are living in such an illusion, all around us, on how to live life. It can feel hopeless sometimes in getting another message across to our kids. And in the meantime we as moms need to be unwavering in our knowledge of what really matters.
It helps so much to encourage one another and know we’re not alone. Thank you Julie and Linda!!!
Julie Sunne says
Thank you, Brenda, for your wonderful insight and willingness to share! I agree, aside from leaning on God, the next best thing is encouragement from others. Keep encouraging!
The world has much to offer our children that is misleading and can take them down the wrong road. So true Brenda! We must stick with the constant and repetitive training of our children, DAILY, while we have them under our wings. As you said, be unwavering in our knowledge and teaching them not only what matters but to teaching them how to think about being discerning as well when they are faced with what looks “good” and appealing. The best way to teach is to have that time with them. Thank you for sharing!
People with vision and people with a strong WHY. Sometimes as mums, we rely on our will power to get things done or to be at home with kids. Some mums do it because is the right thing to do. But I have found (after 10 years of being a SAHM) with a 15 and a 8 year-old boys that what have kept me here is my why.
Why I am doing what I am doing is more powerful than my will. Because I know that I will receive my reward for the pleasure (and sometimes sacrifice) to keep myself at home than at an office, seating down for 9 hours straight.
I am so grateful for the amazing opportunity to be at home with my kiddos. Sometimes I want to hang them on a closet for a couple of hours, but normally I enjoy them and cherish them and kiss them and hug them until they had enough.
When they leave the nest, the are going to remember our time together and the teachings and the lectures… and that is going to make them better husbands and fathers one day. That is my WHY.
Julie Sunne says
Great point to make, Diana! Realizing the why can make a difference between enjoying your time home or grudgingly performing your SAH duties. Your children are blessed to have you.
That is so awesome Alexis, you are the best and qualified person to teach your kids. Who else is going to be more loving and kind and just as you for your kids? Nobody. Besides teaching school matters, you are teaching them life skills, listening skills, sharing skills, organization skills and so many more. Congratulations, you are a hero not only to God’s eyes but to many :o)