“What do you do?” the nurse asked, as she attached the blood pressure cuff to my arm. It was a question that I had been asked hundreds of times since deciding to became a stay-at-home parent. And like many times before, I found myself answering in the same way.
“Oh, I’m just a mom.”
" Just a mom?” she said, smiling at me in a knowing way as if she had leaped into my brain and could tangibly see all the insecurities her question had stirred up. “You aren’t giving yourself enough credit.”
“You are probably right,” I replied, as I silently reprimanded myself for using that phrase yet again. Why was it so hard to drop the “just” from my answer?
When I tell people I’m a full-time stay-at-home-mom, I usually get two types of responses. Either “I don’t know how you do it. I could not be with my kids all day, every day. I would go crazy.” Or, “That is the best job you could ever have. Good for you. Your kids are so lucky.” I don’t recall a single time when someone has said: “Golly, why don’t you get a real job?” Truth be told, I have received a huge amount of support in my decision to stay-at-home full-time. Yet, I find myself throwing in the word “just” when someone asks what I do, as if my choice to stay at home full-time is somehow less worthy than someone else’s choice to work. I certainly don’t feel that way about other moms who choose to stay home with their kids. Maybe it’s because every now and then, I wonder if I made the right decision. When my patience is shot, and I feel like my kids are better off spending time with anyone other than me, it doesn’t feel like they are all that lucky. When I have cleaned up mess after mess, refereed yet another fight, or wiped a butt for the twentieth time that day, it doesn’t really feel like the best job I could ever have. And there are days when I feel like I AM going to go crazy. I admire all those amazing mamas working outside the home. Not only do I admire them, I envy them. I envy all the stimulating adult conversations I envision them having. I envy the contributions they are making to society, and sometimes I envy the titles after their names. In my “just a mom” mindset, I wonder if I’m doing enough to contribute to the world. And when my mom hat is in tatters from being worn from sunup to sundown (and beyond) day after day after day, it can be hard to see myself as anything beyond those three letters.
I know I’m not the only mom who struggles with her identity. Whether you work outside the home or work inside the home, I think it is common for mothers to lose sight of their former selves once that precious baby enters the picture. In the busyness of caring for everyone else, it is all too easy to forget about who you once were and to push aside who you still want to become.
I have a picture hanging in our office that my friend took in college. One sunny afternoon, we decided to go downtown and jam. In this picture, I am sitting on a curb playing my guitar. I felt like a rock star, even though I know for a fact I didn't sound like one. I’m sure we thought we were much cooler than we actually were, but I treasure that picture. Yes, I am a mom, and I’m extremely proud and blessed by that title. Despite the fact that I struggle from time to time, staying at home with my kids has been a gift. But that picture of me plucking my guitar reminds me that I am also SO much more than “just a mom.” I am a musician, an artist, a creator, a Christian, a country girl, an explorer, an entrepreneur, a volunteer, and a writer, among other things. These roles were part of my identity long before I ever became a mom and I want to give them the respect they deserve.
So here is to picking guitar strings, instead of just picking up toys. Here is to carving out time to write something meaningful, instead of just writing another to-do list. Here is to singing at the top of my lungs to Aerosmith instead of the Frozen soundtrack. And here is to remembering that whether I am a stay-at-home-mom or a working mom, what I write in the white space inside the “occupation” box will never truly represent all that I am or all that I do. I have never been, nor will I ever be, just one thing. And that is why I am determined to kick that word “just” right to the curb.