When my eldest entered high school a couple of years ago, I watched as more of my mom friends returned to their careers. With their kids growing more independent, many of my friends found more time to work or pursue other passions. My writing friends started to find more success too. Meanwhile, I seemed to stumble from one crisis to the next. While I celebrate their successes and new horizons, sometimes it feels as if my mom friends are zooming along the highway of life while I’m peddling a rusty bike in the dirt.
I can’t say I’ve totally missed out on new opportunities. I’ve started leading a Bible study at my church, and I’ve opened a tiny practice where I offer speech therapy out of my home. But in the last few months, I’ve even had to let much of that go because I’m needed at home. I have a child with special needs, and my other child is having some major health issues.
While I enjoy what I do and am so very thankful I can be home with my kids, I often find myself making the mistake of comparing and despairing about the waiting and the apparent lack of accomplishment.
I often think, “What about me? Am I ever going to get ahead?”
Ever been there?
College is looming and in our original financial planning, we had assumed I’d be working more hours by now as a speech-language pathologist. But issues keep coming up. I get to a point where I think, “Now I’m ready to work more,” but then something happens to interrupt my plans.
I even went so far as to apply to work part-time at a therapy clinic this past year and wondered why I never heard from them. Yet as I prayed over the lack of communication, it was like I heard a small voice from the Lord telling me, “It’s not time.”
So I wait.
I remember feeling the same way when my kids were little. The days were so long and I never seemed to get anything done. Laundry, meals, naptime battles, and toys took up all my waking hours. I’d clean up one corner only to have my youngest toddle behind me and dump it all out.
There were days when I felt like the least accomplished woman on the planet.
As I look back, I realize that in those long days of feeling like I achieved so little, I was indeed accomplishing much.
I was pouring my life into my sweet babies.
I’ve never regretted a single moment spent with my kids.
Sure, we could be more financially ahead if I’d worked more, but at the same time, all those moments with my children were like depositing pieces of me into the banks of their hearts. To continue with the banking theme, I can honestly say I’ve seen dividends and a good return on my investment.
Time spent investing in our children is never wasted.
In thinking this through, my mind wanders to Jesus and his ministry here on earth. He didn’t spend his time worrying about getting ahead and padding his resume. Instead, he spent his time investing in people, wherever God led him.
We also see him disciplining the religious establishment of the day, shaming them for caring more about rules and things rather than people (Matthew 23).
I’m not saying there is anything wrong with working. Not at all! In fact, aside from the financial benefits, our places of work are often where we get to know people we might not have otherwise met. I can’t even list the number of working women I admire.
What I am saying is that we have just as much worth inside a career as we do outside of one.
Jesus spent time teaching, mentoring, and loving people wherever God led him. God leads us all in different directions.
His plan for me is going to differ from his plan for you. And his plans for our lives differ from year to year. I’ve worked outside my home and inside my home. Sometimes those jobs came with a paycheck, sometimes not. Whether we are working in an office building, a medical complex, or chasing toddlers, God has blessings and lessons in all of it. The challenge many of us face is to stop comparing where God places us with where he has placed that other person.
There is value in many things we do, even those things that don’t come with a paycheck. Time spent helping others, caring for others, with our children, or mentoring people is always time well spent. As with anything, there must be a balance and we must properly prioritize, but when we feel like we might be in a perpetual holding pattern, there is hope. One day, as we look back, we will see the blessings brought about by pouring into the lives of those around us.
As I sit here, I have a few choices. I can despair and compare, or I can seek the Lord’s perspective.
The truth is, even though it might seem like other people have more fun or more success, everyone faces struggles. In this moment, instead of worrying about my career that might never take off again, I choose to focus on being thankful I can be here, at home with my sick child. As much as I struggle with feeling inadequate next to my working friends, I know there are times they wish they could be elsewhere too.
To quote Veggie Tales, “A thankful heart is a happy heart.” And that’s what I must choose, in this season and in the seasons to come.
When I am tempted to despair and/or compare, I must focus on reasons I have to be thankful.
Sometimes I do this by just starting a list: “Thank you God for…running water, for my washing machine, for hot water, for sunshine, for food in my fridge, for shoes to wear, for a jacket to keep me warm, for a bed to sleep in…” You get the idea.
May we find joy in the moment and in the places God has planted us.
May we all realize we have worth to God and have important jobs to do, no matter where we are. And may we continue to share the love Jesus has given us.