At 3am I am roused from a blissfully deep sleep by the cries of my son. I savour the warmth of my bed, nestled in between the soft flannelette sheets. My husband sighs next to me and we argue silently about who will get up.
It took some time to get my son back to sleep and in exhaustion, my husband said to me, "I have to work tomorrow!" At this time of night, you take things personally, so I shot back, "And so do I!"
'Mum' is both identity and occupation
This was a moment of clarity for me. I had been struggling to name my current occupation—stay at home mum—as a job, or even as work. But the longer I have been in this role (16 months and counting), the more I have come to embrace it as both part of my identity (Mum) as well as my primary occupation.
Growing up as a young woman, I've always juggled two visions of my future which seemed to be in competition. Despite the idea that women can 'have it all', there has always been the theoretical possibility of becoming a wife and stay-at-home-mother—especially as someone who grew up in the Church. Yet, all my practical efforts toward the future (rightly) focused on study and work outside of the home.
In reality, both visions came true. I have studied and worked outside the home. I have also married and am now a mother, whose home and family is now my work. One future I was well prepared for. The other... less so.
Having attended no 'Mum 101' course at university, much of my training has all been 'on the job' as well as having been shaped by watching my own mother as I grew up.
The danger of placing your identity outside Christ
When part of your identity and your day to day role are so closely linked, there is a danger that this becomes the place from which your value is derived. It can be so all consuming that I forget that my identity should not be built on the 'Mum' foundation.
The days I forget this are the days when I am most shaken by my perceived successes (yes! My child ate vegetables!) and failures (no! My child pushed over another child!). On these days guilt and worry become my masters. Plus, expectations I have of myself surrounding what the work of a stay-at-home-mum looks like: parenting expert, master nutritionist and chef, and maintainer of a showroom quality home all in one! This is unachievable and burdensome.
As a Christian mum, I am to remember to true foundation upon which my identity is formed, which is the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Ultimately, I am a beloved child of God and my value is derived from this important title and nothing else.
I also do well to remind myself of the value that God himself places on the role and work of motherhood, rather than worrying what the world says.
Mums work for the Lord
For anything a Christian does as work should not be for the applause and accolades of this world (though they are appreciated, especially in the form of chocolate!). Instead, as the Apostle Paul reminded the Colossians, we work for the Lord.
Though I might feel like things I do are insignificant and mundane in their everyday-ness, I know that He sees every cuddle I give, every snotty nose wiped, every meal cooked, every surface wiped and so on. It is comforting that no effort is wasted or unnoticed.
So if you know a stay-at-home-mum, rather than asking if or when they're going back to work (as I often am), a simple, 'Well done you!' or even 'Thank you for your hard work' will always be well received!
Sarah Urmston lives in Toowoomba with her husband, Stephen. She loves God, her family, writing, colouring in, crochet, and creating lists. Sarah works full-time at home and seeks to faithfully serve Jesus in many different ways using the time she's given.
Sarah Urmston's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/sarah-urmston.html