On Being a Stay At Home Mom: It’s Not a Competition

Lovely Legs Competion 1969Far too often, it seems like life  is about trying to prove to others our worth, our success, our identity.  We buy into the idea that because we can buy a bigger home, we should; because we can afford a new car, we need to buy a new car; because our promotion at work affords us a new neighborhood, it’s time to exchange our “familiar” neighbors with “new, not yet friends, but surely will be” neighbors in the elite suburb we envision life blossoming like never before. (This drive-to-impress may make many an advertising firm happy but usually ends up driving us to the brink of madness.)

Okay, so maybe you aren’t like that; maybe you don’t even know people like that.  But let me assure you, many are.  I know people who are just like that.  In fact, I’ve been one of those people.  I have to fight that tendency within myself to “outdo” whatever it is that is claiming my attention at the moment–the company banquet attire, the Secret-Sister gift exchange, the Eat-n-Greet treat to share, the outdoor Christmas decor, etc.  I have to be careful with how far I happen to go with things because I have an innate love for the dramatic, the bold, the gaudy, and if I’m not careful, my love for such things tends to be consuming.  Then, before I know it, I’m out-doing and out-showing who knows who with who knows what and driving myself, my honey bunny, and whomever else crazy.  And the truth is, no one else is paying any attention to me.  I’m not having a competition with anyone except myself, really.  So I’m doing it for . . . what?  To prove that I matter . . . to myself?  Truth is, I do matter, but trying to impress people and be better than someone else isn’t the way to go about proving my worth.  And even more than that, I don’t have to prove myself, period.

Being a SAHM has really helped to curb that thing in me that wants to prove myself–the self-seeking competition I crave–if for no other reason than that our modest income doesn’t really allow me to “compete” in an effort to impress.  There are, to be sure, moral reasons for why I’ve gotten out of the silly race to impress and out-do, but for me the pocketbook is where the need to succeed gets knocked off it’s high horse and the morality of it all becomes clear.  My shopping list is my litmus paper.

I learned long ago that the high-priced furniture, handbags, appliances, transportation, and whatever else was out of my current possibilities.  As such, according to current societal trends, I was already a misfit.  I couldn’t afford to Martha Stewart my house for every season and every holiday.  I would have to Kmart my gifts instead of Neiman Marcus them.  My mani-pedis would have to be done at the salon called Me, Myself, and I instead of the chic boutique that everyone seems to be raving about.  Instead of worrying about not having the latest and the greatest, I’ve learned to be content with what I do have and not be ashamed where it’s come from.  After all, who really said that new is better?  Or the price tag of something determines it’s value?  I’m just not buying it–the idiocy of such ideologies that are prevalent in our society today.

Now I realize that not every SAHM is living on a modest income and maybe can’t relate to what I’m saying, but it’s about mattering to yourself and to your family for you.  Not what you can buy in relation to someone else, what you can create that someone else can’t, or what you can bake, decorate, or bargain for.  It’s not about who you know, what kind of education you have, your retirement fund, or your square footage.  But even though I may have stopped competing in the stuff and junk category, if I’m not careful, my children will become my ticket(s) in the goal to be the best.  It’s easy to trade in one playing card for another.  WE HAVE TO GET OUT OF THE RACE ALTOGETHER!  My value and worth isn’t in anything or anyone.  My value comes from God and God alone!  Nothing can add to it; nothing can subtract from it!  NOTHING!

I matter because God says I do.  Period.  And you matter because God says you do. Period.

If we see an admirable trait in another person we can learn from them, but we do ourselves, them, and God a disservice by trying to copy and/or out-do them.

Being a SAHM gives me the proving grounds of my character by seeing me in my children (or not).

Children are simple.  We all know that sometimes, no matter how many toys children may have, it’s the cardboard box or the pots and pans that they like the best.  Truly, my kids don’t care if I have the latest fashions on my body or that I graduated Ivy League or not.  Instead, they care that their home is maintained by someone who loves them and is there for them, no matter what.  They are happy if they know they matter simply for who they are.

It would be ludicrous for me to say to my kiddo: “I love your sister more than you because she can make her bed neatly.  But in a couple more years, when you can make your bed good, then you’ll have made up the difference.”  or, “Honey, I’m so glad you can pour your own bowl of cereal.  You mean so much more to me now because of that than you did when you couldn’t even hold a spoon.” or, “It’s a good thing you did better than little Jimmy in the t-ball game today because I was starting to think I would have to like him more than you.”

Seriously, it sounds so ridiculous in writing, but if we aren’t careful how we see ourselves in light of others, we might just be sending our children the message, by our actions alone, that who they are isn’t enough.  Rather than finding out who God made them to be and living from that truth, we end up teaching them to live from either everyone else’s truth or, scarier yet, everyone else’s lie.

I want my precious babies to do whatever they decide to do because it comes from who they are and because it makes God’s heart happy.

News Flash: I can’t teach that to my children unless I learn it first myself.  And I’ll never begin discover who I really am until the cycle of competition ends.

Moms and dads, lets be the best individual people we can be so that we can be the best parents our kids need us to be.  Let that be our collective legacy!

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