Last weekend I again felt like a failure as a woman. How did this happen, you ask?
Scene: I’m standing in a pasture talking to two girlfriends. The first one is twenty-eight like me, and married, but unlike me, has a kid. Same with friend number two, only add a couple years and a couple kids.
Can you guess what we are talking about?
The pasture belongs to number-two. Number-one and I have come for a visit and are walking number-two’s property. Inevitably, the talk turns to houses and the jobs we work to afford them and the bodies we are housing with those jobs.
What are our livelihoods? How are we getting by day to day and affording these homes in which we live and raise our families?
Basic questions. They deal with basic necessities that we all have.
Yet when I find myself in these conversations, I see an un-level playing field.
Number-one has started cleaning houses to supplement income. Number-two has started selling Mary Kay. Number-one makes her own cleaning products from baking soda. Number-two plants and cans an impressive garden. Both plan to homeschool, and number-two is positively beaming just talking about what fun it will be to write lesson plans again (she was once a teacher).
Then there’s me. They don’t turn the conversation my way, but I take care of that in my head.
“So, what are you doing to supplement income? What financial struggles have you had? What sacrifices have you made for your family?”
“Uh, well, currently my life is pretty easy,” I’m embarrassed to say (in my head). “Financially easy, anyway. My hubby is making good money at the moment. And we don’t have kids. Yet.”
“Wow. That must be nice. So what do you do all day?”
“Uh…” here I panic a little. My mind wants to go blank. What is it that I do again? It’s not gardening. It’s not concocting creative cleaning supplies, chasing rug rats, or drawing up lesson plans. When I did write lesson plans two years ago, I don’t remember relishing the act.
Truth is, I’m struggling just to keep my house clean at the moment. And I don’t even have kids, mind you.
What a loser I must be.
Standing with these two very industrious ladies, I am suddenly struck with the weight of my failure as a woman.
Am I a Woman, or a Worm? (Perhaps a Writer…?)
A few days removed from my moments out to pasture, the Holy Spirit has helped me realize something I was missing while feeling so guilty for my perceived failings: There’s a good reason why I’m not out cleaning houses or selling Mary Kay or planning a garden or writing lesson plans, and it’s not because I’m a failure. It’s because that’s not who I am.
If you want to get financially pragmatic about it, sure—I’m also not doing those things because we don’t need the money (I might be if we did)—but there’s this point as well: We planned not to be put in that situation. All my waffling about motherhood aside, we also always wanted to be financially stable before we brought kids into the world.
As I prayed about my feelings of failure and my worthlessness as a woman, the Lord brought these words, like balm, to my soul: Don’t compare yourself to others. Just compare yourself to Jesus.
Sometimes when I pray I hear whole paragraphs and Bible verses rising out of the slime of my soul to comfort and guide me. Note that my slime wouldn’t do any good had I not already planted God’s word in it (Psalm 119:10). Yet this message was annoyingly concise. So I thought about those words some more. How could I compare myself to Jesus in my struggle about womanly duties?
Then it came to me: Jesus had a mission and He followed it. He let others plant the gardens and tend the kids—let them do their missions. But as for Him, He wandered from place to place with “nowhere to lay his head.” He obviously had no house to clean.
Again, I was reminded, it’s not a gender issue.
Not to say I’m going to abandon cleaning altogether. Since I do have a place to lay my head, I will try to keep it reasonably clean. And if we have kids, I’m sure my mothering instincts will kick in. But the truth is, I’m just not by default a homemaker.
Like a blessed dew this memory came to me: As a girl, I hated gardening. When my mom tried to get us to help her, I tried anything I could to get out of it–unlike my girlfriends who have always enjoyed the activity.
I love and appreciate my girlfriends and their stellar skills at motherhood, gardening, cleaning, and other things I dislike doing. And I am thankful that they feel called to do them—for without women like these, I really think society would fall apart.
But as for me, well, I just didn’t come into the world wanting to work with my hands as much as dabbling in words and ideas.
So what is it that I do all day?
Well, until we really hit the jackpot and can afford a maid, regrettably, I clean when I have to. I cook a bit, too. But on the perfect days—on the days when Satan is not winning and I’m not worrying what the world thinks—I write.
Hi there! If you liked this post, you might enjoy some of my other posts about women’s issues and family-related topics, such as:
Role Confusion and the Modern Woman
Celebrating 8 Years: Roots of a Love Story