One year ago, as the mom of a 7th grader, I was on the games committee for the 7th and 8th grade gala at my daughter’s school. I chose that committee because I assumed it wouldn’t involve decorating and because, during the actual event, my only responsibility would be to run a game and hang out with kids. But on set-up day, after I’d put together an indoor basketball hoop (which I enjoyed doing), I was asked to hang some fancy paper on the walls. Other moms were busily—and seemingly happily—doing similar jobs, but with each passing minute, I wanted more and more to escape to a quiet corner, pull out my laptop, and write.
The parents of 8th graders have virtually no responsibilities for the gala, so this year, after taking a few pictures of Em and friends in fancy attire, I went out to eat with a few other 8th grade moms. At some point one mom asked, “So what does everyone want to accomplish this summer?”
One mom said she wanted to paint her kitchen. Another wanted to work on memory books for her child moving on to high school. I didn’t voice the writing goals which jumped up immediately, waving their hands—because they had nothing to do with running my household or mothering my kids. I cast about for a less self-absorbed goal: plant a garden? (I’ve thought briefly about it!), clean the attic?… and decided to say nothing.
A few years ago my daughter was dealing with some girl drama at school. It involved an “in group” and an “out group” and those who were somewhere in between.
When she asked me for advice, I said, “Just give it time. It gets better as you get older. Women are more sure of who they are and less worried about what group they fit into.”
I don’t think I meant to outright lie. I must have been feeling fairly self confident in that second, and maybe there is a little truth to it; she was in fifth grade, after all.
But I don’t think we’ve outgrown this.
Deep down we are afraid that others’ callings or gifts or interests have more significance than our own. So we compare to convince ourselves that our own interests/gifts/callings (i/g/c) matter—and since sin always takes a good thing (in this case, significance) and twists it—we cannot simply accept our own i/g/c as valuable but must de-value others’ differences in order to feel better in comparison.
My family has recently begun attending a church that strongly emphasizes the unity of the Body, so I’ve been doing much thinking about differences and gifts in the context of the church.
But it applies to my mom-world as well.
To look down on someone else’s i/g/c—be it paid or volunteer—is to denigrate the body of Christ (whether it is represented by a church family or a group of moms pulling off a school event). A single human—or mom—cannot do all the different tasks and assignments God is weaving together into one great whole. Therefore, each person’s unique contribution is needed. Crayola doesn’t produce nearly enough shades to accomplish God’s varied and beautiful masterpiece: one mom must color with her chartreuse; I with my burnt umber; another with cerulean blue:.
So some moms like to volunteer a lot in their kid’s school; some don’t. Some enjoy working outside the home; others don’t. Some like crafts and scrapbooking and recording life events in beautiful, handmade books; others—like me—hate that. Some are convinced that motherhood is the best phase of their lives; others of us are still wondering how it happened.
When we compare differences instead of celebrating them, we harm God’s work. Comparison keeps us from relationship with those who have varied interests or passions; it strips from us enjoyment and appreciation of another’s i/g/c (and therefore we don’t encourage others to use their gifts); ultimately, comparison robs us of joy in our own work.
I’ve thought a lot about valuing those who are down-and-out, who have a different ethnicity than mine, who feel “other.”
But what about valuing those who, from the outside, look so much like me?
Yesterday morning I attended the final session of the spring women’s Bible study at my church. With my contribution in hand (a plastic bag of bagels and cream cheese still in its container), I looked for the food drop-off area before heading to the chapel. I found a table laden with wonderful food, beautifully staged with lovely fabrics and antique pieces. Each of the eating tables nearby had sprays from a bridal veil bush artfully arranged in pots and jars.
I couldn’t do that if I had step-by-step instructions with a kit provided.
I wouldn’t even think of doing that.
And in spiteful moments, I might even look down on that gift as less necessary or valuable than the gifts of the women about to minister to me with their teaching and music and administration.
But—God be thanked—spite was absent.
Instead I noticed. I valued. I enjoyed.