The other day I had a very smart, put-together, professional woman come to me for work-related advice. I quickly responded, giving my thoughts, hoping that what I had to say would help, but doubting that my ideas would really be too important. Not only did she appreciate my thoughts, she went on to say that they hadn’t crossed her mind and that she’d like to buy me lunch to talk more. And I admit, it felt good. It felt good to have someone come to me and respect what I had to say, for someone to ask me a question and listen to my response. Why did this mean so much? Because the next day I argued with a two-year-old about jellybeans.
Before you think I walk around trying to pick fights with toddlers, let me explain. The situation transpired as my youngest finished her dinner. Before taking her final bites, she said, “Mommy, I want some jellybeans.” While we sometimes have dessert after a meal, this was not going to be one of those times. I tried to brush off her statement with a soft no. I said, “Oh, well, I don’t think we’ll have those now. We’ll save them for some other time.”
The toddler then pursued the discussion with a hard, “But I want them.” This is her go-to defense when she realizes a situation is not going as she desires. I knew at that point that I could end the discussion with a compromise of two jellybeans and be done with it. Instead, I pressed on.
“I know you want them, but we are not going to have them right now.”
“But I want them,” she retorted with a huff.
I looked into her precious blue eyes that looked back at me with contempt. I felt my breath shorten and my muscles tighten in anticipation of an impending meltdown. But, I decided to stay firm.
“Yes, you want them, but you have asked and I have answered. Are we going to have any now?”
“When will we have some?”
“Some other time.”
Thankfully the standoff ended without a tantrum or tears, but I still felt exhausted nonetheless. Why? Because the jellybeans were just one example of the many decisions I make on any given day that are challenged.
For instance, just today she questioned my authority when I said mittens were a necessity in -8 degree weather. Another child threw herself on the floor when I explained that a bathroom break was required before naptime. And, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Whether it’s the amount of screen time allowable in a day or the request for a child to put away their own laundry, it is pretty common for my decisions and requests to be met with pushback or questioning.
That’s why when this woman asked me for advice and then listened and even thanked me, I stopped in my tracks for a moment. What was this sensation I was feeling? Oh, yes! It was importance.
As a mom, it is easy to get sucked in to the minds and ways of little ones as we train them up. It is easy to feel discouraged and exhausted, as if we are fighting battles over things that really should be common sense (like mittens in sub-zero weather). What I realized in that moment was just how exhausted I was from having to constantly and patiently explain my position. It felt good to feel like I was useful and helpful and appreciated, that I could offer something of worth, that my opinion mattered.
And right in the moment of feeling torn between feeling satisfaction from my work and lack of importance within my own house, I read these words:
“Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do, but someone you raise.” ~Andy Stanley
And there it was: the attitude check I needed. We all know that being a mom is a thankless job. It requires constantly stepping up and digging in. It means holding discussions over the necessity of jellybeans and mittens and bathroom breaks. It means continuing on even when we feel unappreciated and unimportant. But the truth is, what we are doing is important and what we are doing matters.
So, today, I want to extend a challenge. We all know what it’s like to be a mom, so let’s help other moms feel important and appreciated. Find a mom (any mom) and tell her thank you or that you appreciate something she is doing. Whether it’s something as big as loving her child well, or something that seems small like making you laugh in a moment you needed it most, let her know that what she did mattered. Those words may be just what she needs to hear in the midst of her own jellybean argument.