the big picture and the little things- reflecting on meaning, priorities, motherhood
I was twentysomething, sitting in my therapist and mentor's office, believing that how I was spending my time didn't “matter” enough in the world. My much older and much wiser therapist asked a question to help me clarify what that really meant. I didn’t know exactly but the example I gave of a life that mattered was something along the lines of volunteering in Africa. I was certain that mattering meant doing BIG things. I was also pretty confused about my life. I’d always been more of a big-picture thinker, and service oriented. I imagined impacting the world had to be done on a large scale. I was feeling stuck and a little clueless about my next steps in life.
So what I was actually doing with my life was working very part-time and spending the majority of time taking care of my twin toddlers. I was a young mom- I was usually at home or within my own little suburb, absorbed in mom life. This felt like a disconnect between what I “should” be doing and what my reality was in my day to day life. Luckily, my sharp, intuitive, and tell-it-like-it-is therapist stated with conviction that what I was doing- being a mom- was VERY important and it was necessary to not minimize that. On one hand, I knew that, but I think I really needed to hear it.
Looking back now, in a different place in my life and with new perspective, I can see things so differently. I know my value in the world, as a human being, a child of God. I know that maybe sometimes I will do “big things” but usually my impact will be in small ways. We also all have to make choices in life, and I have learned of the importance in not going back and consistently examining "what if." And if we compare ourselves to others, the grass seems greener on the other side. But back then, I was a mom with 18 month old twins and doubting whether I was useful enough to the world around me and just over all not feeling worthy. Motherhood can certainly be a thankless job, where you might feel tired, used up, and unsure “where the time has gone” at the end of the day. There is a lot of mom-ing that goes unseen. Motherhood is rewarding and challenging, but it is not usually glamorous or exciting. And I wouldn’t call it intellectually stimulating. At that time in my life, I imagined so many people in my life were doing things “more important” than what I was doing. And so much of what a mom does when she is taking care of her little ones are things that go unnoticed, are routine, and quite frankly, occasionally boring.
We have so much to teach children, and children have so much to teach us. I know it is a familiar struggle, especially for women, in how we spend our time. How do we each clarify what is a valuable and worthy way to spend a day, a year, a life? It's so important to find meaning in the little things we do to on a smaller scale. I can see now how misinformed I was about ways to impact the world around me. Even Mother Theresa, known for her service to others in Africa, said “if you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” For if our family feels loved, known, seen, and secure, they are able to handle emotions, think effectively, use their gifts. And then they know their value. So much impact on the world can happen on a smaller scale. So much of changing the world relies on us changing our interactions with our partners, our family, our friends, our neighbors and our community.