Friday, September 24, 2010

Grace in the Many Hats

"What do you do, Karen?"

The question almost made me choke on the bite of bread in my mouth. I swallowed carefully.

What to say, what to answer!?? Do I make a joke about changing diapers for a living? Do I go deep and philosophical, replying "It's not what I do, but who I am that really matters..."? Or do I go for the simple "I'm a wife and mom" answer? Do I strategically sneak in comments that mention all the juggling acts I do throughout the course of my day, the second-grade curriculum we are currently wading through and the new recipes I'm testing this week? How amazingly clean my house is? How I have a great soccer-game snack planned for Saturday? (Pride, pride.)

The white linen tablecloth felt soft under my elbows - not proper etiquette for a fancy business dinner with hubby's colleagues, but comfortable and supportive - as I folded my nervous hands in front of me. I smiled and leaned forward, going for candor.

"I do a few things - taxi, counsel, manage, herd..."

My brain could only come up with four appropriate verbs. The inappropriate ones included "clean up puke, wipe fannies, count marbles, set the timer for timeouts, make dinner, land a babysitter and put make-up on in the car so I could come and drink water out of a goblet and try to look calm and collected with all you business suits in one room..." It could easily have become a tirade: "do you know how hard it is to fold laundry without spilling your coffee?"

If you sense some sarcasm here, you are right. Really, there is actually almost-but-not-quite- guilt these days over how wonderful life is as a stay-at-home mom. I can't play the victim with working moms, or any working person for that matter, because life is pretty blissful around here. I haven't cleaned puke for at least three months and the fanny-wipes are decreasing at an amazingly rapid rate. When Real Gil comes home from a long day of work, I have to almost pretend to be exhausted. Dare I type it here in real letters? - I think we might be moving out of that toddler stage.

Life is good.

And suddenly, those defenses which usually crop up in public conversations are gone. "What do I do?" Great question. I have nothing to prove, which opens me up to humor and rest in Him who truly defines me.

The kind man who was trying to make conversation with me over Real Gil's business dinner must have sensed that in my answer. While the folks next to us we're discussing their similar SUVs and how one model had a built-in GPS system and the other had the ipod dock and perhaps the two owners would like to trade cars for a day...he smiled and asked if I drove a fancy SUV.

I lifted my eyebrows, not sure if he was teasing me or not. I shook my head, leaning forward when I answered. "I push a button and the mini-van doors open. Kids get in. I push the button and the doors close."

His own eyebrows lifted. But I was just getting started. "We bought that sucker on e-bay and if you want to borrow it, I'll trade you cars one day and you can push the button."

He leaned his head back and laughed with me, admiring eyes crinkling in the corners. "Only if you leave the diaper bag in the car."

I smiled wickedly. "I don't use a diaper bag anymore. But don't you dare look in my purse." The miracle of getting to dinner on time meant that my purse still held one TowMater car, a tennis ball, the babysitter's cell phone number, the treasured mini-van keys, a grocery list, endless receipts, and a bottle of Childrens chewable Motrin.

This older man who has never had children, but who mentored my husband many years ago, commented, "You seem happy."

"I am."

We talked about cars, the military, how great Gil is, what to order off the menu... It was a wonderful evening with three-syllable words and steak knives, things I'm not accustomed to at dinner. More importantly, in this fancy room full of suits, ties, and high heels, I felt no need to impress, or lie about how perfect my juggling act is. Carefully avoiding the other extreme, there also wasn't a squirming under my own roles, a need to downplay what I do. Simply put, it was nice.

The struggle for identity and transparency is an ongoing one around here. Daily, as I am tempted to inflate over an accomplished to-do list or a happy child, I am reminded that these things don't define me, don't encapsulate all that I am, but I can still embrace this mothering thing with joy. An easy thing to do these days.

There are many hats we all wear, many roles we play. I rejoice in the perfect equipping for those roles that God gives, and rest in them too.

Rejoicing and Resting in Him,


Hillary said...

Love this! I love your humor. You should totally write a book...and I'm serious. {{hugs}}

Anonymous said...

And, on the days when my mind wanders to the insecure,wish my life was more glamourous, meaningful,__________, I can be ever so deeply thankful that after I'm done with the fancy dinners and the quiet weekends alone with my dear husband- I have this life to return to- puke, and dirty fannies and teen angst and a minivan with who knows what under the seat. I know who really has all the blessings. K

Karen said...

Hillary! You said the "b" word. Now I have wet my pants, thanks to you. Say you are sorry.

Karen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Red Letter Believers said...

We all wear many hats ...and I love the deft way you put it.

Ame said...


my first husband had a job where we would be wined and dined. i would look around at them, especially the women, and not want their life. jobs and worlds like that come and go, the people move on and do something else, and most of the time you loose touch, except for christmas cards. i love being a stay at home mom. it's challenging, but it's also fulfilling and overflowing :)

fun to read :)

Anne Lang Bundy said...

How delightful to meet you via HCB, Karen. I'm also a SAHM who finds myself mingling in some very interesting circles. I appreciated every word.

Anonymous said...

I was sent here by HCB and I am so glad I came. This was an excellent post. My husband and I were just talking about my "job" last night and I was planning on posting about it this week. Seems to be a topic on a lot of people's minds this week. I love the humor you use to share it.
Thanks ~Jessica