Sometimes I stand at mixers in Washington, DC and listen to people introduce themselves. It’s the most fascinating experience. All these walking, talking business cards. And their business is good and strong and brave most of the time. And very interesting.
But it also feels very big. Like it could just easily walk over the women I hear in the room not talking. There was this one woman one time and her not talking was so loud I could hear it over all the words being said around her by the business card people.
So, I asked her – right there in front of all the big, loud, business cards, I asked her what she does.
And she look down and away and laughed and then said something like, “Oh you know, I stay home with the kids.”
And the husbands all around her, they were ready to go right on talking. But I remembered to grab that moment. I remembered how she feels because I’ve had business cards and I’ve stayed home and I know how sometimes one can feel more important than the other. Depending, I guess, which side of the argument you’re on.
But I’m not here to argue today.
I’m just here to step into the silences when I hear other women laughing at themselves – at the thing they feel the most called to do.
And a couple years ago it was this mom who looked at her feet as she described herself. Like what she does is somehow less important than what everyone else in the room does.
And everyone else was ready to keep right on talking about the headlines of their day, but there was a sacred second I stole. I stole that quiet moment in the conversation to look over at that woman’s husband and tell him that the hardest job I’ve ever had is not as a corporate attorney, not as a legal specialist working on anti-trafficking, not as a teacher at a small community college.
The hardest job I’ve ever had has been raising tiny humans. Period.
Maybe this is not your experience. Maybe you don’t like hearing motherhood described as a “job.” But it sure is work. And it’s the hardest, holiest, most formative work I’ve ever done. And am still doing.
And sometimes just saying that out loud around another mom is like reminding them – right there in public with all the suits and titles and business cards – that you see them.
You SEE them.
You see their work and their worry and their two am shifts that ache in bones and heart places we didn’t know we had.
Sometimes, simply being willing to see another woman at her most vulnerable and recognize it and relate to it is enough to give her the goods to go back to that hard, hard work she’s doing. The work where you don’t get a business card or a year end review, bonus, or pay raise. That work that feels both meaningless and utterly sacred on the same day.
That work that you’re both qualified and ridiculously ill-equipped, ill-prepared, and terrified to do.
We need to be seen.
We need to see each other.
The mom in the grocery line with the wailing kids and the exhausted look on her face – see her today. And let her know she’s doing alright.
The mom who is late to school to pick up her kid; who looks flustered and embarrassed and distracted. See her today. Wave. Forget to make her feel bad about herself.
The working mom who juggles daycare drops offs and car pool line. See her. Get over wanting to make her feel guilty. Offer to help her because there are days she’s stuck in traffic and desperate to make it back in time before the school starts charging her hostage amounts every minute she’s late. Let her tell you about her day without judging her.
The stay home mom who has sacrificed to live out this choice. See her. See her as a whole person who has dreams that walk and talk around her living room, but maybe also dreams that she so badly wants to spill out of her journal and share with someone else. She’s allowed to love staying home as well as be frustrated by it – sometimes on the same day.
We’re all actually on the same team here.
Maybe we could remember that on purpose – with our words.
I see you there on the other side of the screen – I SEE YOU. And I see brave and vulnerable, faith and doubt. It’s a lot like looking in the mirror, sister.
You are my sister and I will always try to fill up your silences with belief in what you’re doing.
Pass it on, will you?
Photo by Mallory MacDonald