We put a lot of ourselves into our jobs. Our identity is wrapped up in them.
I stopped working when I had children and this life change came with a huge disruption to my identity. We start conversations by asking people “What do you do?” fully expecting they will share with us the tasks they perform to earn an income. If there isn’t monetary compensation, would we be interested in what they do to contribute to the world? It took me a long time to say “I’m a stay-at-home mom” without a tone of voice that sounded more like an apology for my new role in life.
We are accustomed to moving in an upward/forward direction. So how does taking ‘time-off’ to stay home and raise babies fit into this forward progress? It is a step down or back? Does it mean we have paused our progression in life only to resume when we are back to being income-earning members of society?
Before taking time off work, my identity seemed easy and I had very measurable markers of success. I bought cars, I traveled, bought a home, upgraded to a bigger home, I purchased nice clothes and enjoyed going out with friends. My perception of success was all wrapped up in physical status symbols because those were the milestones society seemed interested in talking about. My economic life was the primary measurement of my importance.
The benefits of my previous employment and my husband’s current income continued to manifest as physical possessions even into motherhood. The material objects were different but fellow moms chatted about the brand of stroller they purchased, the lessons their toddlers were enrolled in and what mommy-and-me experiences our children had the privilege of attending.
Making the decision to not return to the traditional workforce to stay home with my children came with a huge decrease in income. Becoming a single-income household quickly meant I was no longer measuring up to traditional, material symbols of success. To be honest, it took a while to realize this DID NOT MATTER. Physical status symbols are irrelevant in measuring my importance.
Being at home with my tiny humans came with the opportunity to reset and reclaim the things I actually wanted in my life. I was able to redefine success and measure my importance by the quality of my relationships. I want to love and be loved for who I am and how people feel when they are around me rather than for the things I can accomplish in a day or buy with my money.
How do you measure your importance?
Smiles and laughs rank high in my measurement tools!