On afternoons when she naps, Katie emerges from her room with tousled hair and sleepy eyes. If we have nowhere to be, and if fortune has smiled on me enough that all three kids slept at the same time, and if she is the first to wake, she finds me in a chair in the living room; I try to use such golden opportunities to think, to pray, to write, to read.
We’ve established a routine for these days. She grabs our latest chapter book, climbs into the chair with me, and wedges her small body up close against mine. Placing the book in my lap, she asks me to read.
No matter what I’ve been doing, I always say yes.
Last weekend, Jonathan had a board meeting in La Jolla, and Miles and I joined him. The girls stayed with my parents. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!)
I’m glad we went. When you have three kids, traveling with just the baby feels a little like a break. Miles and I explored trails on the nearby coast and swam in the pool and attended evening board functions where he was a hit (even if he did grind fruit into the fancy white tablecloth).
I’m glad we went, and yet, as I interacted with women who are leaders in their industries, I’ll admit to feeling a smidge unqualified, a tad unimpressive, a bit unaccomplished.
I know I’m not supposed to compare, that each of us makes the best decisions we can for ourselves, for our families. That, like me, they’ve made choices and sacrifices to get to where they are. That life isn’t a competition or a race, a game to see who comes out on top.
But these women are sharp. Capable. Professional.
Me? I’m just a stay-at-home mom.
It’s insiduous, this habit of comparison, this all-consuming need to prove, if only to myself, that my presence on this planet matters.
All too often, it masquerades as something good. As ambition. As a thirst for purpose. As the desire to use my God-given talents and abilities well.
But at its core, it’s fear. Fear that I am not enough, that my worth is predicated on what I do, what I accomplish, what I achieve.
At its core – at my core – I’m desperately trying to justify my existence.
A few days after we’d returned from La Jolla, three tired kids all slept at the same time.
I sat in my chair in the living room and thought about what it means to live this one life – my one life – faithfully, about what it looks like to surrender my tendency toward self-justification, about how I have to force myself to let go of it over and over and over again.
Katie stumbled out, interrupting my thoughts. We read a chapter of Ramona’s World. I closed the book and placed a hand on her knee, letting my mind stray toward the long to-do list of chores that had piled up since we’d returned.
“I’m going to go clean the kitchen,” I told her.
She nestled closer. “I don’t want you to.”
“What do you want me to do?”
And so I did.