Friday, July 23, 2010

Mommy Scorecard

Flickr photo by Tasayu Tasnaphun, creative commons
I was standing in the parking lot at Target, melting into the asphalt as Sam ran back to the car for his wallet, when I realized that a young woman was talking to me.

"I hate those things," she said, nodding at the stick figure family decal on the back of somebody's SUV. She must have thought I was staring at it.
"Yeah," she nodded. "Mommy scorecard."

Mommy scorecard? I'd see those decals all around town, stick figure mommies and daddies and lines of kids. Sometimes they'd tote soccer balls or wear ballet tutus, and cats and dogs always trailed behind.

Now, before we go any further, please don't think I'm stick family hating!
If you want to celebrate each member of your family, I say, why not! Peel and stick away!
It's just that for me, mommy scorecard strikes a spinal chord.

Too often I've sneaked glances at other people's papers as I've lived out my life. I've pulled up next to them in the parking lot of life and checked out how we compare. Did we have the complete package, the happy couple, the full set of kids? Smiles on their faces, pompoms and flutes in hand?

When I was a younger mom, home with a two year old and a newborn, while Todd traveled constantly with work, people would see Ben spitting up on my shoulder and Sarah tugging on my jeans, and say, "I don't know how you do it, night after night by yourself."
I'd paw a foot at the floor and do my best Aw, it's no big deal, and then casually see if I could work in a comment about the grad school class I was taking or the volunteering I had to do. It made me feel good for a moment, for someone to recognize my hard work and exhaustion, the perfect picture I was trying to project. But I'd always end up feeling a little empty when the conversation was over.

We want people to see us as complete and successful.
Sometimes we tout our own completeness and success and possessions loudly-we sneak them into conversations or wear them like sandwich boards- because underneath it all, we're scared. We know the truth, that we're broken, we don't really have it all together. Life isn't the perfect picture we want to paint.

As I tuck the scorecard in my purse, I also wonder about those of us who don't match up to the picture on the window, whether through choice or circumstance. The single person, the couple that doesn't have the urge to go forth and multiply. The pair that wants children desperately, but life is cruel and won't cooperate. The families that fall apart.

I hope they know the truth that I took years to find. That God loves us as we are, whether we match the world's ideal or not, whether we do the volunteer work or just sit in front of the TV. That our sad little efforts to mold ourselves to the perfect picture in our heads won't make God love us any more than God already does. He only asks us to do what Galatians advises.

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that... Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.

Galatians 6:4, The Message

Do the creative best you can with your own life.
That's a tall order, but one I think I can handle.

What does doing the creative best with your own life mean to you?

Have a wonder-full Friday, y'all!
Love, Becky


Susan said...

I really like this passage. I either use the KJV or God's Word Translation. In the GWT is says "Each of you must examine your own actions. Then you can be proud of your own accomplishments without comparing yourself to others". No matter how this is translated it is such good advise. Isn't is marvelous how He is always looking out for us? Great post. Thanks.

Susie said...

I have never heard this verse before! What a great piece of wisdom to commit to memory!

Laura@OutnumberedMom said...

We're all broken, but that's good news. We get to see His grace in action.

Our creative best? I think it means doing your best at what you love and staying faithful to whatever God gives you to do.

Thank goodness for grace - may we spread it around.

EllenP said...

I love reading your blog these days. What a gift you have to communicate the truths of God that we find in our everyday lives. I'm not sure what my creative best is. When my kids were younger, my time and thoughts were consumed by them, and I did my best. But as they grow older I am finding myself challenged to grow into an expanded identity. I'm kind of anxious that I might not find it.

Unknown said...

Thank you Becky! Another fine post which speaks to many of us. I can relate to so much of what you say happening now and the things you speak of when your children were young! I love your comments like, "melting into the pavement"! I would never think that up but love it! I also appreciate your choice of scripture!

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Susan, it's always hard to pick which translation to go with. So often there's a tiny difference in flavor with each one. I like the GWT too. Glad you shared it.

Susie, don't you love it? I'm copying that one and putting it on my bedside table. It's a good one to read every morning to start the day!

Laura, yes, grace is the answer. So thankful for it!

EllenP, thank you so much for the encouragement. I hear you on searching for your expanded identity as life changes. I know we'll both find our way!

Hey Ann! Thank you. I'm glad it spoke to you. One of the best things for me about writing this blog is discovering scripture that I've forgotten-or maybe never really noticed. Sometimes the beauty and timing of it knocks me for a loop. :)

Terri Tiffany said...

What a powerful post! Your words are so true--we try to compare ourselves to everyone else and that's not what God wants from us. thank you!

Kari said...

I am not extremely sensitive to the idea of the Mommy Scorecard, not having my own children. But the thoughts on feeling left out resonated with me, because I have felt as if the world and the church don't find me very important since I haven't procreated (yet . . . baby is due in January). I hope I remember to be considerate to people without children, whatever the reason.

And a lot of what you are talking about has to do with where you find your identity. It's good to be a mom. It's good to have a career. It's good to do volunteer work or have hobbies or whatever! It's even good to find support when you are going through hard times. But if you reduce your identity to any one of those things, you risk losing perspective.

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Thank you Terri! Very kind of you!

Kari, I think you're exactly right. Perspective is important. When we put ourselves in a corner and only relate to others like us, we get a skewed view of the world and limit what we can learn. We also limit our openness to others and to God.
As for feeling left out, I'm sorry that's happened. I know that doesn't feel good. And when you feel like that, it means that others have missed out on all the great things you have to offer and that's sad. The church needs to work harder at seeing and appreciating and enjoying all the ages and stages of our sisters and brothers. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Michelle DeRusha said...

I admit, I have a big problem with comparing -- I often fall prey to the comparison game. It sems from envy of course, and lack of contentment...which brings me full circle to my relationship with God. I feel like if I had a deeper connection with God, I wouldn't be so prone to my shallow ways. I don't know...all I can say is it's a struggle for me. I think I, too, need to copy that verse and read it every morning before I put my feet on the floor!

Locusts and Wild Honey said...

Once I was out of work for eight months and during that period, I DREADED going to social functions. I hated that moment when people would turn to me and say, "What do you do?"

It was so hard to feel like I measured up when I had to mumble something about job searching and changing careers.

Awesome, thought-provoking post.

Jen P said...

Hi Becky - this is an awesome post. Again. Can you write out for me which version you have/use in detail? I have the New Jerusalem Study version (DLT) which this post actually made me reach onto my rather dusty shelf and pull down, but it's quite a bit different. (UK/US versions often are.) Paul was very human I think too. I wish sometimes the current church leaders would be as humanly connected and hands-on as he was in his advice.

Anonymous said...

That is great--along the lines of "be content with what you have" which is one of my favorite mottos/verses. God gifts us and demands of us in different ways. Our creative best is to serve Him with what He gives us--talent, resources, etc.
Tell me you're going to publish a collection of these devotions.

Susanne Barrett said...

Great challenge, Rebecca--thanks for pointing it out in Scripture for us.

And obeying His Word here *must* and *will* look different for each of us as He has given us different personalities, different gifts, different minds and hearts and souls....

I often fall into the comparison game--especially as a homeschooler--and I know it's a futile thing. I think the enemy uses it to undermine our confidence in a good God who has given us all we need for life and godliness.

Off to do the "creative best I can with my own life"! Thank you for the reminder!!

Susanne :)

Leah Skaggs said...

I am so quoting you this morning... I'll give you credit ;0).

Fear and Trembling - I think that is the way we work it out.

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Michelle, I think it's a human thing. I'm not sure I know anybody who never ever struggles with comparison, though I do know people who do a better job than I do. Of course, I can make rationalizations about why that is, but that's just more unhealthy comparing--which I'm trying to stop! :)

Locusts, You're talking the story of my life, girl. This has been the NUMBER ONE struggle for me during the years I've stayed home with kids: how to answer that question, "what do you do?" and not feel I have to explain or feel at all lesser of a person about it. I think it comes from my urge to compare, but also my workaholic nature and our society's way of judging worth. For me, it took moving to France and learning to love myself (the hard way, believe me) before I made big steps in the journey. I don't have it whipped yet, but I have come a long way, baby! By the way, I'm sure you know this already, having lived in France yourself, but I love how NO ONE in France ever asks what you do--unless they're rude or kind of a social misfit. It's considered as nosy as asking how much money you make.

Jen P, I'm glad to give this to you. It's called The Message, and according to the first page, it's "a contemporary rendering of the Bible from the original languages, crafted to present its tone, rhythm, events, and ideas in everyday language." It was rendered by Eugene Peterson, and published by Navpress. I love it because it's so easy to read, and it makes me want to pull out other translations and compare. Feel free to email me if you need more help finding it. I'd be glad to send you an amazon link.

GG, you're sweet. I'd love to publish a collection of devotions, but it's not what I'm working on now. I'm loving the blog work, though. It's fun, and y'all's comments add so much!

Susanne, I think that's true. Our own doubts and comparisons can really handicap us. I hope, though, that in a small way, they make me reaffirm the direction I feel God is leading me, and keep me reaching higher. I've got to watch it, though. It can be a slippery slope!

Leah, glad to add whatever I can. Fear and trembling...yep! (Can you hear the trembling fingers? :))

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Locusts, I should also add that I think it's interesting that when I worked full time (and had kids in childcare) I was thrilled to answer the question about what I did. Yet a lot of that time I was riddled with doubt and guilt and sometimes happiness too. Both roles that I played (mom at home & mom at work) were valuable roles in life. Why did the unpaid position come with such baggage? Maybe it's our culture, equating money making with value? I going to think more on how God would answer that.

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Locusts, those months during your job search were valuable too. We need to give each other and ourselves more room to search out direction, to find our way. Why are we so hard on ourselves?

Now, I will officially stop commenting on my own comments.

Unknown said...

This really makes me think, Becky. Comparing is the devil's friend, isn't it? We need to encourage each other, but I think we need to feel secure where we are before we can be that for one another. It's work sometimes. This helps. Scripture always helps.Thanks for that.

Jen P said...

Yes I'm still thinking about this one, days later. There are moments of mommyhood which you want to share with others for a pat on the back "I made a nice cake!"(because it is nice to feel appreciated and get some praise once in a while too, especially if we miss it from a previous at-work lifestyle) and sometimes because you are so happy with something - "my daughter took her first steps - look!" But it's hard to share that joy sometimes without it coming across with a misinterpreted meaning, such as "look, because she's a year old and isn't it early for her to be walking." How can you share the joy and happiness in doing something new or achievement without it appearing boastful. Maybe I'll have to try not doing it at all for a while and see if I miss anything. "The mommy scorecard" would be an awesome book title.

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Jen P, you're so right! And the want to share the happy continues throughout your kids' lives. I find it with my teens too. But there's always that hesitation..."Will they think I'm bragging?" and "Am I bragging?" and "Why do I want to share it--for me or for the kids?" As for me, I find that it's so good to have a small circle of friends to celebrate these things with. We all cheer each others kids on and celebrate with each other, because we really do love each other. But outside of these friends, I still check my motives. I do find I don't need to tell as much as I used to, and I think that comes from learning to love myself more and be content with myself. I don't have the need as much as I used to to prove anything. Thanks for your thoughts on this. It's very interesting! And mommy scorecard as a book title? Hmmm. You've got my mind buzzing this morning. Thank you! If it ever comes to be, I'll be thanking you in the acknowledgments!

Laura, being secure where we are is certainly the key. And sometimes we need to do some inner work to get to that point. That's hard work and sometimes takes a lot of time. Scripture helps, I agree, and we can get outside help and pray, of course. I've often prayed for circumstances to change to bring me growth, to help me work on a certain issue. As usual, God always answers, though the process can be uncomfortable--and sometimes it makes me ask, "Now why did I pray for this again?"

Anonymous said...

Becky - I love that translation of the Galations verse. Never heard it quite like that before.

And, for what it's worth, I agree that the stick figures are just plain annoying. But Facebook can be the same way. You know all the people who are putting up photos and status updates to say, "Look at me! Look at how wonderful my life is! See how great I turned out?"

So, yes, let's just all mind our own business and do our creative best to find out and become who we really are.

Mary Beth said...

Welcome to RevGals! I love your work. And the mommy scorecard...yeh.

Fifi Flowers said...

Live your life to the fullest and do unto others as you would have them do unto you!

Red Letter Believers said...

Congratulations -- this Post will be highlighted today over at the High Calling Blogs, "Around the Network." We highlight some of the best posts from around the network for the month of June and yours was among them.
-- David Rupert

Unknown said...

I love this post and you are right we have all been guilty of keeping score. If there was a stick figure that proclaimed missing some pieces, constant work in progress but loved by God I'd gladly peel and show it off to the world.

Dena Dyer said...

What a wonderful post! I'm glad HCB decided to highlight it. I love your blog, and will visit often. :)

Janis Van Keuren said...

HI Becky,
How true that we all look for a way to show others that we have accomplished something in this world--whether it's the happy family decals, the volunteer work we do, the missions we've been on, or whatever makes us feel significant.

It's a struggle I know I face regularly even though I know the Lord loves me just as I am. I still need to be set free in this area of needing people's approval. Only He can do that.

Thanks for the great post--I liked the melting into the pavement as well as Ann did. And here in Arizona, you sure can!

I will take note of the Scripture verse.


Rebecca Ramsey said...

Hey y'all!
David, what an honor! And what terrible timing for me to have computer issues. I'd so love to go hopping around the internet, checking out the other sites and those of newcomers visiting. Hopefully it will all be fixed within a few days and I won't have to sneak off to a coffee house to get on the net! (My family keeps wondering where I am, and I've had enough caffeine already!)
I'll catch y'all in a couple days! Thank you!

Cheryl Smith said...

Beautifully put, "those of us who don't match up to the picture on the window, whether through choice or circumstance. The single person, the couple that doesn't have the urge to go forth and multiply. The pair that wants children desperately, but life is cruel and won't cooperate. The families that fall apart."

Lyla Lindquist said...

Becky, so glad David featured this one. Well deserved.

It's funny, as I think about it, the comparing with others is the very thing that keeps us from loving others the way He calls us to. I tend to see others more as obstacles or conquests if my goal is simply to exceed them in some way.

And I notice too that the bar keeps moving. When I think I might have finally met that "perfect picture in my head" I look again and it's a different picture and I have to start all over again.

Challenging post, Becky. Thank you.