September 13, 2016

It’s Not “Just” Anything.

Encouragement

I did not realize, when my first daughter was born, that babies sometimes make terrible conversation starters.

I don’t mean that babies are terrible at conversation (though they don’t have a lot to say about books or current events, to be honest). I’m talking about the conversations other people start with you when you have a baby in your arms.

You walk into a room with a baby in a sling and the standard nice-to-meet-you question, “So, what do you do?” morphs into: “So, are you just home with the baby?”

There’s no way to win with that question. Every answer is kind of wrong.

Yes, I am just at home with my baby. That’s all. It’s clearly not much, since we’re throwing the word “just” in there.

I’m JUST at home with a baby who is the size of a loaf of bread. A baby the size of a loaf of bread probably needs about as much attention as your average baked good, right?

Being with a person that small couldn’t require any intellectual power or spiritual strength or physical skills. Just at home. With a baby. That’s all.

And what’s the alternative answer?

No. No, I am not just at home with my baby. It must be a luxury, being home with a baby, since we threw the word “just” in there.

Just at home with a baby, the way you’d JUST be lying on a beach in Bali if you could, or the way you’d love to JUST sit and read without being interrupted. Or hey, just peeing without interruption would be neat.

No, I’m not just at home with my baby, I also have a never-ending list of other things I do, too. THANKS FOR ASKING.

I wasn’t really keen on the wording of that question, is what I am saying.

Look, friends. You are not “just” doing anything. You’re not just mothering, just parenting, just working. Your life is more complex than that. There is no “just” about it.

Unless maybe you are just on the beach in Bali. In that case, okay fine, you’re “just” doing that. But even then I hope you are replenishing your spirit and nourishing your soul with a break from your usual routine.

How about we change the terms of the discussion instead? You can do that. You don’t have to accept every question that gets lobbed at you, even if you are holding a baby at the time and hardly have the energy to dodge ridiculous assumptions.

“I am not working,” I would say. “I am exclusively at home with my baby.”

“Exclusively?” People would ask.

Exclusively. I do not do “just” anything.

Well, sometimes I just make people raise their eyebrows. I do just do that.

Now I have six kids and I still spend my days at home with them. I still never hang out on the beach in Bali, which is a super bummer.

But no one asks if I am just at home anymore, I guess because the kids are bigger than bread and therefore obviously require more than just buttering.

When people ask what I do, I might say: I have six kids. That stops most lines of questioning. I still get raised eyebrows, though.

(I might also say and we homeschool, or I might also say and I write, both of which are always true but not always relevant.)

But listen. If you are exclusively at home: I trust that you are taking care needs that are endless and charming and frustrating and beautiful and exhausting, all at once.

I trust that you are finding (or looking for, or at least dreaming about) ways to meet your own needs while also meeting theirs.

I trust that you are giving yourself grace for all the ways you feel inadequate for this path.

I trust that a day will come when you get to eat an entire lunch without stopping to wipe someone’s spit up or nose or tush. It will happen.

And if you are with your kids in the mornings and evenings and work at the bank or the office or the studio or the restaurant during the day, I trust that this is the best way you’ve found to feed your family and to feed your spirit.

I trust that all the jobs you do in a day work together to nourish the hearts and bodies of every single person in your family, including yourself.

I trust that you are giving yourself grace for all the ways you feel inadequate for this path.

I trust that there will come a day when you do not feel like you are running in three directions at once, all day long. It’s coming.

If you are doing all the things all the time, holding the baby while typing furiously and also trying to make your own coffee because who has time to drive to the coffee shop: I trust that you are finding creative solutions that combine work and family.

I trust that you are giving yourself grace on the days that you wake up and feel like there’s not quite enough of you to go around.

I trust that you’re figuring it out. You’ve got this.

If you are simply resting on the beach in Bali or elsewhere, I trust that you will drink up the sunshine. Today you carry the dreams of us all, sister.

The point is, I trust you.

I trust that you are making the best decisions you can for your family. I do not think you constructed your lifestyle on a whim. You did not wake up one morning and say, “Oh, I think today I’ll just… [parent/work/fly off to Bali].”

No. That does not sound like you at all. You know yourself, your family, your baby, your budget, the limits of your sanity. You did not just invent the contours of your life for the fun of it. You make thoughtful, considered choices.

You look at all the needs and desires and gifts and personalities and circumstances of your family and you decide, “Okay, here’s what needs to happen.” Or else, “Here’s what I want to see happen.”

You go to work, you don’t go to work, you take care of details, you take care of your kids. Possibly—probably—you do some interesting combination of things.

You make plans. You make do. It’s a lot.

It’s enough.

We are all, every one of us, doing the best that we can. It’s enough, friends.

And it’s not “just” anything.

Melissa Camara Wilkins lives with her husband and six kids in Southern California. She writes about being yourself and letting go of the rest at melissacamarawilkins.com. You can also catch up with her on Facebook or Instagram.

About The Author

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Melissa Camara Wilkins

Melissa Camara Wilkins lives with her husband and six kids in Southern California, where she writes about being yourself and letting go of the rest.

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