Sunday, February 17, 2008


As you've read in earlier posts, I've been in a season where I've had a huge shift of identity. My little munchkins are no longer babe's-that-need-to-be-in-my-arms baby's. Now toddler to 6 year old, I find myself more in the role of resident nutritionist, teacher, referee. There are days (like today) in which I do a hard search for and outside of my role as a stay at home mom.

My East Coast girlfriend sent along this article this evening. Timely for me. Most of the time I remember just how significant this job is for my boys, but rarely to I reflect on how it shapes who I am and how God can use me and change me in it.

The Significance of Dog Hair and Trash Cans

As I rush to fill three cereal bowls, I hear my tennis shoes sticking to the kitchen floor. Bending down, I see that dog hair is stuck to the spots where apple juice has been spilled. I pour the last of a bottle of cleaner into a bucket of water and open the garage door to dispose of the container, but the trash can is still at the curb. I wheel it in and open the lid. The smell almost knocks me over. Tipping it on edge, I begin washing out the mess with the hose.

Behind me, my 2-year-old escapes out the door and begins splashing barefoot in the “ick” oozing down the driveway. I shriek in horror, which sends him trotting down the sidewalk. I say goodbye to all my pride and run after him in my halfdrenched nightgown, tennis shoes and wild hair. As I lug my wailing child back home, I smile sweetly at a group of neighbors waiting forthe bus.

Back inside, my oldest son greets me with, “MOM, I need more toilet paper!” I grab a roll and head to the bathroom. When I open the door, I experience the second faint-inducing smell of the day. I see the cause of the TP shortage. He has used half a roll to soak up overflow from the toilet. I run for the plunger and return to find my 2-yearold scrubbing the bowl with toothbrushes.


Often 90 percent of my day as a stay-at-home mom is spent in this kind of interrupted, reactive frenzy. Though exhausting, my work as Mom can feel very insignificant. This year, as I outlined each of our family member’s achievements and activities in our annual Christmas letter, I was frustrated that the only noteworthy thing I could think of to include about myself was that this year I started packing lunches the night before. It’s discouraging to come to the end of a day and realize that each of the things I accomplished will need to be completed all over again tomorrow.

I keep looking for an onramp to the highway of significance where I can offer something really important with my life. But the roadblocks and detours of sticky floors and plugged toilets burn up all my energy before I ever spot one. At the end of the day, I wonder if these toilsome efforts will ever add up to anything of value.

Like many women, I feel compelled to make a mark in the world. We want to know that our life’s work will result in noteworthy accomplishments. The cognizance that we can make something of ourselves, if we choose to, propels us forward.

Little girls are told, “You might be the first woman President! Reach for your dreams!” But what happens when they grow up and become mothers? This sky-is-the-limit perspective can make staying home to raise babies seem rather bland and unsatisfying.

I recently ran into a friend from high school and asked about her life. She sounded apologetic as she said, “I’ve been so busy with the kids that I haven’t been able to pursue a lot. I was thinking I wanted more children, but I’ve decided my life has been on hold long enough. With my youngest starting preschool, I’m ready to finally do something for me.” My friend’stelling words revealed her perception of the avenueleading to significance—the one leading away from her home.

Big picture

So how should a stay-at-home mom respond to her pent-up aspiration to contribute something great with her life? Should she resign herself to endless stain removal and crumb sweeping? Does her position allow her to accomplish anything of value?

According to God’s standards for achievement, the last shall be first, and being great requires learning to be a servant of all. As the Father sifts our accomplishments, He assigns the most value to serving. This tells me that an office with mahogany furniture and a personal assistant is not the only setting for great accomplishments. In fact, caring for small children in the home provides incredible opportunity for advancement. Sticky messes and smelly garbage cans aren’t detours and roadblocks; they are God’s highway of significance. My daily planner may not contain anything that would impress a highly paid executive, but my work has great worth before the Lord. He says that the things I have done for the least of these I have done for Him. Sometimes I try to picture Him sitting on the kitchen stool waiting for a bagel, smiling as I sing a worship song on my knees beside my toddler’s bed or sighing with contentment as I zip a cozy sleeper over my infant’s full tummy and squeaky-clean skin.

Pleasing the Lord wouldn’t be enhanced by bringing home a paycheck or having a title before my name. I have just as many opportunities to please Him within the four walls of my family room as I would in a corner office. As I wipe a little bottom, I have the same wherewithal to gain the Lord’s favor as does a top marketing strategist for Pampers.

Tying little shoes, reading picture books and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches grant me just as much potential to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant” as I would if I performed brain surgery.

The significance of dog hair, trash cans and toilets is this: They each give me an opportunity to serve my family and pursue a life of great value before the Lord. As I cast off the burden of being ranked among the most accomplished and pursue His approval instead, I see the road that lies before me — and it leads me home.

Shannon Popkin stays home with her three children in Grandville, Mich.

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