Have you ever thought about how you spend your time each day? Not so much a list, but more like categories. As mamas, we have lots of categories—kids, marriage, home, work, church, you name it. And somehow, we juggle all of that, every day. Whether you realize it or not, what you do means so much more than you think.
How we spend our days really is how we spend our lives.
No matter what people tell you, there’s no one-size-fits-all or even one-size-fits-most way to fill your days. Hear this right now. You can stay home forever (not in the sense of being a hermit), work part-time, work full-time, or find an in-between that’s just right for you.
What you do each day isn’t about the work, it’s about what fulfills you and brings you to life. Maybe you don’t even get a paycheck, but you love what you do.
Who you are
Wife. Mama. Sister. Friend. Barista. Nurse. Writer. Boss.
There are a million words we could use to describe ourselves. Each one conveys a sliver about who we might be and what people should expect from us. Even though other people can see the outward descriptors, the words we choose for ourselves are the most important.
For more than a decade I’ve worked with my husband. We’re so embedded in our careers as a team most people refer to us as The Shanks. I love the meaning behind that title. It represents what we do together, a long list of accomplishments, and some hard lessons too. Being The Shanks makes me proud.
I’m also mama to three children. Head to any soccer game, football game, concert, etc. and I’m #1’s mama, #2’s mama, or #3’s mama. In that instant, I become defined by motherhood and connection to my kids. When I watch them doing what they love, it’s amazing to be their mama.
But, there’s also the part who wants to be just me, Kelly.
The bigger meaning
What we do helps form our identity.
I know people will say our identities are formed as believers and followers of Jesus. This is absolutely true. He also gave us a world full of options so sometimes it’s hard to decide what we’re supposed to do. Maybe several things are equally good, but there’s one that makes us feel more alive.
Whether you want to admit it or not, you already have strong feelings about what you do each day. I know I do. When we’re connected to a job, an activity, or a cause, it becomes how we see ourselves. Being disconnected leads to anxiety, disappointment and striving. Finding your place is awesome, but the journey to get there can be slow and hard.
For me, working forms a huge part of my identity. Even though I struggle to balance everything and tend to overload my schedule, if I don’t have a work outlet I’m ignoring the way God created me. I’m wired to work, even if I do need to set better boundaries. I can’t imagine not working.
What does work mean to you?
Think about some of your best days. You’ve hit all your marks for the day, people are happy, you’re happy—what were you doing? Living within your gifting is energizing. Work isn’t just about the job or the money, the way you feel is even more important. Finding a place where you feel successful with people who care is life-giving. Plus, giving away our gifts to people who need them is the ultimate high, no matter where you are. We long for connection and purpose.
When you find your work, it fulfills you.
Defining who you are and what you do
Over the next week, think about how you spend your days. We have lots of options but we need to choose the path that leads to the life we want to live. In everything we do, we can reach people. Start thinking about how you want to define yourself and how you want to reach people.
- Ask 2 of your closest friends to choose 4 titles that identify you. Look for titles, not characteristics (wife, nurse, etc.). If your friend wanted to write your life resume, what would she include?
- Choose 4 titles to identify yourself. What are the most important titles you choose from your life? I’d choose Wife, Mama, Writer, and Advocate.
- Compare the 2 lists. What are the differences? Too often, we’re overly hard on ourselves and we need someone to show us our good traits. Maybe you’ve been hiding the thing you really want. For several years, I avoided sharing my writing completely. Even if you love what you do, opening yourself up to others is scary.
- Write the identity you want. Define yourself. When you claim your identity, you also start setting your path forward. Write it down. Put it where you can see it. Say it out loud. Believe in yourself.
Do not allow other people to define you or your dream. The one thing I know for sure is each of us has a unique place in our community. You might be the PTA mama or the homeschool mama. Maybe you’re jumping between meetings or sports practices.
What we do each day shapes how we spend our lives. Not only does that affect us, it impacts everyone around us. How will what you do today make you better?
We’re taking a deep dive into our work as mamas. What our work means is question #1. Find the first post of this series here, and then check back next week as we identify how work fulfills our emotional needs.
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