It’s my great pleasure to introduce you to my hilarious but wise friend, Connie Jakab. Connie’s the kind of girl that tells it like it is, but with a deep understanding that we’re all in this together. You’re going to love what she has to say, both here and in her new book “Culture Rebel: Because the World has Enough Desperate Housewives” And, she’s giving away 3 copies of it today over at Moms Together on facebook! Stop by to join in the conversation.
“Go big or go home.” Us moms seem to have fallen for this motto when it comes to reaching out and making a difference. The result? Many have “gone home”. We place enormous amounts of expectations on ourselves. We seem to think that if we can’t juggle our kids, volunteer at church, make gourmet meals, have a perfectly clean house, be the head of the Parent Committee at school, AND save the world (and look hot while doing it), then we’ve failed.
You know how ludicrous that sounds, don’t you? We all laugh at how much we expect from ourselves, but when we’re driving in our van, kids screaming out of control with our world crumbling around us, our minds can send us into a downward spiral of hopelessness.
I had a reader of my blog write me an honest letter about how she felt about my encouragement for moms to reach out to a broken world. With her permission, she writes:
“I have been a reader of your blog since the beginning. I’m usually inspired and uplifted by the posts. But lately, more often than not, they make me a little cranky. Mad even, sometimes. You have a passion for outreach and that is great! But my passion for, well, anything, has been replaced by responsibility and obligation. I am a full time working single mother with little to no support. If I am caught up on my laundry, that is a huge success. Weekends are filled with chores, errands, visiting with friends long overdue. I have no idea how to fit anything more into my life (and that includes exercise). Reading your blog reminds me of more things I am not doing, that I should do, or at least want to do. It is a struggle to look past my rented apartment door and see the needs of others. I don’t want to be so self-absorbed, but it is difficult to move past survival mode and take on even one more thing – no matter how noble or worthwhile or necessary to make The World a Better Place. I’m just trying to figure out how to make my world a tolerable one.”
Do you relate to this? Nine times out of ten bets you do. Women everywhere are in survival mode like this reader; work, kids, and if you’re a single parent everything just escalates that much further. I would like to respond by giving away another bit of my book for free on the blog. This part of the book was written from my own frustration; wishing my life could do more than just “survive”. Truth be told, we all spend the majority of our day fulfilling the responsibilities tied to us. Doesn’t seem sexy at all – even when I imagine Chariots of Fire playing in the background. To my frustrated reader (and any others who are frustrated but haven’t said anything), this is for you:
Change Your World
I have had numerous conversations with women in particular about “changing the world.” The concept always seems to freak them out. It’s not that they don’t want to. They just don’t know how. The “how” is too overwhelming to the mom with two young kids under five. That woman isn’t in a world-changing mindset; she’s in survival mode. When her eyes glaze over and start looking at me like I’m speaking in a foreign language, I go chat with a young adult about this concept and watch their idealistic eyes enlarge.
This idea of “changing the world” is a rather new concept to our time in history. Of the 1.5 million titles in Harvard’s collections published before 1900, zero included references to changing the world. But the amount of Google searches for “changing the world” in 2007 was 8,770,000 (Andy Crouch, Culture Making). Apparently, changing the world has become a popular concept, an overwhelming one at that.
Whether you are one of those moms living in survival mode or you are a young adult who still believes in marshmallow clouds, I’m happy to say that changing the world is doable for you. I want to take the pressure off your shoulders right now by telling you the truth: you cannot change the world. Uh-oh. My young adult friend’s marshmallows just melted. The survival mom stopped to look up.
You can’t change the world, but you can change your world—the world you presently live in, the street you live on, the school you or your kids go to, the place you work, your home. Those you can influence. And you know what? It’s significant. To all the “Connie-type,” overachieving dreamers reading, I know what I just told you will not be enough. I know for you, if it doesn’t involve stadium-sized impact, it’s just not big enough. I would like to tell you what that still small voice told me not too long ago: “Get over yourself.” Stop trying to impact the orphans in Africa, the human trafficking in Europe, and those who are working in factories in China while you don’t even know the family who lives next door to you. (I know. It hurt me to hear that too.)
Maybe one day us overachievers will have an impact on people on a completely different continent. Maybe you will one day find yourself leading a stadium-sized movement, but while you’re waiting for these great opportunities to arise, may I offer the humble idea of meeting your neighbors? Why not invite them over for dinner and get to know them? Share your sugar. Look for needs in your own community. Find out what you can offer to the city you live in. Research the growing number of working poor in your city and see what you can do can do about that. Volunteer to make lunches for kids who go to the local school, haven’t had breakfast, and have no lunch either. It’s a humble beginning, but world domination is right around the corner, I’m sure.
Sometimes “changing the world” means changing your baby’s bum, helping your child with homework and focusing on meeting your family’s needs. Life has many seasons. There are seasons of action and seasons where responsibility and taking care of family is a needed priority – one that can leave no room for guilt. I think our obsession with making a difference in the world has played with our egos. We’re really not that spectacular. If you’re barely surviving, then the fact you got through today with laundry done deserves applause. This season will end and a new season will begin. Till the next season, don’t beat yourself up.
I think the biggest question is: do you notice people? On transit, in the grocery store, at the school? Start there. Start looking at people, say “hi”. You never know who needs it. Noticing people has been undermined by visions of grandeur. And why not involve your kids in efforts to reach out? I took my son to the store to buy a new neighbor some flowers, in which he was proud to deliver. I take both my boys to volunteer at the homeless shelter serving lunch. We invite people into our home for meals, which includes our sons. They are growing up to think that extending hospitality to the marginalized is “normal”. We downplay the power of having people in our homes. We’ve had many wonderful moments around our table.
Small things only seem “small”. You don’t have to go “big”, and please whatever you do, don’t “go home”. It’s time for God’s women to be free to live every moment in God’s mission for their lives. He can take any small act and use it greatly for His Kingdom.
“Culture Rebel: Because the World has Enough Desperate Housewives” is available now through Amazon.