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My value does not come from the approbation of those around me, even when it is appreciated. My value does not come from my high standing in society, my fancy title or my lucrative career, for I have none of those. I reread a book recently, titled The Richest Man in Babylon. It is a good book, short, and worth the read. However, this statement stuck out to me while reading, “Money is the medium by which earthly success is measured.”

I was reminded in that moment, why mothers in America often state that they feel undervalued and unappreciated. If money is the measure of success, then a mother spending her entire day with her children has failed, for she has no direct income. If money is the measure of success, a mother sacrificing her career in any way to raise her children is a failure. Yet, that isn’t true.

Remember that much of value cannot be bought. Friendship. Love. Peace. Joy.

The people on magazine covers and in headlines are wealthy, famous, powerful and successful. A 29-year-old man or woman can be put on the 30 Under 30 list and praised for reaching career success or unicorn status with a start-up before thirty. Photos of them in an expensive suit or designer clothes grace the cover. Lists of the houses they have bought or news about the vacations they take can be found online.

There is no 30 Under 30 for parents. There is not a list of successful mothers plastered on the front page of a magazine. For our success as mothers looks different than money, titles and fame. We don’t have a ladder to climb and can’t point back to repeated promotions to show our progress. We don’t add certifications and take training courses for an additional blurb on our LinkedIn profile.

Our success is when we maintain calm in the midst of a screaming, swirling emotional storm before us in the shape of a growing four-year-old. Our success is when we redirect and calmly repeat for the thousandth time that we cannot hurt or push our friends to our two-year-old. Our success is when we don’t lose our cool, listening to the moans of complaint when we announce it is time to get ready for bed and our eight-year-old slumps in a disgruntled heap on the floor whining and kicking in frustration, begging to do just one more thing. Our success is when we peacefully assist our children getting out of bed for the third time to get a drink of water right when we thought they were drifting off to sleep. Our success is providing a solid support of emotional stability for young humans to fling their tears, whining and complaints against without disturbing our calm. When we accomplish these things, we have succeeded. But no one is there to praise us. No one hands us an award. There is not talk of promotion and perhaps a raise. You could triple my salary and I would still make nothing. But the day described above would be an emotionally and mentally tasking, incredible success.

I am sorry to admit that I have yelled at my children. I have said words I regret and had to apologize for. I have acted in ways around them that I have never and would never act around anyone else in my entire life. If I could see a mirror or video of myself in the moment, it would be unbearable. Even without a mirror, I feel the choking sense of shame and self-hate welling up as the moment passes and one is happily humming and the other is hanging around my neck for a hug while the third and fourth sigh in relief that mommy has found her reason again. It is easy to feel like an utter failure in those moments and double on the shame reminding myself that I have no other claim to success than the measure available at home.

But am I not valuable? Do I provide nothing to society? If I draw my value from my salary, I am nothing. If I draw my value from my possessions, I am far from being on trend. If I find my value in my title, I have grown to hate the very word "mother" some days for the amount of times it is said in the most whiny, needy, grating way you can possibly imagine. If I find my value in my loving parenting, that can be shattered in an instant when I suddenly reach my breaking point and can no longer contain my own emotions to balance out theirs.

Look at those beautiful babies.   

I started looking at what a return to a career could be like for me but realized I am scared. I'm afraid to risk my relationship with my children. I'm afraid to find joy in a career and negate the value of all those years spent without. I’m afraid to make it seem like I need the career and titles and position to value myself. Because I don’t.

Mothers cannot need those external things to view themselves as valuable.  I cannot need those things because if I do, it states that I wasted the last ten years of my life by focusing on raising my children instead. I didn't waste these years. Needing that external recognition and finding my value in those would state that I am now finally stepping from failure into the pursuit of success.

Our society values fame, wealth, progress, awards, promotions, acknowledgement, position and power. Full-time mothers do not have any of those. Mothers must find value within and from God. We can accept praise from our partners on a job well done and praise them as well. We can hope that our children will one day tell us they appreciate how we raised them and that they felt loved. But decades are a long time to wait for recognition. Mothers have to value ourselves in each moment. I am grateful to have a partner who recognizes and values me too. But I hear of many mothers who don't have that.

I know how much my time is worth to me. I know there are a myriad of ways I could be using my time in the managing and care of my children and household, in addition to other draws such as my marriage, my friendships, my desire for hobbies and time and space for me to think and write and read and breathe. But my time is worth so much more to me than anyone is willing to pay for it. Having a spotty record of mismatched part-time jobs and no clear career progression or any job at all for large chunks of time in the last five years, makes my resume seem to speak volumes about the poor hire I would be. The level of current expertise I hold in any professional field is nil. The job types and salary expectations I can hold don’t even pay for the cost of putting my two youngest children in daycare, let alone fulfill any type of professional career aspirations I have.

I have delayed and delayed this decision because I don’t know where to begin. I can’t think of any job I can immediately fill that uses my talents and interests well, because my talents and growth don’t show anywhere in my formal work experience. Which again, brings up the question of value. If "money is the medium by which earthly success is measured;" if I can only value myself at the level of the money I can make, then I am as valuable as an entry-level teenager heading to their first job on the weekends and after class. Yet I have two decades of life experience since then and the emotional and mental capacity that come with those.

The foreword of the book I mentioned says, “Our acts can be no wiser than our thoughts. Our thinking can be no wiser than our understanding.” It is my understanding that an immeasurable amount of value is provided around the world every day that will never and can never be compensated. It is my understanding that a large income simply means you chose a target for the value you provide that can afford to pay you. Money is just a measure of exchange.

A job provides a value that someone will pay you for. I have been serving my children for free these last few years. I am providing value, just as a doctor volunteering medical care, and a lawyer taking a case pro bono, provide value even though the services are free. My children cannot compensate me financially for the value I provide them. A disabled, poverty-stricken elderly person cannot pay for the services they desperately need. But those services have tremendous value; those services allow them their life. Money is simply a measure of who you are providing your services to and if they can exchange for them. Many services are needed that no one can afford to pay for. That is why charities exist. A lucrative career simply means you found someone who can pay you for the value you provide. Money is an exchange. But much of value exists outside these exchanges.

If you remember to frame it this way, you won’t feel defeat or worthless when you lose a job or end your career. Your value is within. Just because you don’t have somewhere to apply that value in the moment for an exchange of money, doesn’t change who you are. You are a beautiful, valuable, incredible work of art by a loving God who delights in your every moment. Just by breathing, walking, eating, sleeping, thinking, singing, listening, and participating in every other tiny part of day to day existence, you have value.

You are fulfilling in every moment what God designed you to be: a human experiencing His world. When we love others and share our time, create friendships and help our families and communities, we are successful. A different kind of successful; one that cannot be measured by the exchange of money.

God measures your value differently than the world. He loves you simply for being you.

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