Motivated by the impending invasion of middle school girls that will be upon us tomorrow, I spent the morning de-cluttering the room where said girls will be sleeping this weekend. (It’s not as treacherous as it sounds. We will be hosting a sweet group of girls from our church for an in-town discipleship weekend.) When one begins the task of stripping away weeks, or perhaps months, even years of clutter, one finds that she might have dug herself into a deeper hole than expected! One might also discover a few hidden treasures.
I’m not gonna lie, there were a LOT of very old files that could be classified as basically useless–remainders from my years in publishing from an industry that doesn’t play by the same rules it once did (e-books, texting, social media…none of that existed when I was writing press releases and keeping paper files of everything). But one benefit of this never-ending paper trail is that I also have a hefty file of notes, articles, and printed emails from an array of sources that I like to call my “Way to go!” file.
Whether it’s a hand-written note from a member of my church choir, thanking me for “leading with excellence,” or a third-party email via an author’s agent, praising me for the jacket copy that “might be better than the book,” these scraps of paper are a reminder that I have skills…that I am talented…that I have done and can continue to do worthy work.
So why is that so important? Perhaps it’s a weakness, this incessant need for approval, but I believe it’s a weakness we all share to some extent, and perhaps no one more than the no-longer-working-outside-the-home mother. We need to know that we are more. More than the mother of our children. More than the sum of their accomplishments and accolades. More than the woman behind the other people. You see, most of us have been in the workforce at one time or another. We had a past, a job, a career. And most of us, at a time defined only as someday, will need or want to return. And that, my friend, is a daunting realization for this SAHM.
When I force myself to answer the big question of my hypothetical future, it creates anxiety and leads to more questions than answers. If I had to go back to work tomorrow, what sort of work would I do? Would I even be qualified? Would anyone hire me with no recent experience? But this. This “Way to go!” file reminds me that I am capable of doing great things. It shuts down the naysaying voices and empowers me. It says that I am accomplished. And so, I think that maybe I can accomplish a few more things in my life.
So gather those slips of paper. Don’t be afraid to print out an email that pays a compliment. Save that text that thanks you for being a stellar friend. You might not need the encouraging word today when you’re living the dream. But someday…well…yep…it will get different.
P.S. Be an encourager too! It only takes a little extra effort to let someone know when they’ve done something with excellence. And your compliment might be more needed than you’ll ever know.