We’re midway through a series examining how mothers can establish their identity in very different ways, depending on whether we’re using our culture’s criteria or a Biblical framework. Nowhere do we see this more clearly than in the way we use salary as a measure of success. If you asked the average American who the most successful man or woman of our generation is, I’d guess that Mark Zuckerberg, the multi-billionaire founder of Facebook, would top the list. I don’t know much about him beyond his fictional portrayal in The Social Network and the fact that he pledges to give most of his money away. He is indeed very rich and very successful, as is his Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, who rose to fame for her book advocating women to “lean in” to their careers (even at the expense of their families) in order to achieve greater success in the workplace.
Sandberg is worth $1.07 billion dollars, and she is living proof that women are certainly capable of all the things she advocates. But there’s a danger in measuring our worth in dollars. If your identity is all tied up in how much you earn, a downturn of the economy can wreck havoc with your self-image. If your identity is dependent on your job, that identity can change whenever you shift careers. If your identity is your career, being passed up for a promotion becomes a personal attack. You’ve become a slave of something that doesn’t care about you in your off hours or when you retire. As much as your colleagues might respect you, they will never love you like your family does. And sometimes your colleagues don’t respect you, even when it’s not your fault.
We as a culture respect a woman like Sandberg who sells her talents, abilities, and time to the highest bidder, in this case, Facebook. We don’t praise cleaning ladies, grocery checkers, daycare workers, or other women working minimum wage jobs, although they constitute a far greater percentage of the female workforce in this country. We’re interested in the women who are breaking glass ceilings and making as much as their male counterparts. It seems that I’m always seeing social media posts urging women to demand higher salaries, and on the message boards I frequent, moms who post about taking promotions with a pay raise are always encouraged to, regardless of the effect on their children. Why is it admirable to work for pay, but lazy to work for love?
Because that’s what we’re doing, fellow stay-at-home moms. We’re working for love. We’re using our talents, abilities, and time on our children, and in doing so, we’re shaping the next generation. This is Kingdom work. We are cultural resistance fighters. None of us will ever show up on a “Most Successful Women in America Today” list, but that should not affect our identity. Earning potential is a fickle measure of our worth.