I’m 28, married to an amazing man, and a mother to two kids. I’m so in love with my life, but I never got a higher education or a job I enjoyed. Quite frankly, I don’t know what I “want to do when I grow up.” I have lots of passions, but I don’t have time right now to pursue them, and I worry that I’m getting too old to get a degree or to get into a field of work I enjoy. I’m so grateful for what I have, but there is a lot of pressure to be a successful woman, and I don’t feel like I am. Any advice?
Jamie, what a breath of fresh air it is to read that you think your husband is amazing! I get so many questions in the Ask Relevant inbox that say (to put it lightly) the opposite. I’m impressed that at 28 you have a marriage you’re proud of, two kids who are great (though you didn’t actually say that, I’m just guessing), and a desire to do more. About that desire to do more …
Let’s first address your statement that there’s “a lot of pressure to be a successful woman.” First, you need to know that you are successful—quite successful, actually. And your success comes in many different forms. Primarily, you are someone God loves a lot. He delights in you and is proud of you. You were inherently born successful.
Secondarily, you’re successful in an incredibly hard job, that is, marriage and parenting. Honestly, I didn’t fully appreciate this until I had kids, but now I know that Oprah was right, being a parent is the hardest job you’ll ever have.
So Jamie, you’re successful in those areas and, I’m quite certain, in many other ways. But from your question, it seems like success would feel, to you, like some deeper vocational satisfaction. And I get that. It’s not like parenting and marriage isn’t enough to make a person successful, as many stay at home parents feel (and are) highly successful! But sometimes, that’s not enough—and that’s OK.
It’s good that you want to be able to explore other interests, and I’m glad you’re able to admit that to yourself. I’ve observed a lot of women who seem to feel bad about not wanting the kid work to be the only work, and that makes me sad. Now, I’m not going to get into a debate about women working outside the home. But what I will say is that God has designed you with dimensions, and there’s nothing wrong with exploring how those other interests and passions can be expressed. So, if I may, let me give you a few things to do right now:
1. Remember that you’re 28. 28! That’s so young! I know you’ve got a lot of responsibility for such a young age, and that may make you feel older than you are, but you’ve got nothing but time to explore new and exciting options.
2. Don’t worry about forever. Remember that very few people actually ever figure out what they want to “do when they grow up.” Being fully vocationally realized is a myth. Additionally, I think it puts an undue amount of pressure on us and, quite frankly, God’s story for your life. Maybe instead of praying for the vocation that will carry you into old age, you could switch is up a bit and pray for God to give you clarity on your next step.
3. Do something—anything! I’m a big experience collector, and my default posture (thanks to Brianne, who’s great at living life to the fullest) is to say yes. I would encourage you to adopt this posture. Because maybe, the next thing isn’t the thing, but maybe it’s something new and exciting that you never saw coming. So keep an eye out for the “random conversations” where a friend invites you to work in her shop twice a week. Or the job posting to serve part-time with a local anti-trafficking organization. Those kinds of encounters aren’t random, and they aren’t “forever” opportunities. They’re changes to learn and grow.
4. Do what you love, today. Maybe you know there’s something that gives you life, but you just can’t seem to figure out how to shoehorn that thing into your extremely busy life. Well, that makes sense. But what doesn’t make sense is deferring that passion until there’s more time. Because—news flash—there will never be more time. Kids may get older and need less one-on-one attention, but I promise you that you won’t magically find the time to open your nonprofit. You never hop off the treadmill, you just figure out how to run a little faster or a little more efficiently (clearly I don’t know a lot about running).
Anyhow, because of the reality that time will never be on your side, I want you to try really hard to start doing something today that fulfills the other dimensions of you that we spoke about earlier. Maybe you make money, maybe you don’t. But there is no price tag on fulfillment, and I encourage you to do all you can to find a way to express some of what you care about, now. If you love to create, make something today. If you love to be type A, find a friend with a business and offer your awesomeness. I don’t know what makes you tick, but you do, and I’m certain there’s some way you can begin to lean into that right now.
And with that Jamie, I leave you. I’m so grateful for your question and your desire to be all that God has designed you to be. I know you and your awesome husband will have good conversations around this, and figure out some great ways for you to be fully realized and energized. Go Jamie go!
Oh to be 28 again,
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Eddie Kaufholz is a writer, speaker and podcaster and serves as a director of church mobilization for International Justice Mission. He also hosts and produces "The New Activist" podcast. You can find on Twitter @EdwardorEddie.