First Things First Ain’t Bad

A while ago, I caught a Today show segment where they interviewed a powerful female executive who had just written a new book. In her lifetime, the author had passed a number of professional milestones, gaining wealth, influence, and prestige along the way. She’d earned leadership, she’d made big deals, she’d won awards, she’d won admiration, she’d traveled the world. Still, when asked to share some of her greatest memories, this woman paused to speak of something quite simple.

She talked about time at home, noting conversations and interactions she’d had with her family over the years. She specifically noted the countless warm dinners they’d had in the evenings—hours and hours spent together around the table. Those meals, she said, were some of the most important things she’d ever done. Period. As I sat and listened to the woman’s words, I found her perspective to be drastically different from that of some other moms I’ve met over the years. Specifically, it made me think of a recurring dialogue I have, often when I meet a mom for the first time.

In order to get to know somebody, you see, I like to ask questions, and often one of the first questions I’ll ask is, “Do you work for a living?” Now, I don’t intend for this question to be insulting or offensive—just common, get-to-know-you kind of stuff. Still, on a somewhat regular basis, when I ask this question of a woman, she’ll respond with embarrassment. “Do you work for a living?” I’ll say, and promptly she’ll duck her head and slump her shoulders. Often, she’ll shuffle her feet too, and drop her gaze to the floor. Then, with her voice low like she doesn’t want to get caught, she’ll say, “No, I don’t. I’m just a mom.”

Just a mom. The irony packed into that statement is incredible. It’s hard to believe that someone could belittle such a job with the word “just,” but I’ve heard it happen often, to the point that the Today show mom’s outlook provided a refreshing contrast. When it came to her everyday nine-to-five routine, here was a woman who seemed to have dabbled in a little bit of everything. Her responsibilities and commitments stretched far beyond family, yes—but her heart and her focus remained at home, and she made sure her behavior reflected that.

Regardless of all the other things she could’ve done, this mom chose to keep family at the top of her list. There’s no doubt it took sacrifice; priorities like that always do. She probably could’ve had more money, more power, more authority, more “oohs” and “aahs” in her wake, but she would’ve had to forfeit her family dinners, and she wasn’t willing to do that. Instead, she chose to be just the center of somebody’s universe. Just the person who introduces a child to the world. Just the arms that wrap up a baby, just the fingers that pick up Cheerios all day long.

Just a cornerstone for family and relationships. Just a compass for navigating life’s path. Just a hero in the eyes of her children. Just the touch that calms their fears. Just the melody that sings them to sleep. Just the laugh they’ll mimic for a lifetime. Instead of all the other things she could’ve done, she kept first things first. That’s what moms do after all, isn’t it? Men, let’s make sure we’re appreciating the stay-at-home moms in our lives, especially if we’re married to them!