Those can be the five most dreaded words if you're a stay at home mother. The reactions you get can vary. Some folks are very positive when you respond, but some are not. Some give you an amused look and patronizingly comment: "Oh, well isn't that nice? That's the hardest job of all, isn't it?"
If you're a homeschool mom, sometimes, the reactions are interesting. "You, what? Aren't your kids social misfits? And you like wearing denim jumpers?"
If you're a woman with no children at home any longer, people may just assume you're lazy, and like to sit at home watching Oprah and surfing the internet.
The question is an honest one, though. Much of who we are is in what we do. My husband spends the majority of his days at the office, working at his job. His work is of the nature that it comes home with him often. But it's not all who he is. There are other things that are more significant about him. He's a Christian, a father, a husband, a news junkie, a nerd, a lover of cheesy seventies music, a Star Trek junkie.
There is a danger in making everything we are what we do. Why is that? Well, first of all, our primary identity must be in Christ, and to be united with Christ is about grace, not about what we have done. I can be the best at whatever it is I do, whether I am paid financial remuneration or not, but if my relationship with Christ is one of separation or estrangement, I'm in trouble. Ultimately, my identity is a Christian first. How I am at those other identities is intimately connected with that primary identity of being a Christian.
Another reason why it may be a dangerous game to make all we are in what we do is the inevitable: old age. Case in point, my father. He was a wonderful provider. He sacrificed a lot so that we could have what we did. He was also a workaholic. There were times when I was a child that I would hear him tell my mother that he had no choice, he had to work that hard. I believe he believed he had to, but I don't think he was entirely accurate. I know him; part of it was the thrill of conquering the work. I don't blame him for that. It's who he is; it's how he was brought up. Not being a Christian man, how would he know that his ultimately identity was meant to lie elsewhere?
When my father retired, he was barely 60 years old. It was great at first when he retired, because he was able to spend time with his grandchildren. My father may have been often unavailable when I was a child, but he more than made up for it in the devotion he showed to his grandchildren. Every grandchild loved and adored "Poppa" because he loved them so much. He would read to them, be silly with them, be patient with them, take them places, watch their ridiculous children's videos with them, play video games with them. He was also able to re-visit his hobbies, like making furniture, home renovations, golfing, and local service clubs.
However, ten years into his retirement, with all of his children and grandchildren now living far away from him, and his participation in his service clubs diminished somewhat, my father embarked on a downhill plunge into clinical depression. I'm thankful to say that today, he is recovering and is more like himself. One thing is interesting, though. My mother recently told me that he's been working with the board of directors of his golf club, in the financial area; the same industry he worked in. He's busy again. He's working again. He's getting better. So much of who my father is depends on what he does. When he was sick, I prayed that the darkness would be removed from him, and that he would see that there was a Creator where he could find the ultimate meaning of who he is. I'm still praying, and I will continue to. The fact is that things can happen to change what we do. Often, they can happen when we least expect it.
I like being busy. When I get sick, and I can't do all of the things I know need doing, I get frustrated and discouraged. If I make my identity too much about what I do, will I succumb to the same feelings of loss when I get to be in my 70's? I hope not. My identity is in Christ, not in what I do. It's unfortunate that the need to earn a living, or fulfill a call on our lives comes with the temptation to turn that thing into an idol in our hearts. But that's the way it works. If I make my identity about what I do, I run that risk. Whatever I do ought to be influenced by who I am in Christ. Growing in Christ is a continual process; that's the one thing we don't have to stop doing. Ever.