I recently sat across the table from another woman over a dinner of sub-par pizza at a unexceptional restaurant. We attempted to have some semblance of a conversation despite the persistent din of her young children, who apparently found our attempts at female fellowship dull, at best.
It was my first time meeting her, and I was trying to get a feel for who she was – really was – beneath the frustrations, disappointments, and chaos swirling around her in this current season of life. Ah, the joys of young motherhood.
“So,” I asked as an impatient two-year-old tugged indignantly at her sleeve in an attempt to be noticed, “do you work outside the home?”
She sighed, looking down at the half-eaten slice with exhausted, golden-brown eyes, shoulders drooping visibly, finger tracing an especially deep gash running across the old Formica tabletop. “I used to have a career,” she answered softly. “Now… I’m just a mom.”
Four simple letters that, when put together, bear incredibly complex undertones. It is a seemingly innocuous word that makes it into our self-attribution (and that of others) all too frequently. We do it almost subconsciously, a socially conditioned reaction, the cumulative effect of being constantly held up to the glaring light of expectation and being told (whether out loud or subliminally) that we are not enough, that we fall short. It’s our defeated nod to the other woman – the one we wish we could be, the one society says we ‘should’ be.
It is the ultimate devaluation of ourselves as women – an apologetic synopsis of our lives. And interestingly, it seems far more prevalent among women (in my everyday experience) than our male counterparts.
I cannot recall a single time in all of my interactions when I have asked a man what he does and have received a dejected response of, “I’m just a pilot.” Nor, for that matter, do we respond in like to the question regarding our husbands. He’s important, valid, worthy. He isn’t ‘just’, he is.
However, if I had a nickel for every time a woman has tossed in an apologetic ‘just’ when expressing her own position in life, I could easily retire from being ‘just’ an author and live out the rest of my days on a tropical isle ‘just’ enjoying life.
I’m just a mom…just a wife…just a caregiver…just a homemaker…just a house cleaner…just a teacher…just an office manager.
Ladies, listen to me! It’s time to ‘just’ stop!
You. Are. Precious. I am telling you, like I told that beautiful mom on that not-so-long-ago day, what you are doing is more than ‘just’, it is infinitely important! Understand it. Embrace it. Wear it like a Medal of Honor. You matter.
If you choose to stay home with your children, be proud! If you choose to support your family by working a secretarial job, be proud! If you take care of the home while your husband works, be proud! If you are the CEO of a multimillion firm, be proud!
When someone asks you what you do, whatever that may be, be proud. Hold your head up high. Own your identity. Look them in the eye and answer with dignity and without apology. “I am a mom! I am a doctor! I am a wife! I am a nonprofit volunteer! I am a house cleaner!”
Because you are not ‘just’. You are unique, beautiful, created, loved. You have a purpose. Your station in life is not secondary to your spouse. Your identity is not dependent on his career. You are as infinitely important in the equation as he is.
The world likes to sort and rank. It wants to place higher value on some life endeavors than others. It likes its hierarchy and division. Aviation is one of those careers that seem to rank high in the importance quota. It’s so easy for us to get lost in the contrails. Believe me, I know. If we are not intentional, it can blow us aside in the overpowering exhaust of its jet engines like particles of unnoticed dust until we, the spouses of aviation, become ‘just’.
But you are more. Oh-so-much MORE.
I know a lot of Pilot Wives. By a lot, I mean a lot! And here’s the truth. You are pretty friggin’ amazing. Loving a traveling man is not easy. Facing the aloneness is not for the weak of heart or mind. Standing firm in the chaos is not simple. It takes an incredible amount of resolve, strength, intelligence, courage, love, faith, patience, and perseverance to do what you do. Did I mention strength? I have never met a more resilient and beautiful group of women than I have found in the sisters of aviation. I am proud to know you – to be one of you.
I know we can sometimes feel insignificant amidst the billions of people in the world and especially under the shadow cast by the plane. I believe, however, that you are deeply and unconditionally loved by God who hand created you to be the perfect and only you. You are not just one lost in a billion but rather, you are the only one out of a billion!
Perfect. Precious. Priceless.
Only you can fulfill the purpose you were created for. You are the only one who is the perfect mom for those children. You are the one who is the perfect wife for your husband. You are the only one who is the perfect friend to that special someone. You are the only one perfect for that job. You are the only one who is the perfect you put in the perfect place to perfectly fulfill your perfect purpose in this moment.
You are not ‘just’ – You ARE.
So here’s what I propose. Let’s ‘just’ stop. It is time we refuse to apologize for the us that we are. It’s time to acknowledge our importance in this world, exactly the way we are, where we are. It’s time to stop devaluing ourselves and understand how incredibly, amazingly, breathtakingly, incomparably wonderful we are and incredibly amazingly, breathtakingly, incomparably important our role in this whole great, big life picture is.
So ladies, the next time someone asks, hold your head up high, remember how fiercely loved and infinitely important you are and tell them…
I love YOU, aviation family. No just about it.
Angelia (way more than ‘just’ a fellow Pilot Wife)