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“I’m just a …” Why we need to be intentional about how we talk about ourselves.

Boy holding onto his mum as she carries him over her shoulder

How many times have you uttered these words: “I’m just a …”

I’m just a mum.

I’m just a relief teacher.

I’m just a …

It often happens subconsciously. We often don’t mean it. We just seem to downplay our role. Our stage. Our season.

We feel that because we have taken time off to raise children, gone part time, taken on a different role, declined a promotion, earn less or stepped away from our career that we are less of a person. That we aren’t as interesting or valuable or worthy.

That perhaps if we include the word just when explaining what we do, it might stop someone else from using it. We either feel that what we are doing is less important or worry that the other person might think that. Because work in the home is often seen as less important, less valued, if even seen at all.

Many of us go from working full time in a professional career to taking some time away to have a baby. We are all changed from this experience. Even if we return to the same job with the same hours, we are no longer the same. We have grown a life inside of us.

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We have an attachment with a little human. Our bodies look and feel different. Our sleep is disrupted. Our homes are full of baby stuff. Our brain doesn’t work like it used to. We are no longer the same person. Everything is different.

For those who return to work, the juggle becomes real. We can feel like we have to be the perfect worker and perfect mum and don’t know how to do it. We can feel like we are failing at both, or feel bad when we drop one of the balls. Our time is divided and the mental load is insane.

For those who stay home full time, it can be hard to justify what we do. We are home all day but have nothing to show for it. Even the simple act of having a shower or eating breakfast or lunch can feel impossible. We are needed constantly and it is hard to get anything done. We don’t have a boss to show work to or hear any praise from. It can feel like no one notices what we do.

We are no longer earning a pay cheque so can feel like we are not productive or independent. The money stops coming in and so does contributions to retirement. Time out of the workforce can stunt career development and opportunity to work up the corporate ladder. It can be isolating and incredibly lonely.

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For those who go back to work part-time, we can have the best of both worlds. We can also struggle in both areas too. We can feel like we don’t do either well. We’re not SAHMs and or full-time workers either. We can feel we need to justify how they spend our time. Our career can feel like it’s on hold. We miss out on meetings and training. We can feel out of the loop.

We can be overlooked for promotions and opportunities. Our days at work are so busy that we have to get up to speed with what happened when they were away and feel we have to prove ourselves. Our days at home are busy with fitting in all the appointments, meal planning and prepping, cleaning, present buying and playing.

I find myself in this third camp but have been a stay at home mum too. It’s an adjustment after working full time. I miss earning money and feeling important in my job. I miss having a single focus and feeling good at something.

For the last five years, I’ve fallen into this pattern of using ‘just’ in my language. I’m learning to catch myself and stop. Now I try to say things like:

“I’m a mum. I’ve chosen to stay home with my kids.”

“I’m a teacher. I’ve chosen to work in a relief role right now so I can be more available to my family. I like not having to bring work home and can stay home more easily if my children are sick.”

Although I know logically that what I do for a job does not shape my identity, it can be hard to remember. We live in a society that places importance on what we do.

I’m learning that who I am and who I care for are just as important as what I do for a job. Being a mother is the most important job that I’ll ever do.

I am not ‘just’ a mum.

I am not ‘just’ a relief teacher.

I am not ‘just’ anything.

Words are powerful. When you change your language, you value yourself more. When you value. yourself more, others will see you differently and value you more too. We become more self assured and confident in who we are and the choices that we have made. The language we use affects the way that others see us.

I challenge you this week to think about your language. Think about how it affects the way that others see you. Try to be more intentional about what you say, especially how you talk about yourself.

You are not ‘just’ anybody.

Thoughts?

I’d love to connect with you over on Instagram or Facebook.

Melanie Wegener

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