Last year the stomach bug held my whole family hostage the week before Thanksgiving, so I turned to the one foolproof, self-medicating outlet within my grasp: Netflix.
Since I was able to keep down a few saltine crackers, I decided my stomach could handle viewing a few episodes of The Great British Baking Show. Maybe it was the British accents or the soothing background music, but my first experience watching these amateur home bakers catapulted me out of my misery and into a dreamy world of warm tea biscuits and lush English gardens.
Even with two kids under 3 at home with me, I knocked out the first season in a single day. Don’t be too impressed—the boys were mostly crawling over my legs while I threw crackers at them to keep them occupied. As naptime ensued and the house grew quiet, I convinced my sickly husband to leave the bed and shuffle to The Sick Couch with me to watch the final episode. I propped him up and fed him crackers and Sprite as I promised his confused face that this was totally worth it and you can nap later. He weakly agreed, and as the final episode began, I discovered something about the three finalists:
They just liked to bake.
According to their bios highlighted in the last episode, these three talented bakers simply took joy in baking and sharing the fruits of their labor with those close to them. They weren’t into fame, fortune, launching a cookbook, or winning a coveted spot on Food Network after securing their success as top baker. But what these dedicated artisans of flaky goodness did love was wielding their whisks, finding value in creating and sharing their art, delighting souls young and old with the pleasure of puff pastries.
Nancy, the winning baker of season one, became visibly emotional after receiving her victory bouquet, and my own eyes brimmed as I took in her simple, profound joy. As the last episode closed, I read the notes about her ventures after the show. She recently baked a wedding cake for a family member. She frequently teaches her grandchildren the secrets to her success in her very own kitchen.
Moments of silence surrounded us on The Sick Couch. “You’re crying?” my husband asked, eyebrows up.
“Yes,” I said between sniffs into the Kleenex. “It’s just so beautiful. She just loves to BAKE. It’s that simple.”
He gave me that “Very heartwarming, babe” look, but as moments passed, so did my tender mood, likely erratic from my steady diet of unleavened bread and water. Next whispered that critical inner voice we all carry:
That’s not enough. You’re not enough. You need to do more.
I began pleading with Nancy through my television screen. “Wait! You’re better than that! You have so much to offer!” I wanted to be content with her humble decision to bake treats for her grandkids. But I told her through the screen that it wasn’t good enough; how was she going to make a name for herself without using her talents for income and publicity?
I flashed back to my one-minute-ago self, who was crying over the beauty of simply enjoying baking, and wondered how I’d leaped to making demands in a matter of seconds. What was wrong with just loving something you were created to do? Doesn’t that have immense value?
And then I’m pretty sure Nancy answered me. It may have been the complete lack of nutrients reaching my brain cells, but she spoke, I tell you. Why can’t you accept your role as a mom without demanding more from yourself? Ouch, Nance.
I dared to listen to myself answering back. But I want glory! I want to do what you can do! But I’m so TIRED of trying.
It hit me in that moment that I hadn’t accepted that enjoying things like cooking or watching my boys play in the dirt held just as much value as my previous teaching career did. In my twisted mind, being a mom was never enough for me, my family, or, most troubling, for God.
If I’m honest with myself, I let what I did professionally determine my identity, leaving me a stay-at-home mom who “used to be” many things.
It took me three years of not working to see how I had been drinking from a fountain of self-righteousness during my teaching days and couldn’t find another well to satisfy the ache of identity loss, or another voice to speak “well done” over my performance. My sticky kitchen floors sure weren’t saying it. The questions screamed:
Who am I now?
What do I have to offer?
Is it enough?
It’s easy to believe the answers to those questions are no one, nothing, and no.
But that’s where we moms can fight for each other. We can weaken the enemy’s lies by speaking the very words of God: “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)
The enemy of our souls wants to lure us into the comparison trap where being a mom isn’t “enough.” We begin to question our decisions when we see other women choosing different paths: Look at all those talented women attaining goals and recognition! Will I ever have what it takes to be like them? Do I have what it takes to even be a great mom?
That’s a recipe sure to bake up a big batch of crazy.
I’m so grateful for the women who have told me it’s ok to go to the gym, put my toddler in preschool, schedule more date nights, and even confess that some days I don’t like being a stay-at-home mom. And slowly, I’m starting to believe the real truth: Our great God loves us because we are His. It’s that simple. I don’t have to do anything to earn His favor.
At the same time, He’s made me a mom. And whether I’m an acclaimed teacher or simply a tired woman trying to catch a glimpse of sanity, He loves me and He placed me in this role.
So thanks, Nancy, for “just” being a baker. Because I’m “just” a mom who needs to be reminded that God “just” loves me. For now, I’ll keep talking and listening to Him, remembering that He is always teaching me, sometimes even through the television .
About the Author:
Emily Dagostin lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her husband Andrew and two rough and tumble little boys. She can usually be found man-venturing with them in the great outdoors, helping them work up an appetite for one of her perfected one-pot meals. Emily enjoys teaching Bible studies, painting, and reading a good period piece that reminds her of her previous years as an English teacher.