I recently read an article on motherhood about the concept of developing our “second bests.” It’s a fantastic article, and I highly recommend you read it!
I’d never heard this concept before, but it resonated greatly with me in this season of manic mothering. The topic came from G.K. Chesterton’s Emancipation of Domesticity, where he said that a woman who has made the home her domain “may develop all her second bests.”
At this statement, I both recoiled and nodded my head in agreement. The pre-motherhood me fights against this idea and wants to steamroll my way through life, doing everything I did before plus mother my children.
The me of today lets out a sigh of co-mingled frustration and relief as I think about all the times this week I’ve tried to sit down and write. All the times I opened my computer, only to hear the dryer buzz, or my son’s cries, or my daughter’s strong-willed insistent wail, decrying nap time.
And then there were the times when the house was fairly quiet and still, and yet all I had the energy to do was plop down on the couch and watch television.
Not the most productive use of time, I’d chide myself—yet that internal scolding didn’t stop me from pressing “next episode” every time the option presented itself. Thank you, Netflix!
Second Best or Second Rate?
I enjoyed the perspective in the above-mentioned article, but I couldn’t help but think about those times when even our “second bests” feel second rate at best or non-existent at worst.
Currently, I’d say I’m in a holding pattern characterized by this. What little modicum of free time I might have to devote to my second bests is, more often than not, hijacked by the demands of my first and most important calling. I know I’m not the only one, as all you mamas are sure to relate!
God has been keeping my feet to the fire lately on account of this issue and revealing just how selfish I truly am when it comes to my time. My toddlers like to stomp their feet and yowl when they don’t get to do what they want, when they want—and just when I’m nearly overcome with frustration at their behavior, I’m struck with the realization that this is exactly what my heart does when my own plans are interrupted.
I may not stomp around on the outside, but my insides are throwing themselves down and setting up for a little pity-party. It’s humbling to admit that, but it’s simply the truth.
The recent frustration in pursuing my second bests has brought me back to a basic but challenging truth: my time is not my own. As a child of God, I am not the one ultimately calling the shots—time is in His Hands, and what time He has given me will only be productive and fruitful if given right back to Him.
Placed on the altar of self and burned up. Spread out before Him with palms open and relaxed.
This is an all-at-once scary and liberating place in which to arrive: giving up all of your minutes and hours to Him, allowing Him to use them for His glory—even when it jacks up your own ideas and to-do lists.
As His earthly ministry began to wind down, Jesus spoke the following words to His disciples:
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John 12:24-25 NIV).
Death. Sacrifice. Not exactly fun or cheery topics, but crucial to the life of faith—and to finding and fulfilling both our first and second bests.
The Slow Burn
In this stage of life, writing can, for me, only be a second best. And that is perfectly fine.
As mothers, our children are God’s greatest call and gift to us, and I think we’d all agree that in the heat of this refining fire, there’s no better use of our time than pouring ourselves into the molding, shaping, and loving of our babies.
And while on long weeks and even longer days it may not feel as though this is a phase, make no mistake—it most certainly is. Our frantic, consuming mothering will not continue in perpetuity. Our babies will grow and flourish and break away as they should (breaking our hearts in the process, I’m quite certain). And when that day comes, there will be time for that which there is no time now.
So in the meantime, I’m learning to embrace the slow burn of my second best of writing. All these ideas, all these characters, all these stories burning inside me are burning slowly, marinating on low on the back burner. Out of the way and quietly simmering, they fill up the spaces of my mind with delicious, intoxicating scents.
In the art of cooking, the process of simmering infuses rich, deep flavor, the type that cannot be captured through a quick, rough boil. So in this season, I think of my writing life as an old, Italian grandmother’s famous tomato sauce, burning ever so slowly on an old stove top until time has served its purpose by creating something delightful.
What about you? What hopes, dreams, and goals are simmering hotly on the back burner of your life? We were all women first, before we became mothers—individuals with God-given talents and desires. Perhaps in this season, those desires are relegated to the back of the line … but it’s important to remember and acknowledge their presence. They are a part of you, just as much as your children are a part of you.
Whatever your dream, don’t fear the slow burn. Don’t fear the relinquishing of your hours and will into the capable Hands of God. The magical mixture of time, trial, and perseverance—simmering and gradually thickening on the back burner—will one day result in a beautiful concoction that only a loving Creator God could craft.
And I’m quite certain it will be worth the wait.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens (Ecclesiastes 3:1).