Most of my conversations these days centre around poos, sleep, milk and commenting on body parts (“Oh, look at your little hands!”). Sometimes I graduate to looking at what Elliot’s looking at – usually the lamp or the vertical blinds. Though there’s lots to learn, life with an infant isn’t known for its intellectual stimulation!
I’ve heard lots from women who felt their uni education was being wasted in endless days of breastfeeding and nappy changing. Many of them felt that they lost their significance as they went from being omni-competent professionals to the comparatively menial and invisible tasks of motherhood. So far, I haven’t experienced this sort of identity crisis. Perhaps that’s because I’m only 7 weeks in! Perhaps it’s ‘baby brain’, if it exists. Maybe I’ll continue to feel this way. Then again, it’s probably worth doing some pre-emptive thinking on the issue.
When it comes to identity the wisdom I hear Christians most commonly give is to ‘find your identity in Christ’. I’m glad if it works for you. But it’s always seemed a little vague to me. I’m not exactly sure what it means.
Others talk about the sacred duty of motherhood and the significance of moulding the next generation. All of that’s true from a big picture, long term perspective but may not help in the humdrum. It sounds good from a distance but close-up it’s less fun.
Instead, I’ve been toying with thinking in terms of contextualisation, that is, putting off my own cultural baggage to see the world through another’s eyes. It’s essential to intercultural work such as we’ll be doing in Tanzania. It’s modelled on the Lord Jesus who gave up the glories of heaven and was inculturated himself as a 1st century Jew. It’s part of the reason we have the Bible: firstly that God gave it into a culture, secondly that it’s been translated into language we can understand! And I think it might be a good framework for thinking about the monotony of life at home with a baby.
A day that consists of talking about bodily functions may seem boring, undignified or menial to me but to Elliot, they’re big deals! These are the concerns that fill his day and consume him. Entering his world and serving him means choosing to care about what is important to him and for him.
That’s freeing because it doesn’t mean that poos and wees have to be my favourite conversation topic (even if they are the most frequent one!) or that these conversations have to have immediate pay off. Contextualisation is a ministry of being, just walking alongside others, elevating their concerns above your own. This is my attitude to thinking about life in Tanzania but I’m starting to think it’s also a good way to think about life in general!
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.