Today’s guest post comes from one of my dearest real-life friends, Sarah Hamersma. Sarah is such an important person to me, it’s hard for me to boil her down to a few words in an intro. So please just get to know her a little here, and be blessed. –Tamara
I hate coming up short. I like to succeed, and if there’s a right way to do something, I want to do it that way. Why settle for second-best?
We economists actually have a theory of the second-best (bear with me here). While we know the “first-best” solution to many economic problems, sometimes the scenario just doesn’t fit: markets aren’t perfectly competitive, people aren’t perfectly informed, conditions aren’t perfectly predictable. When we can’t have the first-best, we shouldn’t just wring our hands – we should try hard to find the second-best solution and shoot for that.
After many years as an economist, I found myself flung into the world of the second-best when I became a mother. I wanted to learn the right way to do things and then do it. When I set my mind to something, I should be able to make it happen. I could work full-time, serve in my church, spend time with my husband, and still find a way to be a perfect mom to my children…right?
Wrong. The no-TV-for-little-ones rule was quickly broken. The environment-saving cloth diapers were used enthusiastically for a little while and then relegated to the closet for months. The special grinder for making baby food using real food – from the farmers’ market, of course – was moved aside to make room for the jars (“Well, at least I try to buy organic,” I comforted myself). And I finally broke down and hired someone to help clean the house. I remember admitting to my friends, “I’m not actually hiring her to save myself time cleaning; I’m hiring her because I want things to be clean for my kids and I’ve discovered that I just don’t do it.” And that’s the key: I don’t. It’s not that I can’t – it’s that I don’t. Apparently, I won’t. It was hard being such a disappointment to myself.
But God’s grace is big enough for even a person who discovered her self-absorption a little late. I have started seeing ways God can use my efforts for the good of my children even when they’re second-best (the efforts, not the children, of course).
Not long ago, a sale attracted me to something the first-best mom in me never would have bought:
This package contains flour, sugar, shortening, nuts, and white chocolate chips – most of which already live in my cupboard. But under this wrapper, they were already made into one giant rectangular patty of cookie-dough goodness – even scored into a dozen squares with, apparently, a dull pizza cutter. Last night, I decided that my nearly-two-year-old Lucas should get to make cookies with mom.
Out they came.
I broke off the cookie-dough bricks and handed them to Lucas, one by one, to put on the pan. I rearranged them when they threatened to turn into a single mountain of dough. About halfway through, he discovered that they were yummy; the next couple squares got big bites out of them on their way to the pan. I tried to stop him, maybe a little harshly, and then I remembered sneaking cookie dough when my mom had made cookies with me – real cookies, from ingredients. I laid off a little. When the cookie experience had exceeded his limited attention span, I finished loading the pan, giving him a few white chocolate chips for his trouble.
They went into the oven. We waited, watching through the window of the oven door that desperately needed cleaning. The ridiculous blocks of dough looked like ice cubes melting into their own puddles. Would they ever look right?
Well, this second-best mom decided it didn’t matter if they looked right. Because what I was looking at was not the cookies, but a little boy’s face. And this – this looked just right.
Sarah Hamersma is an economist, a mom, and a Christian– hopefully all at the same time. She plans to keep being these things every day for the foreseeable future, despite her lack of trinitarian capabilities.