I need to confess. While packing carry-ons for a flight, I pulled Captain Nobody off the Sonlight shelf and quickly stuck it in my daughter's backpack—as a independent free read. (You’ve never done that, right? Judged a Sonlight read-aloud by its cover, then ditched it?) After the sophistication of The Apprentice in History / Bible / Literature Level C, the cover of Captain Nobody just seemed...juvenile.
My daughter, who hasn’t yet learned to make snap judgements, enthusiastically devoured Captain Nobody in record time, oblivious to my uninformed opinion. Last month, when we spotted the book—narrated by author Dean Pitchford!—in our our library’s audiobook section, she nudged me and reminded me I was missing out.
So I entered the world of Captain Nobody. (I can’t believe I waited so long!)
How a Homeschool Mom Can Feel Invisible
If you haven’t met Newt Newman aka Captain Nobody, you might be surprised to hear me suggest the adventures of a spindly fourth-grader could have anything in common with the life of a homeschool mom. But good literature is relatable, and the common threads of human experience ring true across generations and cultures, bridging time and place.
If you’re already acquainted with Newt, you know he struggled with feeling
- overlooked, and
- even neglected.
“I felt so angry on his behalf,” said one Sonlight mom as we chatted about Captain Nobody, “thinking it was so unfair that he, as a kid, went through it. But...I think that some of my anger was me feeling riled up about all the times I am taken for granted, myself.”
Young Newt was in charge of making breakfast, waking his brother up for school, and stepping into the roles his absent-minded parents forgot. And he felt like everyone around him could see directly through him. He writes,
“...nobody had eaten my breakfast.
I looked down at what was left. The sausages were cooling in their grease. The eggs were getting watery...
Now, I realize there’s not a lot I can do to help my family as they whiz through their busy days. And maybe I don’t build buildings or win ball games. But if make breakfast, the least they can do is eat it!”
Newt felt unappreciated and invisible, day after day, even as he obediently maintained his school and chore responsibilities. Fellow breakfast-maker, do you, too, feel as though the effort you pour into your household and family goes unseen? Does it seem like you’re plugging away on a hamster wheel with no visible progress? I’d venture to guess you’ve experienced inklings of these feelings at some point in your parenting journey; I know I certainly have.
And, like Newt, I sometimes feel like everyone around me is doing
- more important,
- more appreciated, and
- more glamorous jobs,
while I am stuck in the cycle of thankless tasks. In a culture so enraptured with superheros, mountaintop experiences, and exceptional feats, it’s easy to feel lost, unable to see our own ordinary place in a world of more-than-ordinary influences.
Our Day to Day Work is Worship
Our culture—human nature as a whole, really—holds a skewed sense of heroes, doesn’t it? We walk right past those toiling quietly behind the scenes, and make a beeline toward the charismatic, flashy, extroverted personalities engaged in highly visible work.
As Newt faithfully plods forward, looking for examples of heroes, he slowly comes to the realization he has nothing in common with the kind of heroes people admire. You, too? Newt mourns,
“For one thing, most of my heroes stretch and transform their bodies into fantastic shapes. Tommy Origami, for instance, can fold his body into a packet the size of a postage stamp. Who was I kidding? I can barely touch my toes.”
To put Newt’s lament into homeschool mom terms, “Most of my heroes are put together, organized, and have time to write books on top of curating a picture-perfect homeschool” or “Most of my heroes are running orphanages, feeding the hungry, and forging new paths in faraway lands.” Like Newt, we might sigh to ourselves, “Who am I kidding?” as we’re limping through yet another math lesson and stacking yet another round of dishes.
But when done for Lord, work—all work—is worship. When we embrace this, we see the hallowed holy ground in quiet thankless tasks, carried out in the uneventful mundane hours. Our daily chores may not be prettified with the label of any official ministry or broadcast out to the world, but this work of raising and schooling children is elevated to the highest calling, when viewed in light of the gospel. So if we’re looking to find fulfillment by emulating a homeschool guru or other elusive hero, we simply will not find it. But when we dedicate our every task to God, we find peace and contentment.
You Are Not Invisible to God
Fellow mama, you who are
- wonderfully made,
- delightfully unique,
- redeemed, and
- the daughter of the Most High King,
don’t waste your energy striving to mimic someone you follow on social media! Don’t wear yourself out comparing yourself to a homeschool convention speaker or inspirational, do-everything, author you admire. They all have behind-the-scenes bad days, too—and just as many of them as you do.
Precious friend, you are you. You are not ‘supposed to be’ anyone else. You are you.
And our literary pal Newt Newman, too, discovered this.
“I’m not ‘supposed to be’ anybody...I am Captain Nobody.”
Maybe heroes walk around in stretched-out red sweatpants and a handmade mask, like he did. Or maybe they wear a top-knot, a slouchy homeschool tee, and printed leggings. That’s not the important part. The important part is—
“You [yes, you!] are Captain Nobody! Defender of the little guy, champion of the downtrodden. Remember?”
You’re doing the most important work.