The Excuse of Role by Rachel Martin, author, The Brave Art of Motherhood (Book Excerpt)

From an early age we’re assigned roles: hall monitors, lunch-line captains, student council presidents, shift leaders, camp counselors, resident assistants, and more. We give our kids and ourselves roles that define responsibility even further, such as using chore charts and assigning who’s in charge while we walk to the neighbor’s house and whose job it is to get the mail. Roles become even more defined in the workplace, where  we’re given a name tag, a business card, an office title, and a path of roles to get a promotion.

Roles don’t disappear as we age. In marriage (and relationships) there is often an invisible division of labor that develops. It’s an efficient way to divide responsibilities between two living in the same space. One person may be the only one who trims the kids’ nails, while the other always takes out the trash. Some roles are defined mutually, others by external forces. You may be the one to wake up early and get the kids ready for school because your husband’s the one who works third shift and gets home at 2 a.m. That’s a role given due to circumstances.

For the most part, roles provide order and a means to organize tasks. For example, the shift leader at Starbucks is there to ensure that orders are met, cups are stocked, the store is clean, and customers are happy. But sometimes in relationships (or life), we use those roles as excuses.

Note that roles should never be confused with basic responsibility. As parents, we have the responsibility to raise our kids, feed them, provide a home, keep them safe, and help mold them to be upstanding citizens. This is not debatable.

In my marriage, I was clearly given the role of homemaker and educator, not breadwinner. For more than fifteen years, I allowed my role to stop me from fixing our family’s deepening financial problems. When I attempted to make changes, ask questions, and take on even the smallest part of the financial role, I was reminded that was not my role. Instead of it being a mutual space of growth and responsibility, it became an isolated space of anger, passivity, and rebuke.

The hard truth was this: our bills needed to be opened, employment was required, the IRS should have been paid, our reliable transportation should not have been taken overnight, and I should not have had to rely on friends, family, and church for food long term.

Based solely on an assigned role, I denied myself the power to change something.

My kids also did not deserve their mom crying on the doorstep, helpless in her role, as she figured out how to tell them the truck was gone. They, too, deserved a rightly ordered life.

That meant that despite the roles we started with, at a certain point I needed to remain homemaker and assume responsibilities as bread- winner as well. Someone needed to stop the cycle. It was imperative that I carefully and critically examined the roles I had accepted in my life. Maybe you do too. Do you dismiss yourself from change, responsibility, and choice due to a role you’ve adopted, accepted, or been assigned?

What changes need to be made in your life that you’ve been turning away from because of a role? Could you take over the finances? What about making that suggestion to your boss at work despite it not being in your wheelhouse? Could you find a way to volunteer even though your plate is full? Do you accept the age you are as a limiting factor?

Roles are great. Roles unchecked can become excuses.

Do you risk disrupting comfort in an attempt to take back the spaces in life that are neglected? Do you risk challenging the status quo and decide to pursue greatness?

In the true story of Erin Brockovich, this single mom didn’t allow her lack of education, money, and business knowledge to stop her from securing a job at a law firm during her family’s financial crisis. Once there, she didn’t let her role as assistant keep her from digging deep and uncovering critical details in a health lawsuit. She went on to be a key player in a class-action lawsuit, helping dozens of families. Because she didn’t let her role limit her, she went on to change not only her life but also the lives of  thousands.

Don’t ever let a role excuse you from taking responsibility.


Rachel believes in the power of the human spirit to overcome, to thrive and to find deep joy and because of that she pours out her heart as the writer of and author of The Brave Art of Motherhood. Her articles have been translated into over 25 languages, and her content has been featured in The Huffington Post, iVillage, The Today Show, Star Tribune, iVillage, Stuff New Zealand, PopSugar, Motherly, Parents, What to Expect, NBC Parents, etc. She speaks worldwide encouraging moms and entrepreneurs to live each day with purpose and drive.  She is a single mom to seven, and resides in Nashville, Tennessee.


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