Throughout my mothering years I have struggled with balancing my vocation as a wife & mother in the home with my children and family and my vocation as a wife & mother outside of the home away from my children and family. The nice thing about a job, a “real” job, is receiving a paycheck; a material reward for the hard work and time you gave to your employer and customers. I know that I am receiving grace and “treasures in heaven” for the work I do as a mother at home but it is still hard when I can’t see this; I don’t get a bi-weekly “grace” paystub telling me how many days off from purgatory I received for my time and effort.
As a mother with young children, it is important to be present at home with my children as much as I can, which for now is most of the time. Yet, I still feel the world outside of my family calling me to be served as well. I see mothers working hard outside of the home with full-time or part-time jobs while also attending to their family’s needs and I see mothers who do not have any other full-time or part-time jobs outside of their “at-home” mothering. In all situations, we are all working mothers.
Though I have also had various part-time paid and volunteer jobs in between babies, I know right now that this, here in the home, this is my main job. I have a boss who has assigned me with an enormous assignment, to show my children – His children – the Way, the Truth and the Life. Every day is filled with various little tasks to help me accomplish this for Him.
In Laborem Exercens, Pope John Paul II invites us to view work as participation in the creation of the universe with God and in answering His mandate to “subdue, to dominate, the earth”.
In carrying out this mandate man, every human being, reflects the very action of the Creator of the universe…Each and every individual, to the proper extent and in an incalculable number of ways, takes part in the giant process whereby man ‘subdues the earth’ through his work.
Dorothy L. Sayers, in the “Why Work?” chapter of Creed or Chaos?, offers an important perspective of work. She views work “…not as necessary drudgery to be undergone for the purpose of making money, but as a way of life in which the nature of man should find its proper exercise and delight and so fulfill itself to the glory of God. That it should, in fact, be thought of as a creative activity undertaken for the love of the work itself; and that man, made in God’s image, should make things, as God makes them, for the sake of doing well a thing that is well worth doing.”
If I worked at a retail store, which I have done in the past, and I grumbled every time a customer asked me to help them or when I had to reorganize the boys underwear packages for the umpteenth time and my manager saw me like this, I probably wouldn’t have kept my job very long.
God, my boss, can see me all the time. He also knows my innermost thoughts. He knows if I grumble when I am awakened in the middle of the night for a some water or blanket, when I have to clean the dishes again, when I have to make yet another meal even if I just finished cleaning up from the last one ten minutes ago, or when I have to tell my children to pick up their toys & books for the umpteenth time. He hears my tirades about how they don’t care about me and what I tell them as I vow to never get library books again and throw away all their toys if they can’t keep things cleaned up and play nicely together.
With this in mind, I’ve been trying to look at my household and mothering duties in a different way. Instead of loathing the laundry, housecleaning, cooking etc, I treat these jobs the same way I would if I were asked to assist a customer or fold clothes at a retail store, or clean the bathrooms as a janitor would, or cook our meals as a paid chef might. I am working to please the creator or the universe, right? And these people I clean and cook for are His creatures (who I happen to also love very much).
I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to honestly say I love doing the dishes or the laundry, but at least for now this fresh perspective and attitude have helped me feel more, dare I say, “excited” to get up and live out my day as wife and mother and as a God’s humble and willing worker.
Copyright 2012 Erika Higgins