There’s a song from the musical Working, by Studs Terkel, called “Just a Housewife.”
“All I am is just a housewife, nothing special, nothing great. What I do is kind of boring, if you’d rather, it can wait. All I am is someone’s mother, all I am is someone’s wife. All of which seems unimportant, all it is, is, just my life.”
And on the days of unending, meaningless chores, and ungrateful children, and a traveling husband that has the nerve to leave me with all of this . . . I like to sing this song. And sadly, until very recently, I might have even believed these “so far from the truth” lyrics. And sadly, like the woman in the play who sings this song, this is truly, how so many housewives feel.
Just weeks ago, on Mother’s Day evening, I found myself sitting in my closet alone, rummaging through a clear plastic bin full my children’s old art projects, school work, baby shoes, envelopes of their first cut baby locks of hair; years and years of sweet memories, some remembered, and some I had completely forgotten about. And it was bittersweet, to see how small their hands used to be, how simple their dreams were. But there was one specific card I fished out of that bin, that pierced my heart, and spoke truth loud and clear; one card that, like a lead ball, dropped on top of me the reality of what it means to be mother.
It was a beautiful picture of Mary, with baby Jesus resting His head on her shoulder. I assumed it was from my own mother, whose greatest gift to me has been passing on her devotion to the Virgin Mary. Surprisingly, it was not. My first born son, who is graduating high school in just a few weeks, had used an old Christmas card as a birthday card to give to me. Crossing out the word Christmas, he replaced it, in what looked like 8-year-old handwriting, with the word Birthday. I do not remember this, and my guess is that on the day he gave it to me, I was probably thinking, “Really? An old Christmas card? My husband couldn’t take two minutes to go out and buy a birthday card for the kids to give to me???”
I sat with that card in my hand, on the floor of my closet, for some time; pressing it into my chest, until tears wet my cheeks, and my heart grew to new measure. Because on the inside of this makeshift birthday card, by a small corner image of our Blessed Mother and her Son Jesus, my own baby boy had scribbled in letters with arrows . . . MOM . . . pointing to Mary . . . and ME . . . pointing to the baby Jesus.
He looked at them, and he saw us.
I do not compare myself to Our Lady, but what a gift it was for me on that Mother’s Day evening to see my motherhood through the eyes of my child.
We are not just housewives.
We are not just someone’s mother.
And what we do is more important than anything we will ever do on this earth. What we do is far from boring.
We are women, who with the help of God’s grace and mercy, are raising precious souls. We are mothers, who in between cleaning up spills of milk, and cleaning up spills of teenage emotions, no matter how hard the struggle, keep our eye on the prize: lead these children to Jesus.
We clean, and we cook and we drive and we fold laundry and we help with homework and we patch up boos boos and we comfort broken hearts and we microwave something we hope passes off as dinner. And what might look meaningless to others, looks very different to the little ones we are raising up; to the little ones who rest their heads on our shoulder. What might feel unseen and ungrateful now, just might surprise you in 10 years on the floor of your closet.
This baby boy of mine just got in the car and drove himself off to school. He will go to work later this afternoon, and really, my face to face time with him these days is very little. He has a girlfriend. He has his own plans and dreams. He leaves for college in just a few months. But before the door shut this morning, he shouted up to me. “Bye, Mom! I love you!”
You know, I heard it preached one Sunday that it was reported that when soldiers in war are dying, it is not God that they call out for . . . but rather, they call out for their mothers. Oh, sweet Sisters in Christ, do not underestimate your vocation. Do not believe for one second that you are not needed. Believe that your work matters, and that even when your children do not seem to need you anymore, “mother” will always be the last word on their lips. Everyone needs a mother. You are necessary, no matter how long and pointless some days can feel.
I do not know why it has taken me so long to realize how important this work God has given to me really is. And I have never been more grateful for being able to say that I am a mother. I am a housewife. And yes, as the song says . . . all it is, is just my life. And what a beautiful life it is.
Copyright 2017 Laura Mary Phelps