Tag Archives: mother’s work

A contributing member of society

A blast from the past here on MamaBlogga

gilbert_keith_chesterton2We’re often told raising our children isn’t enough: we should be “productive.” We should have “real jobs.” Strangers ask us to justify raising our children when we’ve obtained higher learning. We should “contribute to society.” I promised you a rant on how nothing contributes more to society than raising children will, but lovely guest blogger G.K. Chesterton (at right) has taken that up for me.

He was way ahead of his time, you know. I mean, the man died seventy years ago, and he had the foresight to write this post for me. Okay, okay, so really this is just a long quotation. Emphasis, images and paragraphs breaks added.

Woman is generally shut up in a house with a human being at the time when he asks all the questions that there are, and some that there aren’t. It would be odd if she retained any of the narrowness of a specialist.

Now if anyone says that this duty of general enlightenment (even when freed from modern rules and hours, and exercised more spontaneously by a more protected person) is in itself too exacting and oppressive, I can understand the view. I can only answer that our race has thought it worth while to cast this burden on women in order to keep common-sense in the world.

But when people begin to talk about this domestic duty as not merely difficult but trivial and dreary, I simply give up the question. To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it.

globeHow can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the Universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, because it is gigantic, not because it is minute.

G. K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong with the World, p 118-119

Thanks, G.K.! (Note that this is taken slightly out of context, but seriously, it’s a lot better this way. Don’t bother reading the stuff that comes before or after it; it’s not quite so “enlightened.”)

Photo credits: question mark—Svilen Mushkatov; globe—Sanja Gjenero

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Working when I’m worn out

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I’m a night owl. Totally and completely. I’d rather work at 11 PM—or 1 AM—than 1 PM. When it comes to wake up time, the kids don’t give me much of a choice by about 6:45 most days, so I’m burning my candle at both ends. Add to that the constant scream-fest of raising three bickering kids five and under, and I’m worn out by about 10 AM. (Until 10 PM, when I get a second wind. WHEEE!)

I usually take this as a sign that I’m a horrible mother/woman/person/being (it goes downhill from there), that I was never cut out for motherhood. But maybe it’s actually a sign I’m doing things right. In a book I read this weekend (When Times Are Tough by John Bytheway), I came across this quotation (from p 141, emphasis mine):

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

—George Bernard Shaw, in William I. Nichols, Words to Live By, 79

This section of the book was about the virtue of work. Whenever I think about that subject, I feel guilty. I didn’t like working at a 9 to 5 job, and I’m pretty lazy and often unmotivated to change. (I’d show you my kitchen floor to prove it, but you can just take my word for it.)

But then I remember: I’m a mother! My whole life is work! Physically demanding, emotionally draining work. And though I often feel like I won’t make it through the rest of the day when I’m exhausted and out of patience, maybe in some ways it’s a sign I’m doing something right: something I’ll have to do time and again, but which will add up to the sum of a life well lived.

What do you think?

Photo by The Pug Father

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What ever happened to hard work?

Once upon a time, there was a mystique to working one’s own land. Owning a farm was considered by a large part of society to be the pinnacle of achievement—you’d “arrived” once you obtained acreage. Hard work was a virtue, and an aspiration.

I doubt that I have to tell you that isn’t the mentality today. Most of us have learned to work just enough to get by. Even in motherhood, sometimes it’s easy to let the “okay” (PBS) supplant the “good” (playing with your kids).

There’s no way around it: motherhood—maintaining the home, providing meals, rearing children to become productive adults, sometimes even providing income for the family—is hard work. Even if we do just enough to get by, sometimes the work of motherhood is emotionally and physically exhausting.

So sometimes motherhood gets a bad rap. But you know what? I think we had it right centuries ago—though it’s often not fun or even interesting, hard work is good for us. It makes us grow and makes us stronger.

And, honestly, I have to hope that anything that requires this much effort can only be worth every ounce of myself that I put into it.

What do you think? What have you learned from the hard work of motherhood? How have you grown as a mother?

Photo by Sasha Wolff

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Motherhood: a thing worth doing well done

I can’t remember how I came across this poem. Isn’t that sad? But however I came across the poem, I noted it to blog later.

So go ahead and read the full text of the poem ”
To be of use” by Marge Piercy. (It’s under copyright, so I won’t put the whole thing here.)

The poem lends dignity to the kind of labor that often goes unnoticed—like the labor of motherhood does. The thesis of the poem is that this work isn’t degrading because it’s dirty or difficult. Instead, it’s almost ennobling:

But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.

rebecca smilingI can’t think of anything more “worth doing” than bringing up the future. That is the work of motherhood—to instill morals and character into the rising generation. And that job well done—when we get to see our family as good, functioning, contributing adults—I think (and hope and pray!) that will have “a shape that satisfies” unlike any other endeavor we can make in this life.

I’m striving to catch a glimpse of that shape that satisfies every day as I’m in the process of doing “a thing worth doing.” Little things—Hayden spontaneously thanking my grandfather for taking him on a walk, Rebecca blowing kisses, the two of them playing together nicely—are little daily evidences that the job is not only worth doing but going well so far.

How do you see the satisfaction every day?

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A contributing member of society

gilbert_keith_chesterton2We’re often told raising our children isn’t enough: we should be “productive.” We should have “real jobs.” Strangers ask us to justify raising our children when we’ve obtained higher learning. We should “contribute to society.” I promised you a rant on how nothing contributes more to society than raising children will, but lovely guest blogger G.K. Chesterton (at right) has taken that up for me.

He was way ahead of his time, you know. I mean, the man died seventy years ago, and he had the foresight to write this post for me. Okay, okay, so really this is just a long quotation. Emphasis, images and paragraphs breaks added.

Woman is generally shut up in a house with a human being at the time when he asks all the questions that there are, and some that there aren’t. It would be odd if she retained any of the narrowness of a specialist.

Now if anyone says that this duty of general enlightenment (even when freed from modern rules and hours, and exercised more spontaneously by a more protected person) is in itself too exacting and oppressive, I can understand the view. I can only answer that our race has thought it worth while to cast this burden on women in order to keep common-sense in the world.

But when people begin to talk about this domestic duty as not merely difficult but trivial and dreary, I simply give up the question. To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it.

globeHow can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the Universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, because it is gigantic, not because it is minute.

G. K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong with the World, p 118-119

Thanks, G.K.! (Note that this is taken slightly out of context, but seriously, it’s a lot better this way. Don’t bother reading the stuff that comes before or after it; it’s not quite so “enlightened.”)

In other news, I’d like to note that I was one of five winners of literary agent Nathan Bransford’s guest blogging contest, and my guest post will go live on his blog next week 😀 .

Photo credits: question mark—Svilen Mushkatov; globe—Sanja Gjenero

Joy in the journey part 2

I really liked this next passage from a recent address given by President Monson to my church (see part one from last week):

Stresses in our lives come regardless of our circumstances. We must deal with them the best we can.

I often fall into that same trap—believing that if only I didn’t have to do all this “mothering stuff”/work/housekeeping/good works/church/alone, it’d be so much easier. But frankly, I would probably still find something to stress out about even if I had one less thing on my plate.

And all too often, I let the wrong thing slide. President Monson continues:

But we should not let them get in the way of what is most important—and what is most important almost always involves the people around us. Often we assume that they must know how much we love them. But we should never assume; we should let them know. Wrote William Shakespeare, “They do not love that do not show their love.” We will never regret the kind words spoken or the affection shown. Rather, our regrets will come if such things are omitted from our relationships with those who mean the most to us.

Usually, I get stressed because I’m trying to do too much—and often it’s not stuff that I need to do anyway. Beyond basic housecleaning and a couple hours of work per day, I don’t actually have to do a lot of the things that I make myself do or that I want to do.

Instead, if I focus on the work of motherhood: loving, and giving my children attention, suddenly those stresses that make my life so difficult—the stresses that I have put on myself—seem to go away.

What helps you relieve or lessen the stress of motherhood? How do you show your children your love?

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