Quite unintentionally, I have become a pretty decent fan of Matt Walsh and his thoughts which he publishes at themattwalshblog.com. Today he posted about motherhood, and more specifically, why it is not THE (exclusionary) toughest job in the world.
The man enjoys conflict. This he readily admits.
Even so, his full post makes some hard-hitting points about the perceptions of parenthood in the United States at the moment. I appreciated the clarification that he does not detract from the difficulties and full-time commitment required in being a mother. The point about fatherhood being just as challenging as motherhood had me nodding. I nearly cheered when he touched on the dismissive attitude our culture has towards fathers in general and how debilitating that is for the entire concept of family.
But what prompted me to make a dash for my laptop keyboard was this little sentence tucked into a concluding paragraph: “One day maybe we’ll realize that parenting is designed…to be work — not a job at all, really — that is best accomplished through the harmony of husband and wife.”
Consider this. There are times—many, many times—when I am insecure about whether I am successfully fulfilling the role of mother for my children. In those moments, my wonderful husband and the amazing daddy for our children tells me, “Hon’, you’re doing a great job.” And I am a little relieved, a little disbelieving, and a little mollified that it’s probably just a skewed perspective in my head.
Now, what if the conversation ran like this:
Me: Ahh! I feel as though I’m doing a terrible job at being these poor kids’ mother! I keep making mistakes that will probably send them to lifelong counseling and I can’t DO it all with the house and the blahblahblah…freaking out…blahblah.
Husband: My dear, what you do with our children is wonderful work.
Me: *crickets* Um… Well. That is true. Regardless of how I see my abilities, it’s the kind of work that’s always worth my best. I can’t argue with or doubt that. Silly to freak out, really.
Okay, so in reality, I’m not that quick to turn my hissy fits around to rational thought. But truly, the difference between “you’re doing a great job” and “the work you’re given is great” could be the paradigm shift I need as a parent. The shift in focus is from my qualities and performance as a mom to the REASON I am doing it.
What does Galatians 6 say? “Let us not grow weary in doing good…” (vs. 9)
Hear me out because I’m learning this as I’m typing, which means I’m sharing and not teaching. I may not have this figured out yet. When it comes to the concept of hard work, I get very whiny very quickly, historically. It is something I am having to learn as an adult, having never received the joy in it as a kid or teenager.
In the past, I’ve always felt a little exhausted after reading that verse in Galatians. Maybe even falsely guilty. I do get weary of always having to choose those hard, self-sacrificing, never ending good things.
But what if I was looking at it backwards? What if it is talking about good work, not good jobs? What if work is something objectively good or bad? You can do a bad job in a good work, can’t you? That doesn’t change the nature of the work. Charity organizations are doing good work. But a badly trained CEO may run the organization into bankruptcy. Badly done job, but still within the category of good work.
Being Mom to my five kids who are home schooled and therefore hardly ever out of my minute-to-minute life can be exhausting, of course. (As can being Dad to those five kids after working a rough job every day, Mr. Walsh.) But do I really have a right to call the work of motherhood dreary? Motherhood as a calling, a kind of work, is objectively good. So rather than appealing to my husband out of my insecurities, what if I simply asked for a reminder of the truth?
I could stop being insecure about my mistakes as a mother—not stop improving, but stop beating myself up over my imperfections—and instead…
Instead, I could focus on the work.
I might raise my voice when I promised I wouldn’t, but the work of motherhood is worth an apology and doing better next time.
I might mess up dinner for my family, but the work of motherhood is worth gratitude and sometimes laughing at myself.
I might ignore my daughter’s many, many, many requests to bake something with me on a busy Saturday afternoon, but motherhood is worth listening to the pang in my heart and handing her an apron on Monday morning.
I’m not sure if I’m conveying what I saw in this difference between a job and good work, but hopefully the glimmer of truth in there has caught your eye enough to mine the rest of it yourself. There is something precious here. I intend to keep digging.