Early this afternoon, while the two youngest napped, I thought about this photo I saw on Facebook:
Seeing it made me think about Jared (he wrote a great rendition of "Give Said the Little Stream" that my kids just adore). But it also reminded me about something that has taken me about 12 years to learn (and yes, my oldest child is not quite 12 years old, yet) and what I'm still learning: Serving my husband and my children still counts as service.
How many times have I been riddled with guilt because I had to sacrifice serving other people in order to take care of my small children? How many times have I wondered how I would be "changing the world" or "making a better contribution" if I could be a writer like this woman or start a business like that woman or organize events like that woman over there? How many times have I wondered if I could just "stop being lazy" then I could be a better person?
This led to many, many other thoughts and ponderings about my role and during the moments of switching laundry, baking muffins, and finding soccer uniforms, I had these thoughts (and yes, they all connect):
*My job is not to change the world through my amazing talents right now. My job is to raise amazing people. And even if they don't turn out "amazing" by the world's standards, they are still amazing to me, and they are amazing to God.
*Laziness is over-used. I am not lazy. I may not be getting the optimal amount of sleep or I may choose NOT to do some chores in order to communicate online with the outside world, but I'm not lazy. Just because I refuse to work outside the home or volunteer in the classroom or take up Zumba does not make me lazy.
*Doing the mundane is service. Each time I changed a diaper today, I thought about how I would feel if I needed my diaper changed and my caregiver acted like it was the end of the world (but no worries, I usually don't act that way!). I realized that if I approach the daily service of my children as inconvenient, then they will probably view themselves (and the daily mundane of housekeeping and other children) as inconvenient. Feeding, changing, clothing, and loving my children is a privilege. Yes, a lot of it is repetitive. Some of it is annoying. Most of the time, it means ignoring myself or my perceived "needs" to attend to them. But kissing my husband is also repetitive and I don't get tired of that!
*Even though I agree that I need to take care of myself, I think women are over-using that excuse now-a-days. I'm all about taking the oxygen mask first (thus my online writing and socializing, GNO's, date nights, weekends away with hubby), but at the same time, I have come to realize that doling out a boring day full of laundry, cooking, cleaning, and hosing off the kids because they made mud puddles in the front yard (what?? That doesn't happen at your house??) is just as important and awesome as those times I have experienced amazing things. For example:
Today I sat on the front porch for 5 minutes. Maybe 4. While I was sitting there, I was in my pajamas (T-shirt and exercise pants). I was holding the dressed, clean, and fed baby. The 3 year old was riding up and down on the sidewalk on his trike. The 5 year old was riding his bike and running next door to play. I enjoyed the sun, but felt, without guilt, the air conditioning on my lower back which was coming out of the front door (which was WIDE open). I heard my 3 year old yell "Mommy! Mommy! Watch!" several times, and the baby giggled as he tried to eat the porch railing.
That moment, to me, was just as important as when I hiked the Great Wall of China or when I explored the castles in the Tower of London. It was as wonderful as the day I graduated from BYU, and as comforting as the day my husband slipped the diamond ring on my finger.
For far too long, I have heard the lectures and listened to the older moms and read the articles and discussed the issues online, and the conclusions have been that in order to enjoy motherhood, one must understand the divinity and the importance of motherhood. For far too long, I figured I understood that and got it. For far too long, I have been mistaken. For far too long, I have allowed my expectations and my perceived, invisible, not-really-there expectations of past voices (my mother, my grandmother, my friend, my sister, my aunt, my midwife, my anonymous-foe on the world wide web) determine what is success in my mothering. For far too long I've worried about my mothering and my results. For far too long, I have focused on me and... them. The outside. The world. Society. The natural man.
I research and read, ponder and pray, and finally, today, as I sat on that porch, the Spirit whispered truth to me and I thought, "I finally get it, I think." I wasn't worried about the soccer games tonight or the football game or dinner or the fact that I was in my pajamas on my porch. All I could think was that my kids were beautiful and life really could be beautifully simple.