I am one who wears many hats. I am a cook who skipped culinary school, and a chauffeur without the squeaky-clean car. I am a nurse, a tutor, a maid; a manager, a teacher, a coach. It is my job to police our home, sending delinquents to do time on the stairs as punishment for sundry crimes. I am a shoulder to cry on, the voice of reason, a friend--except when I must not be. I am both lawgiver and judge. I work the night shift, the graveyard shift, and I work nine to five. I am always on call.
I am called Mom.
With infinite tasks and numerous roles to fill as a mom, it's easy to feel like an indentured servant. Often I struggle to determine whether I'm living a life of servitude or selfless service. Does the distinction even matter? I say it does; in fact, the answer to this quandary just might make all the difference in the world.
You might be wondering, since it's so hard, why I signed on for this life of servitude... I mean, service, in the first place. Well, if I'm being perfectly honest, I didn't fully understand what I was getting myself into when we came home with our first little bundle of joy. But by the time we brought home numbers four and five, my eyes were wide open and I wouldn't have had it any other way.
Yet, no matter how much I love my kids, sometimes taking care of them does feel an awful lot like servitude, which is not the best way to foster happiness in the home, or within myself. Thankfully, I came across an article this week that gave me a new perspective. But before we get to that, a little background info might be helpful:
I discovered in college that selfless service is a surefire way to find happiness, and I've never forgotten the lesson. As a freshman, far from home and struggling to find my way in a place where I seemed terribly small and insignificant, I happened one day to see a bulletin posted in my dorm's common room. A group called Services for Students with Disabilities was looking for volunteers. I took down their information and stopped by their office shortly thereafter. Soon I became a volunteer note-taker for a deaf girl who, since she had to watch her interpreter during the lecture, couldn't take notes for herself. I went with her to a few classes each week and took notes for her. I continued in her service for several semesters and we became good friends. But the amazing part about it was my change in attitude. I no longer felt depressed or lonely or invisible, even though my circumstances at college hadn't changed a bit. I recognized it as an unforeseen benefit of the service I had given, and ever since that experience, whenever I felt down I would look for some meaningful way to give service. That is, until I had my first baby and found I was no longer able to give, since I now had a tiny, fragile human depending on me 24/7. The problem has only compounded with each new addition; hence my gratitude for the article I stumbled upon this week.
The article was written by a mother of four children, who tells of a time when she desired to perform a meaningful act of service, and her frustration when the demands of her family kept her from it. She says, "I longed for the free time and energy to serve someone other than my husband and children." She gradually came to the realization, though, that "just because she didn't have the opportunity to serve outside her home did not mean...that she hadn't been serving in meaningful ways."
She goes on to say, "At times I feel that the service within my own family somehow doesn't count, that in order to be classified as service, it must be outside the home, rendered to someone other than a family member. But with my new understanding, while I was making beds, doing laundry, chauffeuring kids, and doing all my daily duties as a mother, I did them more joyfully. My tasks didn't seem quite so mundane, and I realized I was making a difference for my family." (You can read the whole article here--scroll down to the heading "Discipleship in All Places" for Stacey's story).
Reading this mother's words reminded me that what I'm doing is not servitude, it's service, and if I let it, it can renew me the same way note-taking for my deaf friend did when I was in college. It is, however, important to recognize it as service and not servitude, since a dinner made and served begrudgingly does not have the same effect as when made out of love. (Trust me on this one--I've tested it).
So this is the thought I want to share with you this week: Motherhood is hard, there's no way around it. And you might not have known what you were signing up for when you jumped in. But you now have a choice, and your answer will make all the difference--both in the way you feel about yourself and in the atmosphere residing in your home.
Choose to live a life of service, not indentured servitude. The service of motherhood is a gift of yourself, freely given, to those you love the most.