1. lowly and sometimes degrading: menial work.
2. servile; submissive: menial attitudes.
Finding your identity – and maintaining a sense of it – as a Stay at Home Mom can be a little more than challenging.. especially in terms of how the world views you — what “worth” they put on you.
I get comments from people all the time (usually other women) about how “nice” it must be not to “have to work”.
Or the drive by comment, “Oh, the life of a stay-at-home-Mom.” – as the working mom drives away from the bus stop on her way to work, and I walk back to the house in my yoga pants, with my coffee cup in hand. Little does she know that the idea of getting dressed in business attire and being able to have a change of scenery – where I can turn on my brain and engage in something other than house and kids sounds like manna for my starving mind sometimes. *
As you may have gathered from reading this blog (when seldom I post, lately), I work hard to have an identity outside of my children. To find ways to keep myself well-rounded and feed those parts of me that need a little more than 5th grade homework (challenging as it is for my old brain) and endless loads of laundry. I have been diligent in recent years in my attempts to hold on to the interests I had prior to my three little birds landing in my life… so that once they spread their wings and leave the nest, I don’t feel lost with no definition of myself. When they fly away, I pray, that they will be strong, independent and GOOD big birds… and that I will be more than just mom with an empty nest.
I have made endless efforts to find ways to engage in my interests, learn new things, and feel like I still contribute to the world outside of my home (not in any way belittling the value or importance of being focused on the contributions I make to my household.) It takes a lot – and I mean, A LOT – of energy to keep from being all-consumed by life as mom. Which makes the comments from others that go like this: “Oh, are you still doing that little volunteer thing?” – feel a bit like a knife in the gut. * (It’s worth visiting this asterisk again.)
While I do know that having the luxury of staying home with my little birds is a blessing and I AM thankful, I also have to admit that very often when I’m doing the same laundry for the 100th time — or doing dishes for 4th time in a day — or trying to figure out what to cook for the next meal (when I’ve just finished cleaning from the last one) — or picking up guinea pig poop — or having to repeat myself endlessly with my children, I often feel that most of the things I do all day are just plain menial.
There have been times, I even feel like anyone on Earth could do what I do – I could just record myself saying “No. Stop fighting. Speak kindly. Try again!” and let it play on repeat on the ipod — or that I am simply that robot, Rosie from the Jetsons (please don’t tell me that you don’t know who the Jetsons are.) Am I just wasting my talents and my education on these menial tasks that have to be done over and over and over and over, with no end in sight?!
Not that these tasks are unique to stay at home moms… all moms/dads have to get these same menial things done, but when you have no other “professional” outlet or career definition in your life, these menial tasks tend to be the things that come to define who you are – they ARE what you do.
But that is not where this topic ends. Not with the negative. Never. I look back to that first paragraph, and I Thank Goodness that – as a Christian – my “worth” is not defined by this world.
One morning a while back, during a few minutes of devotional time, I happened upon a quick writing about Holy Thursday. It reflected on Jesus’ last acts with His disciples and pointed out that in His final hours with His most beloved – His chosen – He didn’t perform miracles or do “great” works. He didn’t bring people back from the dead, he wasn’t being anointed with costly oils or perfumes or any of the multitude of things that The King would seemingly choose to do in His final time on Earth. Instead in His final hours, He chose to spend with His earthly family, His chosen disciples.
In very much a familial way. He chose to feed them. To teach them. To wash their feet. In essence, the very cooking, cleaning, correcting and teaching that I have loathed. That’s what was most important to Jesus in His final hours. That’s what He chose.**
Yeah, go ahead and think about that for another few seconds.
And the crazy thing is that when I found this reading – about Jesus, Himself, choosing these seemingly menial tasks as the most important things He could do in His last days, I began to find happiness in doing them.
So, I share this today to say that, here – at the end of the calendar year, I am adding a new “MORE” to my list. As this Advent Season begins I will make the everyday things – that I have been so desperately trying to keep from defining who I am – precisely what defines me. And by that I mean, what should – and really does – define me, is how I choose to view these tasks. My attitude towards those menial tasks defines my character. It makes me more than just mom. It makes me the person that I want to model for my little birds as they grow.
Menial = redefined.
* I truly don’t have any ill feelings toward my fellow moms that make these comments – not at all – I maintain that we are all on the same team. Maybe sometimes we just need to communicate about our different positions on the team and how they all work together for the greater good of our team goals.
** I had to pause and ask myself if I knew that I had a few last days on Earth, what would I choose.. would it be to do the things I have never done and go see the world? Probably. Would I choose the menial acts of service for my loved ones? Probably not.