June 11, 2007

searching for significance

While at a family reunion of my father-in-law's family one of my brother's-in-law asked me, "So, what have you been up to lately?" A simple question but it left my head spinning over the past few weeks looking for a remotely interesting answer. "Nothing much," I answered. He's an engineering student with a job at Thompson Tractor who just got back from an engineering competition in South Dakota and who converses well on a number of subjects that fly right over my head (and occasionally my interest). You should hear him and Allen discussing things. In a way he's doing all the things that I was taught to consider valuable -getting his degree, impressing his boss, etc. Nowadays (when I'm not in a slump) I spend a good bit of my day picking up the apartment, cleaning, cooking, buying groceries and sundries, planning out ways to get more storage out of our limited closet and wall space, wandering around the internet, working on little sewing/craft projects, reading, etc. In other words, on a good day I do a myriad of things (including those things that really don't have much interest even for me) and who's only goal in the doing is to not be doing them as quickly as possible. In many ways this isn't work that I was taught to value. However, going to college and becoming something important was valued. Another part of my discontent with my work is likely that at home any work I did was considered a bare minimum. Getting straight A's through college (except for one B) was the bare minimum. Coming home and working on laundry or picking up the bathroom or helping in the kitchen was the bare minimum. In other words, a good grade or a clean bathroom was no reason to get excited because I merely did what was expected of me, and I'd immediately be faced the task of trying (and occasionally failing) to meet their expectations again. The point is that by training and possibly even inclination I tend to view even the best day's work at little better than what had to be done and something that probably should have been done yesterday. Until I can break out of this cycle of thinking about my own work as a housewife I think I'll likely be stuck in a cycle of dissatisfaction and disinclination with and for the work I do everyday. It's not that what I do has no meaning; it's just that I'm searching for the proper meaning to it. I'm searching for the significance of a floor vacuumed and laundry folded. I can't say that I've found it yet, but at least I know what I looking for now. And as I get better as tending to my responsibilities I'm sure the scope of them will enlarge, and I'll find it easier to answer my brother-in-law's question with a satisfied, "Well, when I haven't been chasing a toddler and tending the baby and generally keeping up the house I've been poking at x, and it's been a really good week."


Loren said...

Oh boy, can I relate! In our first yr of marriage, while trying to have a baby and learn to live together, I received frequent questions about whether I had a job and what I did all day. It was REALLY annoying at times because some people accepted the job of housewife as legitimate, while others viewed me as unemployed and bored. Ha! PLENTY to do at home!
These days I am busy with all sorts of things (toddler, toddler mess, hobbies) and have no problem telling people that I have no time for boredom...
But even without a toddler, I'd have no problem filling up a day with all sorts of things!
It doesn't make for overly interesting conversation with those who knew me in my pre-marriage, career days, but that's life. :)
Don't fret, being a housewife IS a job in itself!

mrsidotf said...

I too am a stay at home mom. I have a wonderful 9 month old son. Before he was born I taught first grade for seven years. Once I quit to take care of him, my status did change in some people's eyes. But I knew that I was doing what the Lord had called me too do. I love taking care of my house and my family. It is not always thrilling, but I would not change it for the world!
My pastor spoke on Ephesians 6:5-9 the other night. It says, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.”
He gave a great perspective on working. He agreed that we do not have slaves and masters anymore, but that this could apply to any boss/worker relationship we have- even to house wives. He said that all the work we do should be done as if we were doing it for Christ Himself. When we view life as an act of worship to our Lord, then that changes our entire perspective. When you clean, do it as if you were cleaning for Jesus Himself. When you vacuum, cook, sew… whatever you do, do it as if Christ is whom you are doing it for.
Just to encourage you to do these tasks for the will of God from your heart. It makes everything look differently.
Just my thoughts, Kerry

Natalie said...

How very true -I need to keep that perspective in mind more often. Thanks for reminding me.

Anonymous said...

I think my mother's generation was full of feminists. At least mine was. So being a housewife and mom just never cut it as an answer to the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" But you know what? After trying all kinds of feminist-loving professions (a linguist for the Marine Corps as one!) I discovered that my true calling was exactly what my mother would have shunned when I was a girl. (She's come around, though, praise God!!) And now I dust and vacuum and scrub and change diapers and wonder what juicy secrets my old buddies in Iraq must be translating and easily become discontent. Then, because of a comment on another blog, I started to think about it differently. What if God, instead of making the Earth spin, light shine, photosynthesis and cellular respiration occur, gravity, etc. said, "This is so boring! I'd rather be doing xyz!" ??? What if He decided that giving us repentance, forgiving us our sins, conforming us to His likeness, etc. was just too hum drum? I'm so glad He doesn't! And in a way, my scoured toilets and folded laundry are a witness to the omnipresence and involvement of God in our every day lives.