Hard Work: Essays on Motherhood Part Four

When did our culture stop valuing hard work? A few examples of this attitude from our politics and print media: In 2011, the CA senate voted on a bill requiring hotels to use fitted sheets.  People felt it was demeaning/dangerous for maids to be required to tuck in the corners of a flat bed sheet.  Corner tucking was called out as crude, menial labor that could lead to injury.

Along the same theme, Jojo Moyes wrote a great line in Me Before You. On working as a caregiver she says, “Most people assume you’re only doing it because you really aren’t smart enough to do anything else.”

These are just two examples, but I think the attitude is widespread. Honest labor is to be pitied?  Laboring with our hands is degrading?  It’s a sad way to look at life. No honest work is demeaning. Good, respectable, hard work is exalting. Caregiving is noble. When did we, as a society, loose our pride in that? There is more nobility in a stable, in the hard work of mucking out the stalls, than in all the amoral business ventures of the glass-panneled-high-rise world.

Motherhood is incredibly humble at times. It is incredibly invasive too. Yes, it’s messy. It’s literally a sack of diapers. It’s a whole landfill of diapers! And, it’s hard work.

But I sense that in the lowly work, we claim our truest selves.  The great paradox of motherhood is that in the mucky work, we stand beside angels. We earn something of infinite value. Didn’t Jesus Christ come to a lowly stable? In the most grubby of circumstances. A diamond. At His humble birth, very few saw the divine in Him either. That did not diminish His work, and it does not diminish ours.

In the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin gives a great address where he describes his reign as king saying, “And even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you…And if I, whom ye call your king, do labor to serve you, then ought not ye to labor to serve one another?”  He emphasizes the nobility in giving service with our own hands and also in giving service to God. He was a servant-King. I like to think of a mother as a servant-Queen. Yes, she is capable of accomplishing much outside the home, but she chooses to labor with her hands to serve.  This is also a great lesson for her children.  She chooses them.  She serves them.  And, she shows her children an example of service.  Saying effectually, “If I, the adult decision-maker in this household, do labor to serve you, then ought not ye value and serve one another?”

To them it is a powerful lesson, even if an unspoken one.

The world wants us to cast our eyes downward. To be offended at the menial nature of life as a mother. I can choose to be exalted by it. It is my choice to view myself that way, to value and claim my role as a woman, as a mother.

I want to tuck in the corners of my little-one’s beds. What a privilege to tuck them safely into their beds. And, I feel like when we do that, we tuck them into our affections, too.  They know they are at the center of our lives.  Not because we have no other self outside of them, but because we really believe that whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life shall find it.  Through this amazing cosmic enigma I can’t fathom, the journey of parenthood brings us more self-actualization than the pursuit of self-actualization alone would bring.


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