While I was putting Ella to bed and thinking about what was ahead of me this evening, I actually got excited that I had an “assignment” to do. When I looked at the dishes in the sink on my way to the computer I said, “sorry guys I have real work to do.” I am a stay-at-home mom for the second time in my life, and I still don’t consider work in the home to be “real” in some way. I’m not sure how much more “real” work can get than the day to day efforts of caring for people. The shopping, cooking, cleaning, playing, loving, and constant caring are tremendous efforts that become the background noise of life. Certain work in the home is made important and gratifying by the simple good feeling of walking into the kitchen in the morning and seeing the sink empty and the counters clean to start the new day. I feel satisfied by finishing a load of laundry mostly because if I don’t make the time to keep up with it on a daily basis it becomes almost insurmountable. This is particularly frustrating for me at this point in life because the building we live in has one tiny washer and dryer for each floor of ten apartments. Ten families sharing one tiny washer! This is insanity. Just ask Mo how much it bothers me. He suggested sending out the laundry to a service like we did when we lived in the Bronx. At that time I was working at a daycare and I just didn’t have the heart to spend all my home time in the musty basement washing clothes. We honestly can’t afford it right now, and I am at home with Ella, so I feel like I have to keep up with the laundry as part of my daily efforts to stay afloat around the house.
The work that it takes to keep a family’s life together varies from place to place, home to home, lifestyle to lifestyle. I know that there are plenty of women who work full time and have to take care of the home as well. Women who have more kids than I do and live in much less pleasant areas than this. I don’t have an angle here and I’m not complaining. I would like to point out that even though I work almost constantly from the time I wake up before 6 until I finally go to bed around 11pm, I don’t see most of the efforts I make to be “work.” If you asked me whether I thought work in the home was important, valuable, equal to work outside the home, I would say “Of course!” But when I look at my own thoughts it turns out not to be true.
I do wish for a certain validation in the public sphere. I want to be able to see and measure my efforts in something other than the endless rising and falling of dish and laundry piles. I would really like to find a way to feel that my work is valuable, even though I don’t earn a paycheck. I’m not looking for a sentimental idea like earning my living in hugs. I want to feel like I’m making a real contribution to the world! I don’t often give it much thought, and I don’t think I am being personally undervalued in a direct way, but I know that within my own mind I don’t value the work I do highly enough.
“The blog!” you say? Yes, that is part of why I am writing this blog. To uncover, examine and move forward through the complicated thoughts, emotions and experiences that make up my life. Sometimes I encourage myself with the thought that I am helping to create healthy, loving people to participate in the world. But guys, that is such a long term goal! I couldn’t even finish my six week biology project in middle school, there is no way I’m going to be gratified by something as distant and intangible as my children eventually becoming well-adjusted adults. What I’m talking about is partly my need to feel valued, and partly my need to feel productive. Maybe the real issue is that I feel like I need to do something in order to be important. Perhaps it is time to reevaluate not just the value of work, but the value of time, and of not working, without guilt. That may be next on the list! New discovery, that’s why I’m here folks!
What I’m really trying to say is, even when I feel frustrated by the work I have to do, and by the way I don’t always value my own contribution to the world, I feel incredibly grateful to get to spend so much time with my family, to have a warm, dry, safe place to live, to have food on our table, clothes on our backs and the desire to create more and more peace in our hearts. I wish that for everyone.
Moms, dads, everybody, how do you feel about the work that you do, in or out of the home?