The Work of Today

Originally posted 11/30/11

I’m so ready for the cold/flu season to be over. We were plunged precipitously into the throes of illness since the beginning of November when I got a stomach virus. Ever since then, one of the three of us has had something. I’ve thought we’ve been over it all, only to have something else (or still the same illness?) pop up a few days later.

So today, I have a sick little girl. I’m mulling over whether or not to let her go to choir practice or not, and I’m letting her slide on school for now, which also gives me a chance to restore order and cleanliness to our house. I’ve had the major urge to cozy things up, but sometimes when you let things go too far, it’s hard to know where to begin.

Yesterday, we had co-op, and Marco Polo and the Far East were the subject. We smelled spices, looked at maps, made dragon puppets, and read Marco Polo’s biography. We also settled some of the details about the Medieval Feast which will be held at my house in two weeks, and I worked with the kids very hard on a French song I’m teaching them. I’m so proud of them because these are big words, they are just beginners, and their pronunciation is really great! It’s a little nerve-wracking thinking of them performing it for all the parents and grandparents, but with two more weeks of practice, I’m hoping it will be polished.

My list of things to do today is so mundane:

  • Clean the kitchen, bathrooms and living room.
  • Do laundry.
  • Wash the windows inside and out. They are driving me crazy!
  • Find the order sheet for Mustard Seed’s fundraiser so we can deliver nuts to everyone.

Sometimes when I think about taking care of all these mundane things, I get so depressed I don’t even get up to do any of it. Why? Because I know it will just be back to the way it was shortly. Kitchen floors get dirty. Bathtubs get used. Trash accumulates. Toys come out.

But recently, it dawned on me–and of course, I’ve heard this before and, of course, you’ll say, “Uh, yeah…”–but the work will never end. Does that sound like less than good news? Well, oddly, it is the good news. The work will always be there…and what if that’s okay? What if the point isn’t to get rid of the work? What if the work is good for me? Perhaps I could chill out and accept the work itself as something enjoyable. I mean, what else am I going to do anyway?

As I cuddled Mustard Seed at bedtime last night, I thought back to my days in college when I really did not want to be there, when I felt like it was a waste of my time. It was only the intellectual knowledge that I needed to be and the social pressure (for the good, this time)–not the desire to be–that kept me there.

What I wanted to be doing was being a mother. I longed for it. By the time it came around, it caught me totally off-guard and had already moved into another head-space. Now I have exactly what I wanted all that time. Seriously. Exactly. And I foolishly forget and imagine that what I had wanted all along was to be out on the town, to have time to myself. I get irritated at my motherly duties sometimes, my wifely duties of cooking, cleaning, comforting, cuddling, teaching, and I just want to be left alone to read or sew or shop or…I don’t know.

I thought of that as I started to move away and go downstairs, and then I stopped and lingering for a little while, feeling her warm little hand on my waist, her cold feet against me for my warmth, her head on my shoulder with unruly brown ringlets getting in my face, all of her, asleep though she now was, wanting me there as her comfort and companion. So I stayed a little while. Ten years ago, I pined for this moment. Chances are, in ten more I will again.

Being a mother, a wife, a housewife, is not about being born as one all in one moment; it’s about the day-to-day of it. It’s about the consistent, persistent, mundane activities that make up life in a house with a man and kids and oneself. I may have never been good at persistent and consistent. I may have always made everything more complicated, dramatic, and bombastic than it needs to be, but this is my work. A family that consistently needs me. And consistently loves me. That’s work that will probably never relent. Why would I want it to?

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