“Mom, what does ‘drudgery’ mean?” my nine-year-old asks flatly, looking up from his summer reading. I fold towels and answer off the cuff: “It is the very exhausting, or very dull work of the everyday life . . . the toil, or the daily grind of chores that are sometimes repetitive in nature because they simply need to be done.” I left it at that . . . or so I thought.
Mom, if there is “drudgery,” then is there a word called “motherdgery?” . . . This time his eyes sparkle a bit, and I see a smirk pressing the corners of his mouth. Oh, my son. He has hit squarely on a pivotal question. And I can’t help wonder if it is because he is intuitively aware of how I hold a deep, abiding awe for my vocation to motherhood, or is he being humorous, having sensed my frustration over just how many towels there were to fold in constant succession? At any rate, his question, with its implications, is the prompt that stirs me as I think.
Just this morning . . . the baby is crying and pulling at my feet. He wants to be held, changed, and read to. My phone buzzes with messages from my eighteen-year-old who just started a new job. I need to throw laundry in, and I haven’t begun to find time to sort it. The doorbell rings with the Amazon delivery. While I sort the scuffle between boys over the package, the eggs on the stove scorch. With spatula in hand, I am intercepted by a child who embarks on a long and detailed story—as a kindhearted, understanding mother, I must give eye contact—then this account is followed by an older brother who wants to know if his friends can come over to swim and whether they can learn how to hunt squirrels and rabbits and make stew (I couldn’t make these questions up if I tried!). I mutter a feeble “yes.” Anything to get the whole bunch to go play outdoors! And no sooner do I send them off to walk the dog than I remember they should write thank you notes to their aunt for the summer care package she sent . . . Then my adult son walks in the door announcing he will be home for tonight’s family dinner . . . I should take something out of the freezer!
I know about mundane, demanding, tedious, frustrating exhaustion. These are the common effects of the vocation of open-to-life motherhood.
But what is critical amidst the effects is that I examine the inner substance, the cause—there is a pattern of sanctification at work. I must not miss it. I enter into a posture of prayer, give thanks, and take hold of today’s experience. The saints did not waste their given circumstances and look for some other vocation on which to pattern a life of holiness. It is the vocation of motherhood itself which I must be confident is God’s ordained plan for me.
My awareness, my sense of mission is what gives me a single-minded purpose that is vital. This path, and even specifically the work involved, is not incompatible with holiness. In fact, there is an essential union that I have witnessed taking place in my soul. When I embrace the truth that the work of my hands is a primary ingredient in my ordained path to become holy, I understand the depth and the dignity of self-gift. Drudgery is no longer an impersonal, one-dimensional end-game, but it invites me into the presence of God. I am invited into the very substance of living like Christ, in beloved dignity. My path of motherhood brings deep satisfaction because it is anchored in ancient truth—it was “Chosen, destined in accord with the purposes” of God from the foundations of the world (Eph 1:3-10).