I love work.
I usually follow that statement up with the rest of a Jerome K. Jerome quote: I love work. It fascinates me. I can sit and watch it for hours.
But this time I really mean it. I do love work—at least, according to the definition in a book I’m currently reading.
In A Woman’s Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World, author Kate Beaty makes the point that God created all humans as image-bearers of him. And just as the creator of the universe works, so we work. As Beaty says,
Work is not just what we get paid for. Work happens whenever we interact with the created world, laboring to make it fruitful and beneficial to ourselves and others.
For me as a homeschooling mom, work definitely includes teaching kids to read, helping them with math problems, and discussing science concepts together. In my recent past, it has meant changing diapers, picking up cheese-stick wrappers from the living room floor, washing dishes, and finding lost shoes over and over again.
But as Beaty points out, there’s more to my identity than this household/homeschool work. The greatest work we do is that which benefits ourselves and those around us. It’s fruitful and creative and interactive. And often that means something beyond taking care of children and going over history questions.
For me, that best kind of “work” is writing. Now that my kids are older, I set aside every morning for time to write. My kids get a lot of screen time, and have learned how to cook their own breakfast. I’ll let them come in and chat for a few minutes, but then I shoo them away. “This is my writing time. Go on out. I’ll be out in a while.”
Do I feel guilty? Oh yes, especially at first. I felt as if I were pushing them away for my own selfishness. And I was still in the same house with them! I could only imagine the struggle of a mom who leaves the home to work.
Should I feel guilty? Oh no. God doesn’t want us to shunt our family aside for our own pleasure, but neither does he expect us to ignore the desires and gifts he’s given us.
Everyone’s work looks a little different. Some are easily home-based, like mine. Other women’s gifts take them out of the home, where they interact with the larger world in a fruitful and beneficial way. I have one friend who loves to immerse herself in study; she enrolled in seminary classes around her part-time job and her 3-year-old. Another is always making room in her life for pottery. Still another splits the homeschooling with her husband so she can continue her career as a nurse.
And as you make room for this work, you might have to shuffle the way you’ve always done things before.
Sixteen years ago, we moved into our house in a little neighborhood. For about a week, I watched the neighbors across the street, trying to figure them out. Sometimes one vehicle was home, sometimes the other was. It definitely wasn’t the same traditional model as our family, where Darren left in the morning and came home in the evening, while I stayed at home with our 1-year-old daughter.
Finally, I met them. They were our age, with a child the same age as ours. She was a special-education teacher, he was a manager at a department store. Over the years, I watched them balance two jobs with one, then two kids. He went into work very early. She would drop the children off at the babysitter’s and go to work. Halfway through the afternoon, he finished his shift and picked up the kids. He’d cook supper by the time she got home. Then he’d relax with a video game while she did baths and bedtime.
Their cooperation made a big impression on me. Years later, I burned out while trying to homeschool four children, being the everyday parent, keeping the house clean, and not getting any writing done. Darren and I were able to restructure the way we operated. We began to share the homeschooling and household duties (I haven’t folded a load of laundry for five years), and I had space to do the “work” that I needed most.
So what’s your “work”—the way that you interact with and benefit the world around you? As summer sets in, with its longer days and change in routine, spend some time discovering and cultivating the work that God has given you.
The world will be a better place because you do.
Photo Credit: iStock.