“Mom, when I grow up, I want to be just like you: NOTHING.” I remember saying this when I was a young girl. (If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you might recall my relating this in another article, earlier this year.) Many people’s eyes widen in disbelief when I relate this story to them, but I quickly reassure them – and you – that those simple words didn’t mean that I thought she was a nobody, that I didn’t respect her or that I wanted to grow up just to stay home and watch television and eat candies all day. I was expressing the desires of my heart: not be be a career woman, but to be a MOM, just like her. I’m so fortunate to have had the opportunity to do that! I’d wanted more kids than just one, but I’m blessed to have the one I’ve got and to have been able – ‘allowed’ – to stay home with him throughout his childhood and now into his teenage years. I joke these days about the fact that I’m a stay-at-home mom but that my charge is in school! I still relish being a home-maker, filling my days with a variety of activities from taking care of my family to volunteering my time in different ways, among other odds-and-ends endeavours. I feel ‘retired’ before my time, and I’m loving it.
Not having a career or even a defined regular routine, however, sets me up for deep frustration and discouragement sometimes: I call it ‘Homemaker’s Syndrome’. I do so much and yet feel like I accomplish so little. I fill my days with busy-ness and yet have ‘nothing’ to show for it. Reflecting on my daily life, I know, intellectually, that I provide invaluable service, but it doesn’t feel like it, in my heart. Those times are so demoralising.
In those moments my brain shifts into ‘I’d better find myself a job’ mode. That lasts for a little while, but before I make any real progress I invariably come back to not wanting to change anything, because I enjoy what I do! I do believe that what I do makes a difference, if I can just remember that. The Lord wants us to be useful and loving towards others. When we die, He’ll look at our hearts and our actions; He won’t ask us what our job title was or how much money we earned. He wants to see how we live our lives, with what attitude we do whatever work we do – whether it be doctoring or lawyering or washing the dishes or diapering our children.
“Goodwill itself is acting justly and faithfully in our position and our work, because all the things we do in this way are useful to the community… Business people who act with honesty and without fraudulence are caring for the neighbor they do business with. So are workers and craftspeople when they do their work uprightly and honestly rather than falsely or deceptively. The same goes for everyone else – for ship captains and sailors, for farm workers and servants.” True Christianity 422
(He doesn’t include ‘home-makers’ in that list, per se, but I’m confident that we fit in there, too!)
When it comes down to it, it isn’t what we do but how we do it, and, for that matter, whether we start by shunning evils. “The first step toward goodwill is removing evils; the second step is doing good things that are useful to our neighbor.” (True Christianity 435) When I reflect honestly on my daily life, I can see that much of what I do really is useful to my neighbour; I mustn’t discredit that. How quickly we reassure friends experiencing their own similar struggles, and yet how hard we are on ourselves! I’m sure that there are countless people in this position, wrestling with their own ‘uselessness’ demons: I hope that they, too, can find reassurance and purpose in the Lord’s words, for these are a balm to the aching soul.
“It is the very feeling of delight itself, inherent in the love of doing good apart from any thought of recompense, that is the reward lasting to eternity.” Heavenly Doctrines of the New Jerusalem 236
7 thoughts on “Homemaker’s Syndrome”
Thanks, Jenn, for putting words to this phenomenon. I felt it when I was a mom raising 4 small kids, I’ve felt it since I retired. Just feeding a family is valuable, even if there’s nothing to show for it but dirty dishes and contented faces (and healthy, growing bodies), and that can be kind of frustrating. I’m probably the least visibly creative person in my family, but usually I can reassure myself that my own skills are valuable too, just intangible. Usefulness to others is the key, and what it’s doing to our hearts and souls. Carry on the good work, tangible or not!
Thanks, Jenn, for putting words to this phenomenon. I felt it when raising 4 small children, I’ve felt it again since I retired. Just feeding a family is valuable, even if there’s nothing to show for it but dirty dishes and contented faces (and healthy, growing bodies), and that can be a bit frustrating. I’m probably the least noticeably creative person in my family, but usually I can reassure myself that my own creativity exists too, it’s just intangible. Usefulness to others is key, and what that does to our hearts and minds. Carry on the good work, whether visible or not!
Thank you for your reassurance, Dale! (Re: healthy, growing bodies attesting to our good work, this reminds me of when my son or husband groan over the meal I’ve prepared and respond, “You’re welcome! -Your body thanks me.” 😁 )
I really appreciate this, Jenn, and I’m sure it will resonate with others.
Yeah, I have the sneaking suspicion that – especially among this audience – I’m not alone. 😉 Thanks, Gwenda.
I can always use this reminder. Thank you!
Hearin’ ya, Justine! 💜 You’re doing great work; keep it up.
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