Do you ever get asked if you work? Hmmm… How to answer a question like that?
A few years ago one of our young adult children brought a new friend home. I like meeting people and I was soon chatting with this guy, finding out about his interests and his family. The big thing that I remember is the way he described his parents, and I doubt I will ever forget what he said. Here it is: ‘My dad is an accountant and my mum doesn’t do anything, she is just at home.’
Ouch! That was sharp! ‘doesn’t do anything … just at home’. To this young guy, being at home meant doing nothing. There was no value in being at home. And of course that means that his dad had value because he had a job with a title. But accountant surely didn’t define his father. Being an accountant is a job. First of all the accountant is a man, a husband, a father and a son. He is a relational human being. He earns a living in accountancy.
On the other hand, being a parent is a vocation. And that’s very different. A parent is always there, always caring, always loving, and never getting paid.
Job or Vocation
In his book, Pastor, Eugene Peterson talks about meeting an artist called Willi. Willi works as a janitor, but Eugene Peterson says ‘…janitor was not who he was. Janitor was his job. He himself, W.O. was a painter, a serious painter.’
As a mother, at home with children, keeping house, bringing up children, being the king pin, the hub of the wheel, you and I have a vocation, a calling.
Eugene Peterson says ‘A job is an assignment to do work that can be quantified and evaluated. It is pretty easy to decide whether a job has been completed or not. It is easy to tell whether a job is done well or badly. But a vocation is not a job in that sense. I can be hired to do a job, paid a fair wage if I do it, dismissed if I don’t. But I can’t be hired to be a pastor [or to be a mother], for my primary responsibility is not to the people I serve but to the God I serve.’
For us as mothers, seeing our role as mother in the family as a calling and a vocation gives honour to that place and encourages us to do the best we can. Not so that we can show off to others or earn big money, or be valued for our job title, but so that we can be fulfilled, knowing we are doing what we are called to do; knowing that we are building a family and growing well-loved, well-balanced human beings.
You don’t need to earn money or have a prestigious title to have worth. If you do have those things, that’s fine, but the title doesn’t define who you are. So when you are asked ‘Do you work?’ what’s the answer? You are a working mother whether you earn money or not. As the old bumper sticker says – Every Mother is a Working Mother. How could you be a mother of children and not be working? Answer me that!