Monday morning. I just had what was supposed to be a restful weekend, with little regular work. I take that “day of rest” thing seriously, but, sadly, my children do not. They seem to think that I should feed them and clothe them every day–even on Sundays! So, in spite of the fact that yesterday was the Lord’s day, and I only washed the dishes once (after sun-down), and cleaned and cooked not at all, I’m still tired.
Even worse, I can’t complain about it, not only because it’s a self-imposed rule (I hate complainers), but because the moment my self-restraint slips and I let out a sigh, someone will invariably blame my exhaustion or depression (and I do have a tendency to be melancholy when I’m worn out) on my “too many” children. And yeah, I work hard for this family, and that is why I am tired. There’s certainly no arguing with that. But I can’t help but notice that, when someone is exhausted from doing some other kind of work, she gets a pat on the back. “Congratulations, you earned a restful weekend!” But when a mom with “too many” kids gets to the limits of her strength, it’s because she’s either too stupid or too oppressed to stop having children.
Get Along Husband posed an interesting question to me a few weeks ago. He didn’t exactly ask the question, but it was implicit in the words he recounted to me. It seems he heard a woman on the radio talking about growing up in a large family, and why she wasn’t having many (or maybe any) children herself. You see, her mother “worked her life away” and the interviewee didn’t want to have to live like that—always having to make meals, clean spills, and wash faces. My husband’s unspoken question, of course, was “Are you working your life away, Cindy? Are these kids doing that to you?”
Well, yes. I am working my life away, as a matter of fact. What else was I supposed to do with it? Take a 60-year vacation after high school?
Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless man goes hungry.
Just this weekend, a woman told me she’d be pulling her hair out if she had as many kids as we do. When I asked why, she answered that it was “too much work”. “Too much work” is, in fact, the most common reason women tell me they don’t want any more children. Oddly, these are–most of them, anyway—women who get up early every day, go to WORK, where they WORK, really hard, then they come home in the evening and WORK some more—whether in their gardens or for church or charity—then go to bed, get up, and do it all over again the next day. They don’t actually seem any more rested come Monday morning than I am, come to think of it.
These people are working their lives away! It. Has. To. Stop! Don’t they know there are television shows to watch, and cakes to eat, and sleeps to sleep? Of course, somebody is going to have to work to produce those tv shows, bake those cakes, and build those mattresses with which we shall do all that not-work.
Life is work, isn’t it? To have useful work to do is a blessing! Judging from the cries of the unemployed in this land, I’d say most other people know it, too. And I’m happy to have my work.
So what they mean, it seems, is not that children are more work than anyone can reasonably handle, but that children are the kind of work that they simply don’t find worth doing. This ungrateful daughter on the radio as good as said “My mother wasted her life because she was too busy raising me.” Or maybe she just thought it was all of her siblings that weren’t worth the trouble.
No wonder our nation is on the edge of a cultural cliff. Nobody in the last generation (or the current one) seems to believe that raising the next generation is a very important task. Certainly not worth doing as a full-time job. Any fool can watch kids all day. Women who are worth anything at all really ought to be getting better jobs than just motherhood—executive positions, or pushing papers, or ringing up produce. Anything, absolutely anything, makes more sense than just raising a bunch of children. One or two is manageable, of course, or nobody would have any kids at all. One or two, and you can still get other things done between diaper changes and soccer practices.
But go past that second child, and you’re spending more years changing diapers than any woman ought to. Much, much better to get out of that stage of your life as quickly as possible so you can move on to something important, I guess.
I get my rest when my babies smile at me. My peace comes at the end of the day when I have to kick the blocks out of my way to clear a safe path to my bedroom for the one who wakes up in the middle of the night and runs to our bed. I am usually still sleepy when I get up in the morning, but it is not because I am overworked. It is because I have a job worth staying up late and getting up early for.
I have a lot of work to do this week, just like all the other weeks since I had my first baby. I pray that I can raise my children to appreciate the value of the work my husband and I put into their upbringing. I pray that they can, unlike the lady on the radio, someday understand why I believe that my fifth child is worth every bit as much effort and angst as the first one was. And I hope that they’ll grow up to see, not how tired their mother was, but how blessed she felt to have so much useful work to do.
Good morning, world. It is Monday. I am already tired, and that is a good thing.