A big part of the message I feel to share with moms is to nurture and develop themselves along with their families, and that their families will benefit when they do. There are many ways to do this, as many as the vast number of interests and gifts each unique woman has. But some are more effective than others. I had an interesting conversation the other day with some friends that got me thinking about what is most effective in giving me passion for life and a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
One friend had been reading about pioneer women, their lives and thoughts recorded in journals, and how nearly every waking moment of their lives was spent caring for children, working to beautify the home, cooking and preparing food, sewing and creating. These women did not go on vacation or get manicures or go on shopping trips. They worked very hard to survive and keep their families fed, clothed, housed, and educated. I don’t know what it was like for them. But one thing that stuck out to my friend was that many of those chores were considered joyful to them (at least the women she was studying) and that they found refreshment and fulfillment in the tasks they did. They felt the enormous importance of their work, and also found spiritual nourishment in the physical, menial, repetitive tasks of homemaking and mothering.
Hearing her talk about these women made me wonder if sometimes the very tasks I think I need a break from could possibly feed my soul exactly what it needs, if I were able to look at it in a different light. To know how essential and impactful that work is. To appreciate myself and the great work I am about. Maybe it is that change of vision and view that really needs refreshing most, not that I need a change of scenery but a shift in how I am seeing where I am. Maybe knowing how much those never-ending meals and lessons we’ve gone over hundreds of times all will mean in the future would make me more than anxious to do those things, heart and soul. Maybe we just don’t realize how much we are needed and how indispensable our daily simple acts are to generations, and if we did, we would feel glorious and noble doing them!
It also made me think about the things I choose to do with my ‘me time.’ Now, I do think it is important to take time for yourself. I find if I don’t take time to refill my bucket and feed my spirit and mind and body and do things that make me smile, it is very hard to have much to give my children or to be a joyful mother. I am definitely a proponent of taking some time on a regular basis to strengthen yourself and feed the person inside the mother. I believe that I have two great works – One is to raise my family, and the other is to become all that is within me to become through Christ. But sometimes the activities I choose when I have a moment to myself are more of a distraction from my great work than the kind that give me strength to do that work and increase my personal reserves. For me, electronic media tends to be where these distractions happen. For others it might be something else. When I get lost in facebook land, for instance, I’m usually avoiding life and responsibility. But when I set out to accomplish a goal that means something to me, something with a purpose, whether it is to meditate, to become healthier, to connect with a loved one, to write, to dance, to read a book, to try something new, that is an effective use of my personal time. It is something I have to put thought into, and have a plan and a purpose. It is often something having to do with what I want to become. It can be light and fun, my purpose can be to laugh and be playful, or to rest and relax – it doesn’t have to be all business. But it still will have a purpose. Otherwise it is just avoidance behavior. And that doesn’t tend to leave me feeling any better than I did before – usually it just leaves me with regrets. If your life is like mine, that time for yourself must be carefully carved out and guarded in order for it to happen. I want to make it count, and to be conscious about what I am doing with that time and why I’m doing it.
I guess the point of this post is to value our time and what we do. We need to value our own work as mothers more. We need to do things of value to ourselves and our families and value our time enough to use it for the things that really feed our souls and our families, directly or indirectly. We need to see the gifts we are giving and how much they are needed and how much what we do really matters, and then we will be more likely to put our hearts into it and feel joy and fulfillment from it. It may seem like no one else sees or values what we do, but the place to start is for us, as mothers, to value who we are and what we are doing!
Empowering Action: Consider what kinds of activities nourish you most and what is most worth doing in your personal time (and if you don’t have any personal time, consider how you can carve some out, by getting up a little earlier, or adjusting your schedule and asking for help to do so). Also look for ways that the work of motherhood and keeping your home can feed your soul. Imagine the far reaching effects of the environment you are creating and the service you are giving and value that. You are doing a great work.