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Sabbath Revival: Will Work for Food….I mean, Feedback

By Julia Blue

This Sabbath Revival post was published March 14, 2008 by Kristen

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“I do not want to frighten you by telling you about the temptations life will bring. Anyone who is healthy in spirit will overcome them. But there is something I want you to realize.

It does not matter so much what you do. What matters is whether your soul is harmed by what you do. If your soul is harmed, something irreparable happens, the extent of which you won’t realize until it will be too late.” —Albert Schweitzer, Reverence for Life,1969

I’m still a new mom. I have a 20 month old, and a second one due in two months. Heck, most of the world would say I’m still a newlywed, since my husband and I will celebrate our third anniversary this summer. What this means is that I’m still adapting to the various roles I have, and figuring out how they all fit together, and where “Kristen” still is in the midst of them all.

Today is a post about the mother-identity in me, and in us. The honest truth is, being a mother does not fill all of my needs. There, I said it. It’s true. Being a mother is wonderful, praiseworthy, glorious, fills me with love, helps me develop more Christian/Christ-like attributes. But those aren’t all of my needs. That is why I edit. I work as a freelance editor for several companies, and while some of the motivation is definitely for the money, I can say without hesitating that even if I got paid absolutely nothing, I would still do it. This is why:

As a mother, no one tells me, “Gee, that was one WILD day you had—your daughter unlocked and opened the door of the lab restroom while you’re trying to give a urine sample, in full view of everyone else in the waiting room! Way to handle a difficult situation with poise and patience.”
Or, “Holy Cow, you have not slept in 3 weeks because your daughter woke up every 2 hours, all night long? You know, you really do sacrifice a lot for her.”

And the list could go on. Simply stated, it is impossible for anyone except the angels in heaven to give me feedback about my life as a mother, and, validate and encourage me to keep on with it. There are no witnesses. And so, I have realized with quite conflicting thoughts that working (in my case, as an editor), in many ways neutralizes the need I have for someone to pat me on the back at the end of the day and tell me what a great job I did with my daughter.

The conflict? How could my ego-stroking be anything but….selfish? And why do I feel so great about it when it seems to contradict many gospel principles? As an editor, I feel intellectually stimulated, I feel like I am exercising my mind, and I get feedback from someone!! It’s also a lot of fun!

The temporary conclusion I have come to is that because the “fruits of my labor” are good, then this must be a good thing. The gospel does teach us to judge things by their results. The results of me working? They far outweigh the negatives.

Because I get to edit, I am so much happier as a mother, I feel stronger, more capable, patient, and don’t look to my husband desperately every day to affirm that I’m doing okay, despite the many mistakes I may have made. I feel like I do a much better job as a mother, because I’m not getting burned out by having all of my mind and energy consumed with the tasks of one role. I look forward to each day with Shaelynn, and the attention and love she gets from me is more focused, directed, and sustained.

I think that on a subconscious level, the subculture of the Church (I’m not saying “gospel,” mind you!) has sent me the message that since motherhood is the most holy, divine role a woman can have as an eternal being, that it should be her sole role, that it should not be shared any other attentions or activities. And I’m not alone in thinking this. Very frequently, I hear LDS women apologize about what they do/like to do, or sheepishly confess that they would like to work part-time, for their sanity, or would like to do things with their time besides be a mother. Gasp!! Is that okay? Part of me screams, yes, of course it is!!! And another part of me conjurs up images of a few friends, married 10 years with no children, who love working all day, and have no desire for motherhood.

Fathers, on the other hand, are sent the message that they are to be providers of the family, and also fathers. Unless a man is self-employed, he is going to be getting affirmation, feedback, and intellectual stimulation from his work on a daily basis as he fills his divine role as provider. So what does that mean exactly, that these results of working are a necessary evil that fathers must “put up with,” and that mothers are to avoid? What are your thoughts?

Sigh. I have the feeling this will be a discussion with comments such as “It’s different for everybody,” and the like. I have to admit, I really feel there’s more to this question than that. But if we can start with at least that, that’s okay too. Where is the balance? How can you tell if your soul is being harmed?

About Julia Blue

(Blog Team) married to a hunky Aussie cowboy carpenter farmer composer filmmaker, who has turned her world upside down (this is a good thing). For even more fun, she flies around the world serving snacks and drinks, checking that seat belts are fastened, occasionally providing medical attention and hoping to never be a firefighter.

4 thoughts on “Sabbath Revival: Will Work for Food….I mean, Feedback”

  1. It might be an overstatement that a working father gets "affirmation, feedback, and intellectual stimulation from his work on a daily basis." Sure, if he has the career he wants. But many of the men I know (and respect most in the world) never did, for one reason or another. Instead they've worked long years in a boring (but stable) job, or a boring series of jobs, to support their families. There's honor in that, just as there's honor in the everyday work of raising children at home; but just because they're filling their "divine role as provider" doesn't mean their work fulfills all their needs, any more than that of the SAHM who wishes she were doing something else.

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  2. Dvorah has a good point. My father worked for decades in a work environment that was extremely difficult and regularly disrespectful in order to enable his family to live in a place that he and my mom felt was one that would be the most helpful in their efforts to raise me and my siblings. I deeply respect him for that. And he is a finer man because of what he learned as he did so.

    I think the goal, in discipleship, is to become the kind of person Jesus is; able to work at whatever is most needful with singleness of heart, whether it is something that gives me affirmation, feedback, and intellectual stimulation or rewards me with being spit upon and sneered at, or anything in-between.

    We are all human beings. And human beings love affirmation, feedback and intellectual stimulation. So it is normal to crave work that gives you that and to feel like life will be void and dreary without it. The problem is, when I see my affirming work as my source of feeling fulfilled, then, I have found, I am less able to see or learn what God hopes I will learn to love and deeply appreciate or express thoughtful creativity in the difficult roles I am called to fill. The easiness with which my fun job affirms me actively reduces my desire to do the other work and my ability to see the intrinsic values of that other work I am called to do where the affirmations are fewer.

    The key for me has been to learn how to see that fulfilling, affirming, more enjoyable role not as a need, but as an unusual blessing. A sweet dish in a full feast of life with other, less tasty, nutritional dishes that will, if I learn to appreciate them and find the value and blessings they offer as well, be ultimately profoundly helpful to my growth and development as a disciple.

    So my answer to your question is really not "it's up to each person" as to what you choose to do. My answer is really, another question. Am I actively learning, engaging creatively and seeking to grow in wisdom and understanding and peace of heart in both of the tasks I have felt called to take on, not just the one that is the most engaging or has the most positive feedback.

    The older men and women I admire the most are those who have worked, using the particular gifts and characteristics they have, hand in hand with God in the tasks they've undertaken; not just primarily the intrinsically fulfilling ones, but equally the long, unglamorous and challenging ones. And they are the people who, I have learned, understand deeply the value of embracing and creating in both kinds of work. They have the kind of deep strength I hope to have as an old woman too.

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  3. I also have to agree with Dvorah and MB. I think a lot of paid work either for men or women isn't that fulfilling but is necessary and so it gets done. My husband (mostly) loves his job, but he's been in a rough patch for the past year. Simply quitting because he is unfulfilled and unhappy isn't an option for his family. I admire and appreciate his dedication to sticking with a difficult situation so that our family's needs are met. He does so without complaint, even though his self-esteem has taken a beating. I'm not asking him to be a martyr either–we have looked at lots of options, but really he had to take into consideration the needs and circumstances of the entire family–not just his personal ambitions or challenges, and that meant staying in a job with a group that was not ideal.

    I can understand the drive as a mother to feel fulfilled and appreciated. I think it stems from our current culture where your achievements define your community status and worth. I also understand the desire to develop one's talents and abilities-and to be financially compensated for that.

    But as my children grow older, and I recognize what a part I have played in helping them grow and develop, so does my understanding that those all-nighters tending a fussy baby, changing thousands of diapers, preparing meals all day long, mopping floors, washing clothes, etc. are part of the foundation of a happy family life, which most often leads to well-adjusted and happy children. Seeing them grow and thrive feeds my soul and heart.

    And, as cliche as this sounds, I think when we seek for validation and understanding from our Heavenly Father about our work, and when we feel that we are doing His work, I think we feel a whole lot better about ourselves.

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  4. I also want to say that I cultivate talents and hobbies outside of my role as a mother. At some point, I won't be deep in the trenches and I have plans for those days. I don't think you have to be stagnant in your development of your skills and talents. But what I do is for my own internal sense of joy and accomplishment–not for external feedback or praise.

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