Consider this my convoluted attempt to make sense of that scullery maid/laundry wench feeling I've been having lately...
Motherhood is a notoriously physical endeavor. If we at CSPP don’t have a babe in the womb, we’ve got one in our arms (and more clinging about our legs). The nurture of these creatures doesn’t end when the umbilical cord is cut nor when they are weaned. If you don’t see us in the garden, the grocery, or the kitchen, you can find us in the bathroom or the laundry room, dealing with the inevitable results of such nurturing.
Need I say that all this can sometimes seem monotonous, endless, and even worthless work? Yes, yes, I know: vocation, vocation, vocation…the rallying cry trumpeted from Luther to us via instruments like Veith. It’s the funniest thing, though: “the vocation of motherhood” sounded much nobler before I was knee-deep in diapers, before I was so irrevocably, so physically, so wholly vested in the venture.
Nowadays, if I read something on vocation, I have to force myself to focus on the words rather than the fact that they were likely written by some dude who was sitting in a quiet office or pleasant café all by himself, taking bathroom and coffee breaks whenever it darn well pleased him, receiving phone calls without having to cast threatening looks or menacing gestures at anyone, and going home (or out) to a supper cooked by someone else. [No, I’m not thinking of anyone in particular here; it’s just a generic image conjured by my wistful brain.]
Some days, the word “vocation” is muttered around here with an ironically cast eyebrow at least as much as it is uttered without the scare quotes. Alas!
But back to the main point, if such may be found here. In many, various, and increasing ways, we all know that motherhood is an excellent way to mortify one’s own sinful flesh—not in spite of, but because of, that monotonous, endless, and sometimes seemingly worthless work. Let’s not forget that this vocation [Look! No scare quotes!] also models Truth to a generically-Gnostic world which tends to focus on developing the “spiritual self.” Pursuing this elusive “spiritual self” requires a good deal of time and effort delving into one’s own inner workings, a journey in which the menial tasks of childrearing are cumbersome detours.
It seems to me that the pervasiveness of the spirit=good / body=bad dichotomy is one reason large families are offensive to some, even within the church, which certainly ought to know better (This is my body, given for you…). Most every act in the life of a mother at home with her young/large family affirms the body’s created, redeemed, and sanctified worth and testifies that the self should be effaced, not embraced. Every day, every diaper and every dish glorify the Creator and express the sure and certain hope of bodily resurrection and eternal dwelling on the New Earth.
Of course, this is really only an effective witness if she performs her duties with grace and good humor. (Self: shape it up a bit!)