"He's wearing his work clothes – just like daddy!" my daughter exclaims each time her little brother wears a button-up shirt.
She follows up by saying, "But you don't wear work clothes because you don't go to work, mommy."
Each time these statements roll of her tongue, I cringe. Not because her perception of work bothers me, but because my perception so often matches hers. Even though I know that being a stay-at-home mom is work, HARD work, most of the time I forget that it actually matters. It's easy to believe that it doesn't count.
So, I tell her that I don't go to work because my work is at home. And for that reason, my work clothes look different than her daddy's. I tell her I generally wear work-OUT clothes because my job requires lots of moving, which causes lots of sweating, therefore necessitating stretchy and moisture-wicking fabric. And of course, elastic.
I tell her that God has given everyone a different job to do. And that right now, my job is to be a mother and the primary caretaker of my family. I tell her it's a hard job and that even though I don't get paid to do the hard work, it's still important.
I tell her that my job does not come with money or status. That it doesn't require a college degree. And that those things don't define a person's worth anyway.
I tell her that my work requires me to do a lot of dirty jobs. Changing diapers, cleaning up vomit, scrubbing toilets, picking up dirty underwear, stripping beds of urine-stained sheets.
I tell her that my work requires me to do jobs that she's dubbed “boring.” Jobs that need to be done multiple times each day. Making meals and washing dishes. Sweeping floors and scrubbing countertops. Doing laundry and more laundry.
I tell her that my work takes place in the endless cycle of finding missing shoes, wiping noses, zipping coats, tying shoes and untying knotted laces. I answer the calls for help , of which there are many, within the walls of our home.
I tell her that my work requires me to be the manager of our household – the one responsible for the day-to-day operations. I schedule and plan – most everything. I pay bills. I make sure the homework gets done and the books are read and the alphabet is sung and the teeth are brushed.
I tell her I don't have to worry about job security because there is ALWAYS work for me to do. And that most days, my overwhelmed brain cannot comprehend just how much of it there is. I manage. I protect. I nourish. I teach. I maintain.
But I also tell her it's not all bad. Because my work requires me to give kisses and hugs, fix boo-boos and wipe away tears. I tell her it's my job to become a tickle monster, and hold kitchen dance parties, and decide when we get to have ice cream for breakfast; that it's my job bring light to the people I share a home with.
I tell her it's not just my job to give, but to also receive. The bedtime hugs, the sloppy kisses, the dandelion bouquets and glittery handmade declarations of love.
But mostly I tell her that my work is in loving. It's my job to love and sometimes that's the hardest work of all. Because loving is displayed through action, and the actions I am called to take often go unseen and unappreciated. But I do it all anyway, no matter what, because as a mother it's what I've been called to do.
Loving is at once the easiest and hardest job of all.
I tell her I don't go to work because I'm already there, here at home. And right now, it's the job in which I am most needed – the one in which my greatest work is being accomplished.
It's not much by the world's standards, but I tell her it's beautiful. And it's worth it.
Because it is.