[Our thanks to Glennon Melton--author of Carry On, Warrior and founder of Momastery.com--for this essay celebrating the
mundane work of motherhood. For some, the daily tasks of child rearing can feel lonely. Melton argues that, when it's an expression of love, such tasks can feel like a
spiritual practice, that the monotony
of motherhood can be sacred.]
master alone, he approached him and said, "What is the meaning of life?"
The master replied, "Have you had your breakfast yet?"
"Yes," the monk said.
"Then go wash your bowl."
Part of my work is writing. I write to tell my truth and it's
a calling and a privilege. I've been
told that the most revolutionary thing one can do is introduce people to each
other. This is how walls are broken down, prejudices are shattered, and peace
is slowly built. That is why I feel honored and grateful to be a writer. By
sharing my truth through my writing, others have felt inspired to share their
stories with me, and that exchange has helped us to see that we belong to each
But the other part of my work is the work I do as a mother
and that work sometimes makes me feel isolated and lonely. A mother's work is
the application of a thousand unnecessary Band-Aids and the sweeping and
re-sweeping of the same kitchen floor. The folding and creating of little
laundry piles. The refereeing, and car-pooling, and dinner burning, and
constant cheering on the sidelines at soccer games. Being a mother is a little
like Groundhog Day. It's getting out of bed and doing the exact same things again,
and again, and yet again"”and it's watching it all get undone again, and again,
and yet again. It's humbling, monotonous, mind-numbing, and solitary.
It's a monk's work. Mothers are like monks. We do manual
labor. We serve others. We nurse the sick. We feed the hungry and comfort the
sad. We sing. We teach. We pray and practice, practice, practice patience. The
work of a mother is repetitive. We fold the clothes, we wash the bowls, and we
sing the same song and read the same bedtime story night after night.
But that work is our prayer. We express our love through
service, so that service becomes a spiritual discipline. As mothers, we devote
our lives to love and ask for nothing in return but peace and joy for our children.
So, mothers, the next time someone
asks, "What did you do today?" Please take the time to answer accurately. You
did not "clean the bathroom." This response would be like Annie Leibovitz
saying, "Oh, I stood around and pushed some buttons." No. Today you did the
holy work of raising human beings. With each word spoken or unspoken, with each
offering of forgiveness, you show your children what it means to be brave and
kind. The mundane becomes holy, the ordinary extraordinary.
Whenever I feel all alone in the
work of being a mom, I think of monks in a monastery"”living in community, doing
their holy work together"”and I picture all my fellow mother monks in their own
little monasteries around the world. I imagine us folding together, wiping
bottoms together, drying tears together, scrubbing toilets together, sweeping
together, spraying together, scrubbing together, and blowing kisses together. And
I imagine us all together, after a long day of holy mother monk work, relaxing
on the couch and watching some quality television"”like "Wife Swap" or "Real
Housewives." Because really, we don't actually
live in monasteries and TV-watching might also be a spiritual practice.
So moms, the next time you feel
lonely in the work of motherhood, remember, we are all in this together. Together,
we are doing something beautiful: the sacred work of shaping humans and
creating the future.
Happy Mother's Day.