Thursday, May 5, 2016

Giving my heart to a job

My first real job was in a cardiology office. The patients told me about the war, the old country, about what they wished they’d done, and what they probably shouldn’t have done. I soaked up the stories of their lives, amazed in the way an 18-year-old can be to imagine balding people with age spots falling in love with dashing soldiers.

But then their cardiolite/EKG/labwork would be finished, and I’d help them to the elevator, and they would be gone. Some came back for check-ups, others were snow birds off to Florida, still others suffered heart attacks and died before their next appointment. We made a note on their file and boxed it up. Connections were real, but temporary.

The job that was the hardest and most gratifying was working in Ethiopia. But it was the most gut-wrenching, too. Going to the orphanage and finding out that a baby had died; realizing that some “orphans” are leaving behind parents who want them to have a better life. Getting to know a child’s likes and dislikes, their life story, while you’re washing their hair, teaching them English, eating lunch with them, and then seeing that child adopted by a single mom and an aunt in America.

I wanted to adopt approximately 234 children (maybe more). I wanted enough money to fly in a medical team to heal a girl with water in her brain who couldn’t lift her head from the bed. And I wanted to pick up and hold forever babies who spent so much time alone in cribs that their hair was matted and they didn’t even cry.

It tore me up.

Even my fun job as an Office Ninja for a brewery was frustrating. When there was a more efficient way to do something we were told the revolution will not be organized. When ideas were squashed it’s like the lunatics are running the asylum. There was free beer, but like all other jobs, people came and went, and I was expected to go at some point too.

I always wanted to do a good job—no, I wanted to do a great job. Work overtime? Yes. Unwilling to move on because I think I can make things better? Yes. Talk about work all evening and answer work phone calls on Sundays? Yes.

The workplace offered a poor return on my investment. Then I got this great job that perfectly suited me. Organizing, multi-tasking, budgeting, and efficiency were highly appreciated. I would be taking care of children, running a domestic church. Working from home. Whatever you want to call it, it began without once consulting craigslist, sending out a resume, collecting references, or negotiating my salary:

I had a baby.


By your work you show what you love and what you know. – Saint Bruno
Working at home is a little like Sisyphus eternally pushing his rock up the hill, only to have it roll back down. You do laundry, dishes, dust, vacuum, and sort the socks, only to have those same piles sprout like mold within hours. So you begin again. You have the opportunity to make meals 365 days a year, while eating your meal warm three days out the year. How is this a promotion?

Because you can put your heart into it.

The pay is horrible, the hours are awful. But the benefits are, literally, out of this world. Sanctification for mom, godly upbringing for the children.

No one is urging me to ask for a raise, insisting that the boss is taking advantage of me. All those things I heard out in the workforce are irrelevant when my job is taking care of my family. Striving is the path of motherhood. And the little things do matter. Arguably, they are what matter the most.

Whenever you begin any good work you should first of all make a most pressing appeal to Christ our Lord to bring it to perfection. – Saint Benedict
It is only in motherhood that my love, empathy, and devotion have no limit. There is no sin in working around the clock when you have children, no risk of bringing that work home with you—it’s already there, and so are you.

I’m not a place holder until a new employee comes along with an exciting new approach and really valuable experience. I have all that, and more. God has decided that I am the most qualified person for this job—that’s why he gave these particular children to me.

The irony is that the vocation of motherhood assimilates all the various jobs I’ve ever enjoyed. At various times and stages, I’m nurse, nurturer, teacher. I’m doing something hard and dirty and not making any money doing it. It’s basically like being in the Peace Corps (the toughest job you'll ever love), except the terrain is less exotic and I don’t have to say good-bye, pack up, and head home after two years.

It’s my dream job.

Mother’s Day for me will always be a reminder of quitting my job to embrace my vocation. God knew how suited we were to this role—he designed us to be the bearers of life, the nurturers of children. This is the month consecrated to Mary, in which we celebrate the call to physical and spiritual motherhood, embracing our role with the same willingness and devotion she did when she said, simply, Yes.

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By National Library of Australia from Canberra, Australia [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons