A life of drudgery or a life of joy?

As part of her 120 Days to Momnipotence Series Danielle Bean wrote about the importance of enjoying what’s going on now. She quoted from The Virtue Driven Life.

In the book, Fr. Benedict Groeschel writes:

“Enjoy what’s going on while it’s going on. If you go to the supermarket, enjoy it. Don’t make it drudgery. Talk to the cashier. Speak to the people at the fruit counter. Chat with a neighbor. Try to get to know people, get them to talk to you, and make your passage through life pleasurable. If you are a private person and find it a chore or somewhat difficult to speak to strangers, at least smile. As an old extrovert, I deeply appreciate a quiet person with a genuine smile; in addition, such a person listens to us, which practically no one else does.”

Along the same vein in The Happiness Project, author Gretchen Rubin stresses the importance of enjoying the process. She uses the example of choosing a birthday cake for her daughter. At first, she is tempted to get annoyed with how much time her daughter wants to invest into exploring cake options, but then she realizes this is where the joy is really unfolding.

Rubin writes,

“Enjoy the process. Eliza will enjoy eating the cake for only five minutes, but she can have hours of enjoyment planning the cake.”

So much of my life is about being process-involved. There’s the process of making sure kids are dressed and the girls’ hair is quasi-brushed so they don’t leave the house looking like a band of ragamuffins. Right now I’m in the process of teaching a child to read, and there’s the arduous saying (over and over again) of those short vowel sounds. 

There’s the bedtime process, which frequently has more steps than it would probably take to launch a nuclear attack. There’s the process of preparing meals and getting kids ready to head out to soccer. Honestly, if I reflect upon an ordinary day, I’m in the business of processes. I’m always taking action, little steps to achieve some particular end whether it’s making sure kids’ teeth are brushed to prevent cavities and/or severe halitosis or reading a book to a child in the hopes I am feeding his mind with imagination and beautiful language.

Some of these steps I take throughout the day are enjoyable like the aforementioned reading of a book, especially if it’s a good book, but a lot of what I do could easily fall into the category of drudgery. But only if I let it. I can make it drudgery – or not. I have to enjoy what I’m doing now. I have to enjoy the process of taking care of kids: the schlepping, the cleaning, the refereeing, the teaching. After all, I am doing all of this in the hopes that I will achieve a particular end: I will raise happy, healthy, and kind children who will go out into the world with faith, confidence, and the knowledge that they were (are!) loved.

Like Rubin, I have a little girl who is similarly making big plans for her birthday cake. She even drew a picture of what she hopes her fairy cake will look like. I could let the thought of figuring out how to make a fairy house on a cake stress me out. It could become just another thing on a never-ending to-do list. Or I could approach the task joyfully, knowing full well that even if her cakes comes out looking more like a fairy hovel, she will think it’s perfectly lovely.

fairy cake design

Mary Elizabeth’s vision for her woodland fairy cake

I don’t always enjoy what’s going on or am even aware of what I’m doing. I’m too busy thinking ahead or trying to prevent a toddler from killing himself. Sometimes I look back at my day and all I see is drudgery. But it’s not the nature of the work that makes it so, it’s the nature of the person doing it.

I can be joyful or not. It’s my choice. I can enjoy what I’m doing or not. I can see the day-to-day grind as just that: a grind. Or I can see it as a doling out of sacrificial love. I can only hope for the end, or I can savor the process. I can view children as inconveniences I have to manage or as blessings I need to revel in. I can smile at strangers, talk at clerks, or be in such a hurry to be done with my errands that I miss out on the satisfaction of a simple human interaction.

I can see my life as one of drudgery or one of joy. I choose joy.

Enter the Conversation...

2 Responses to “A life of drudgery or a life of joy?”
  1. Claire says:

    So true, Kate. It’s all a matter of perspective. Almost any job and any vocation has its share of tasks that could be considered drudgery, but with motherhood those mundane tasks have so much potential, since they involve serving the people we love most in the world. Danielle’s Momnipotent project has been so helpful in this area, and it’s great to see it addressed on your blog as well!

  2. Mary says:

    Hi Kate I feel like I am not alone on my Lenten and motherhood journey…I open your blogs… sometimes at random, sometimes your latest ones and I am nodding in agreement with your perspective and insights. They make me so happy! Thanks again for all your help and prayers to date and by virtue of you just sharing a bit of yourself on this blog. Blessings to you and yours!

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