Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Meaningful Life: The Inherent Joy in Work

In our modern world, life is lived after the work is done. Cue some catchy country songs “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere” or “I Don’t Have to be Me ‘til Monday.” I have lived this way for 25 years.

I put the dishes off until after the guests leave, because I wanted to “enjoy their company.”

I feel the most alive during naptime, when I am free from the “work” of taking care of my children.

I count down the hours until Ben gets home, when I can “let loose.”

I try to distract the children when I want to get work done.

I try to find fulfillment in crafts, writing, or other “escapes” since housework seems menial, trivial and unfulfilling to me. (Perfect example here)

Work is a burden. Housework is a chore.

No wonder I was having a hard time “finding joy” in being a stay-at-home mom. I had subscribed to the idea that “just a housewife” was somehow not enough.

What I didn’t realize was that this was a modern idea. Long before I was ever born, mothers took pride in their home and the work in it. I don’t mean the magazine picture-perfect models of the 1950’s. I mean back when mothers and families literally had to make each piece of their home. They had to grow the wheat to make the bread. Harvest the cotton to sew the apron. Pluck the bird to fill the pillow. Cut down the tree to build the cabin.

But out of the beauty of modern technology, there were some ugly side effects. We lost the idea that there was joy in working in the home. Since technologies could speed up the work, we had more “free” time. More time to worry about me me me. More time to do what we “really” want to do.

And slowly, imperceptibly, we decided that I am more important than my work. Work is a means to an end. Life begins after the work is done.

The first experience I had that challenged my understanding of work happened when I met Ben's family. Running a dairy farm, many of them worked 60 to 80 hours a week. At first, I thought that was horrible. Where was the "family time"? What kid of "life" did they have? But as I've observed this lifestyle over the years (and as it is deeply entrenched in my own Ben), I've realized that work is a way of life. They work together, are involved, and support each other in their different roles. "Work" and "family time" are not two separate ideas, and joy does not "start" when the work is over. "Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved... [through] work." (Proclamation on the Family)

To work as a family as our ancestors did. I’m not trying to “find” joy in work. I feel like the word “find” implies that it was not there to start with. But I believe work is godly, and there is joy inherent in it. “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” Genesis 1:1. I don’t need to “find” the joy, I need to see what is already there. To feel it. To open my eyes a little wider, to notice more, to be aware of what is in front of my face.

I came to this realization the other day and then Cheyenne came up to me. She was smiling, like she always was. That big smile that’s in her eyes as well as her heart. And I noticed her.

I noticed her little hands and her baby teeth. I saw her chest rise up and down with the breath she has been given. She was alive. She was two years old. She is here, she is mine. We are in this together. She’s not a hindrance to my chores. She is not a monster who throws tantrums about baths and getting dressed and everything in between.

We are here to work. Together, as a family.

So then, I smiled back at her and touched our foreheads together and we laughed. And I got up to do the dishes. And I slid her stool up next to me and said, “I need your help” and she jumped up and flashed that toothy grin.

No more counting clocks and waiting games. Instead, working, together, until the sun goes down.

“For the field is white already to harvest, and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with all his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul.”  I know that serving with my family is the greatest joy on this earth. “Therefore if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work.” May we all have the opportunity to do so and find joy in godly service. (Doctrine & Covenants 4, vs. 4& 3)


  1. Well said! Such a fabulous reminder. I think I play too soon before my work is done -- so there is really less joy in the play because I know that I really should be working.

  2. Ashley - thank you for sharing this. I always learn so much from your thoughts and example!