I Heart Labor, Even When it Hurts

This Labor Day I am thankful for labor.  I am grateful that my husband and I have what 14 million other Americans don’t: a job.

Labor not only describes my work as an instructor on a college campus, but also my work at home.  Since resigning from my full-time job at the end of May, I’ve had a lot more time at home.  Today, I am trying to be thankful not only for my income-producing labor outside the home, but my anxiety-producing labor within the home raising two rambunctious boys. 

There are many days when I wonder how or why God thought I could handle this mothering job.  Teaching developmental English has its challenges, yes, but it’s nothing compared with teaching a three year-old that it is not okay to pour the entire 16 oz. bottle of bath soap into the tub at bathtime, or that it is unacceptable to dump his apple juice into the silverware drawer while his brother is unloading the dishes, or that it’s wrong to carry buckets of water from the bathroom sink to the living room floor so that his boats can have a bigger pond to float in.

The worst part of parenting, I think, is having to discipline our children.  I love playing with my boys: pitching baseballs in the front yard, building forts, going to the waterpark.  But I hate to discipline them.  After five and a half years, you’d think I’d be better at it, but I still constantly doubt and second-guess myself when it comes to disciplining.  Disciplining effectively takes effort, energy, consistency, planning, intentionality, patience and most importantly, self-control. 

I am sure I’m not the first parent who has ever yelled at her child, or disciplined her child in anger.  And I won’t be the last.  But that doesn’t comfort me on the days when I have lost my cool with my own children.

This week was a great week in some respects, and a rough one in others.  Two days this week I lost my temper while trying to get my three year-old to take a nap.  (Amazingly I maintained my composure during all the dumping that occurred this week, but sadly nap time was a different story.)

I was depressed most of the week about it.

I felt horribly that I had hurt Henry’s feelings.  It was painful to be reminded of the weak, sinful creature that I am.  But that is when I saw my need — again — for Christ and my never-ending dependence upon his grace. 

Without these daily or weekly reminders of my ineptitude, I might begin to think more highly of myself than I ought.  I may have overcome other sins or temptations in my past, but new struggles always seem to pop up in their places. 

As difficult as it was for me this week to be faced with the fact that sometimes (often?) I fail to be the calm, loving, patient and encouraging mother whom I strive to be, the experience brought me to repentance and a renewed reliance on Christ. 

Now that is something to be thankful for.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

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