We moderns tend to compartmentalize our lives, thinking of what we do – and who we are as we do them – as unrelated segments and pieces. So there easily becomes the church me, the hanging-out-with-friends me, the homeschooling mom me, the wife me, the internet me, and the tedious-chores me. What the tedious-chores me thinks and how she behaves seems irrelevant to the wife or hanging-out-with-friends me, and likewise the church or internet me seems to have nothing to do with the tedious-chores me.
Household Help Series
- The Heart of Household Help
- Happy Household Help
- Happy Household Help, part 2
- Handy Household Help
- Hiring Household Help (kids’ chores included)
- Holistic Household Help
We are whole people.
And we get in trouble when we live in false paradigms. I am one me and you are one you, and there is no separate identity in each area of our life. That’s true even with housework. How we do what we are responsible to do in the little area of home will be how we handle responsibility in wider and deeper areas. It’s practice for what we’re becoming. How we think and act in the seemingly insignificant work will affect how we think and act in all our work. We are what we repeatedly do. And if we repeatedly, day in and day out, complain and grumble, then we will be complainers and grumblers – not just in that one area, but in them all.
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Moreover, our children will learn our attitudes. They will learn to value things not as much on what we tell them but based on how we actually value things. Children are insightful, more so than we are. They will internalize the message our attitudes convey, even if we are unaware of what those messages are. They will see in us someone who grumbles about work we don’t want to, someone who does a slap-dash job because she doesn’t really care, someone who values herself over others. And we must learn to draw the connection from our own attitudes about our work to the problems we have over the math lesson.
It will be better for us and for our children if we can overthrow as many walls compartmentalizing our life as we can. Tidying, wiping up, putting away, should just a part of life, woven into the day. Putting a day’s school books back when done should be just as much a part of the lesson as the reading itself. They are actually not unrelated at all. It’s all part of doing our work responsibly and well.
And there’s the rub, because when I look at it that way, it’s no wonder the kids often complain about their chores, do a half-hearted job, and leave stuff out. I leave stuff out, telling myself I’ll get back to it, even when the truth is that I just don’t want to bother. I not infrequently do a half-hearted job and look for any likely excuse to bail on my own chores. Even if I’m not complaining audibly to the children about work, do I not get crabby when the work has piled up and I’m finally tackling it? Just like them? My children and I, we are all in the same boat together, and it’s my job to lead the way myself, not push them on ahead of me while I sulk behind. Because, annoying or not, more is caught than taught. I am pretty good at self-justification and excusing myself plausibly. The children attempt to do the same thing, they just aren’t as good at it yet.
What I need to see in their attitudes and responses is not primarily sin to be squashed out of them, but a reflection of my own attitudes and responses, magnified and in-my-face. I need to repent, then, of my own sin, and help show the way out. I need to model the correct response not only to the conflict and the grumbling, but to the work itself. And then we can all practice. Stop the grumbling. Start over again. Try again. Give the correct response. Repeat. Slowly, the habits will change and the attitudes will follow, if I am dealing with my own first and foremost.
And that is the primary way something as mundane as daily chores affects the entirety of our lives and being. It is a small, insignificant area of our life that can be offered up to God, a place where we can die to ourselves and choose to do the right thing instead of the easy and indulgent thing. It is an area of our lives that we can grow in sanctification, and we should not despise the day of small things as we do so. Christ said, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” That faithfulness in the little things will grow and spill out and affect everything else, eventually and perhaps subtly, but surely.