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The work at home
Elizabeth Foss

As she bent to examine my child, the health professional, making small talk, asked what I do.

“I’m a wife and the mother of nine children.”

“She blogs,” piped the child helpfully.

“You blog?” inquired the examiner. “What do you blog about?”

“Catholic family life — mothering, cooking, cleaning, spirituality …” I faded, weakly watching the expression on her face.

“People read that stuff? There’s an actual audience for that? Really? Who has time for that stuff?”

Perhaps I should do a piece on manners and send her the link.

Courtesy aside, her comments had me thinking. Who doesn’t have time for “that stuff?” She should make time — not necessarily time for what I publish, but certainly time to consider those topics. The woman who “doesn’t have time” has three young children and a husband. My question easily could have been, “Do you ever read and think about how you live your primary vocation? Do you ever want encouragement in living it well?”

She went on to talk about her job and her husband’s job and their houses and the general busyness of her life. She was in pursuit. She was answering a call. Clearly, working out a better laundry system wasn’t taking up a lot of brain space.

I glanced at my lap. There was a book about restlessness and seeking God’s will and answering God’s call with something daring and big. It was not a book about serving God in the cleaning of toilets and the folding of clothes. Sighing just a little, I pulled an old receipt from my purse and began to menu plan on the back of it.

I’m on a mission from God. I’m living a vocation. And sometimes, both in circles of faith and outside circles of faith, the vocation to be a wife and mother can be one met with skepticism and even disdain. It can be one where a woman at the center of her home feels very lonely.

The church knows the isolation and alienation of women committed to creating home. God calls us — calls with a clear and urgent voice — to have time for “that stuff.” It is our vocation.

In our own time, in a world often alien and even hostile to faith, believing families are of primary importance as centers of living, radiant faith (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1656).

That sounds like something big for God. That family doing something of great importance lives in a home. Lots of things happen there — adults and children alike learn about relationships and work and leisure and love and forgiveness. Is there anywhere in the world more important than the home? It’s not just a place to hang your hat or rest your head before you go somewhere important. It is somewhere important.

It is here that the father of the family, the mother, children, and all members of the family exercise the priesthood of the baptized in a privileged way "by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, and self-denial and active charity." Thus the home is the first school of Christian life and "a school for human enrichment." Here one learns endurance and the joy of work, fraternal love, generous — even repeated — forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one's life. (catechism, No. 1657)

If all those things are to happen at home, someone had better have time to think about “that stuff.” Even if she is called to work outside her home, she is still called to make home. This work at home is not something we do to pass the time while we wait for Him to call us to something more, something greater. This is the more. These children in our midst, the ones that sleep horizontally in the middle of our beds, the ones that sit in the minivan as we drive to dance class, the ones who really need to tell us all about it at 10 p.m., they are the holy calling.

We really do need to make time for “that stuff.”

Foss, whose website is elizabethfoss.com, is a freelance writer from Northern Virginia.

Keywords
Foss, home
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