Monday, December 22, 2008

What is Required

“At least I know what is required of me now, and that is something to be grateful for.” --said by Glory in Home by Marilynne Robinson.

I think one of the hardest things about being a woman, particularly a stay-home mother, in this generation, is not ever knowing what is required of me. Sure, I know the general things (put family first, serve others, be an example, seek knowledge and inspiration) and some specifics (hold family home evening and family prayer, read the scriptures, have family dinner together, try to get out of debt, be a good housekeeper). But when it gets down to filling the actual minutes, it is very hard to tell what is required of me. Because it’s impossible to judge what is necessary to get the results I want. If I choose to dust and vacuum today instead of reading a great book, does that affect eternity? Should I read to my kids or make bread? Does anyone really care? How can one choice, for one hour, make a difference?

It’s a problem of too much leisure, really. I choose to be home with my kids, but they don’t need or want me to be giving my whole attention to them for all the hours we are together. So what do I do? In my mother’s generation, and even more so in her mother’s, there was more work to be done. Women were home, but they were busy with the laundry, etc. When my father was a boy, there was no question of how much undivided attention he got from his mother. The answer was: hardly any. Eight kids and hardly any money meant a lot of work for her and a lot of kids running free through the neighborhood (which was a safe thing to do back then).

These days I crave to know what is required of me. I wouldn’t trade my life of ease and freedom with my predecessors, but I envy them their surety about how to fill the days.


Th. said...


My opinion is that the book-reading type of choice is almost always the better choice. But that doesn't stop Lady Steed from feeling guilty for not doing _________.

As a man I can only see this from the outside, but I think women have been forced into a position of double-guilt: Guilt for not being in the world and guilt for not sacrificing everything for her family.

Incidentally, Little Mother in the new Irreantum has me rethinking all these questions anew.

Laura said...

What is required of me? To figure out what it means to be happy in this world and then teach that to my kids. How to do that? You got me. The answer is different every day, every minute. If it didn't change so much I might feel like I had a handle on things. . .