meaningful work

The meaningful work of being a mom


meaningful-mom-job

Now hiring: no pay, no quarterly bonus, no promotion, work long hours, no vacations, and difficult working conditions (cleaning the poop out of cloth diapers, yes!). Who would apply for such a job? And yet.

And yet, in spite of the conditions, I chose to be a mom.

And yet, I chose to have a second kid.

And yet, I chose to quit my career and stay home.

And yet, I still choose to be home after doing this for over a year.

And yet, I choose to put my babe in cloth diapers. Because poop.

What makes The Mom a meaningful job?

In my search for ways to be more authentic, I read an article from MIT, “What makes work meaningful — or meaningless” (sorry for the paywall). They came up with five unexpected features of meaningful work after interviewing 135 people in 10 different occupations. When you think of your job (or jobs), do they hit all the right feels for you in these five areas: self-transcendent, poignant, episodic, reflective, personal. Let’s discuss these in list style. Because lists.

  1. Self-Transcendent: Do you feel that your work matters to others more just to yourself?

Being The Mom requires massive amounts of unselfishness. Amounts I didn’t have before and it took time for me to learn to make enough. My kids need The Mom. I try to show them they are loved. I tried to teach them values so they will make a positive impact on our community. If I do good work, I make a big impact on my kids and on how they treat others.

  1. Poignant: Does your work affect you both painfully and deeply?

As The Mom, I am overwhelmed by the array of emotions I experience every single day. When I’m in a moment of negative emotions, I obviously don’t feel appreciative. But turns out, if all I ever experienced was positive experiences, that would steal the rich and challenging times from me. I need those. The experience of fighting through these times creates a sense of meaningfulness.

  1. Episodic: Does your work sometimes feel meaningful, but many times not?

Being The Mom is the most episodic job I’ve ever had. There is nothing emotionally steady about it. It’s not even keel. Not monotonous. Many times, I can only describe it as The Struggle. Meaningful feelings don’t exist for me in those moments. Instead, I feel exasperated and in need of a break. But the ups, man, those are pretty incredible, right? They just come and go. And sometimes, it doesn’t feel like there’s been anything meaningful for days or weeks or maybe months (like the months and months where Gabbi cried from 6pm-midnight, with brief spouts of quiet when we lulled her into scanty sleep). I may work for years and years to try and teach my kids kindness before I finally see one of them take the initiative to reach out to the injured kid in a group. I can’t force them to want to be kind. I can’t force meaningful moments to happen.

  1. Reflective: Do you realize that you’ve experienced meaningful moments after the fact?

It’s often not until we look back on experiences that we realize they were meaningful, so states MIT. So in this area, as The Mom, I am missing out on something that would help me in my job (because I clearly need to add another area of responsibility to my job description!); I am forgetting to reflect on my day. Sometimes I do it, a little bit, when I tell Nathan about some of the things that happened while he was at work. I accompany this with flipping through my phone to show him any pictures or videos I took at the time. But this is only brief reflection. I should improve in this area. Suggestions? When we did chores as kids, my parents would often have us look back at the difference we made when we were done and it was rewarding to see the weeded garden, the clean bedroom, or the folded clothes. Reflecting on The Mom work is more abstract. How do you find time to retrospect on your Mom work?

  1. Personal: Does your work matter to more than just you, but also to the important people in your life?

Yes. It matters to me that what I do matters to the people closest to me. So I think, in this area, I’d like to improve on how I recognize the other parents in my life and the work that they do because I know how much it affects me when somebody tells me, with specificity, about the times that I done good. It’s more than stating: “you’re a good mom.” That’s nice. Now add a phrase full of something meaningful. I’m going to work on this. And I can probably tell myself these things because I want to FEEL more competent.

I’m The Mom. I do things. I do transcendent things. I rock.