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May. 23rd, 2013 at 8:21 am
Rob and I have been having a discussion about intent. I used to believe that Intent- the internal motivation that gives our actions meaning, is the most important thing. For years I argued the Intent position while Rob replied, “Intent, schment. Who cares why you do something, as long as you do it?” At the time he was struggling as a new college graduate in lower management, trying to get even lower workers to do their jobs. He didn’t care if their big toe hurt; he just wanted them to do the work. At the same time, I was a stay- at -home mom with young children who were determined to suck the last drop of blood from my body. It was full-on daily war, with me easily doing the daily work but struggling with how I felt about it.
Let’s be clear here. This was years ago, when lots of women were stay-at-home mom’s. It was not a position for well-off upper middle class women who had the financial luxury to take care of their children. Back then, the national motto was,” You had them. You raise them.” Which, looking back on it, was kind of delightful, but yet super-duper hard if you were the one stuck doing the heavy lifting. And some days, I hated it. I wished I had a job to get dressed up for. I wanted to hang out with adults and Do Lunch everyday. I remembered from my working days how nice it was when someone complimented my new haircut and noticed my new shoes. Being a professional mom didn’t come with those perks. I struggled to be happy, like the Prophet said I should be. You know the schtick. “ Motherhood is next to Godliness….blah, blah, blah.” I don’t even have the energy to write it all out.
The only thing that saved me during those early years of child rearing (before the kids went to preschool and I officially got a break a few hours a day), was Intent. In my heart I was an excellent mother. Even though my messy house, frumpy sweatpants and bland suppers didn’t show it, I loved my family and did my best to keep everyone upright and breathing. That counted, right? Right. Every time a church official in General Conference (always men because women back then only publically addressed ways to make me feel even more guilty about not enjoying every. second. of. my. Godly. role. as. a. woman.) randomly mentioned Intent, I jumped on it like it was a thousand dollar bill. “See, Rob. The Prophet just said, “Getting your heart right is very important. What your Intent is, that is what matters.” Over the years, either the church leaders started talking more about Intent or I just wore him down. Rob begrudgingly accepted that Intent does matter. By then all my kids were gone at least half-day to school, so the world seemed full of happy possibilities again.
Here we are now. The world is a different place. Rob and I are doing multi-generational family care and it is hard. We are the triple sandwich generation. Yes, we love our family members. They are all wonderful people deserving of our attention and help. We are happy to help. Somedays. Other days we just want everyone to go away and leave us peacefully alone. We are reconsidering Intent. Does it really matter how we feel about our life demands? From our perspective, what really matters is getting the job done. Anyone who tells us they are going to do something and then they actually follow through and do it, we want to bathe in affection. Hugs, hugs, kiss, kiss. Tears of gratitude flow easily because they actually did what we needed. While it is very nice at home, it is a weird response while standing at the counter at the Social Security office. Don’t even get me started on governmental bureaucracy.
I wonder at church, since it is built on volunteerism, if Intent counts at all. Does it matter how someone feels about putting down chairs in the overflow area or is it enough that the chairs are there when a struggling mother drags her brood in and dumps her church bag, diaper bag, coats and purse on that lovely chair? I think it is enough. I no longer think I have to do the work and feel happy about it. Or maybe what I am saying is I don’t expect perfection and I am ok with a decent attempt at doing the job, even if it isn’t exactly what I wanted. What matters is that the work, no matter how slowly, is getting done. And I am fine with my heart not being in it. In reality, very little of life is made of exciting stuff. Most of life seems to be opportunities to tolerate stuff I’d rather not.
I have resolved it is ok to acknowledge when I don’t want to do something. Heavenly Father understands and appreciates I will do it anyway, even if I would rather not. This is a new thought for me. We have an awful lot of hymns and church doctrine that chirp about having a happy heart, putting our shoulder to the wheel, whistling while we work, etc. (Or is that Disney? Some times I get them mixed up. There is a lot of overlap.)
What matters the most to you? Do you feel more pressure to do the work or to be happy while doing it? Or both?