In the 9 months since our daughter was born, I have changed approximately 1,500 diapers. I’m not sure how much spit-up I’ve wiped (how could you measure?), but I do know it’s been a lot. Some days I don’t wash my face until 5 p.m.. Some days I never make it out of my sweatpants. Some days, victory can be declared if I make it through the afternoon without opening a bottle of merlot. Motherhood is hard. Stay-at-home motherhood is not for the faint of heart.
I am an educated person. I grew up reciting the mantra of our culture; “Yes, you can have it all!” I worked hard in both college and graduate school, but I also knew that when the time came for babies, I wanted to be at home. The decision was made even less painful by the fact that I was working a part-time, low paying job when we conceived our daughter. The choice to stay home was easy. Even so, on tough days when the baby is clingy and the house is chaotic, it’s easy to wonder, “What am I doing with my life? Am I wasting my time?”
Of course, our culture answers with a resounding, “Yes. Yes, you are wasting your education, talent, and life.” Another blogger recently posted an exchange she had with a colleague at her job in the business world. Her colleague recounted how after being a stay-at-home mom for 8 months, she begged her husband to go back to work, because all she did was change diapers and wipe spit-up, and there was no dignity in that. I think it’s easy to see how someone can fall into that trap. After all, if my definition of dignity is that which makes me feel good and accomplished, or brings me public recognition, then yes, changing diapers and wiping spit up isn’t very dignified.
However, we know as Christians that dignity means something completely different. Dignity is that which comes inherently from being a son or daughter of God, and which can never be rightly violated, or ignored, regardless of how much we contribute or if we ever receive public recognition.
Mother Teresa wrote in her book, In the Heart of the World:
Hungry for love, He looks at you. Thirsty for kindness, He begs of you. Naked for loyalty, He hopes in you. Homeless for shelter in your heart, He asks of you. Will you be that one to Him?
When I came across that passage I was moved to tears, thinking of my daughter. She is all of these things. Hungry for love, thirsty for kindness, naked for loyalty, homeless for shelter in my heart. She is the one God has given to me as Christ in a distressing disguise; helpless infant with unrelenting needs. How have I responded to her? Have I allowed myself to be as Christ to her? Sometimes, yes. On those beautiful days when my blinders come off and I see motherhood, as the joyful duty of delight that it is. Other days, far too many of them, my heart is hard and motherhood smacks of drudgery and travail. I am resentful when Maggie demands much from me, or upends my plans, my will for the day.
To the world, it does not matter who wakes Maggie up in the morning, who knows her favorite breakfast, who changes her diapers and sings the silly songs while doing so. It’s of no importance whatsoever to the world if I do those things or if someone else does.
But it matters to Maggie. She comes to me as Christ, begging for love and acceptance. From me. Christ is slowly smoothing the edges of my hard heart, using the sweet smiles and heart-wrenching cries of a baby to reach me. Changing 1,000 diapers may not bring me public recognition, but I can’t imagine doing anything more dignified these days.