A Holy Thursday Reflection for Mothers

So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them “Do you realize what I have done for you?  You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master’ and rightly so, for indeed I am.  If I therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.  I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

Funny thing about human beings, we can’t ever get anything exactly right. We tend to extremes.  So in pursuit of one good we often diminish another.  For example, as we have emphasized the importance of higher education, and sought to bring about equal opportunities for everyone we’ve actually devalued other jobs and skills. It is definitely good to let young people know they can be whatever they want to be and go to college. But not everybody wants to study the liberal arts, and not everybody is cut out for them.  In pushing the doctor, lawyer, teacher careers we’ve failed to present many laboring jobs as options. This suggests that these jobs are undesirable, even perhaps shameful, yet without them society does not function. They are skilled jobs although not intellectual ones.  They require hard work, dedication and attention to detail.  They are jobs one can find fulfillment in doing well.

For women particularly, this problem of prizing one good thing at the expense of a another is perhaps more clear. While fighting to open careers and education to women, we have accidentally, or for some deliberately, devalued traditional roles. Thus women who wish to be homemakers feel guilty, ashamed, or at least defensive about what should be seen as an entirely legitimate “career move”.  Then of course, the pendulum must swing the other way as full time moms defend themselves.  This manifests itself in several ways.

Some women seek to make motherhood more complex, more like a real job, and take on all sorts of obsessions or grand projects to fill their time and prove they work hard.  Other women, feeling bored or stifled at home, feel guilty.  They are letting down their side if they don’t love every minute of it. But we’ve got the wrong end of the stick.  Because being a mom all day isn’t rocket science.  It isn’t beautiful. It isn’t intellectually fulfilling. And that’s the glory of it.

Now there is nothing wrong with higher pursuits.  In fact there is great good there.  And certainly mothers should pursue those things that enrich their lives as they can.  However, there’s no need to glamorize what we do.  In fact we will be happier if we embrace the reality.  Being a Mom, day to day, is 90% drudgery.  We change diapers, make food, clean up vomit, potty train, nurse, wash clothes and dishes.  It’s not skilled work.  You can be a great Mom without a college degree, without being a culinary genius, without making fabulous crafts.  Anybody can do it.  The only real requirement is love. Is that shameful?  No! The servile nature of what we do is not the unfortunate downside of a job thats value lies elsewhere, that can be excused because of other, greater aspects of the job.  It is the greatest dignity of motherhood!

In a different foot washing passage from the New Testament, when a woman anointed Jesus’ feet and washed them with her hair some of the disciples whispered against her that she had wasted money that could have gone to the poor, a better use.  Women are told that their talents are wasted when they stay home and instead care for their children, an unskilled job.  I was once told it would be an insult to those who were not as gifted in school if I did not go on to use those gifts in the world.  Now I hope that in some ways I do use those, in my writing, in what I teach my children.  Yet, if I “waste” my talents caring for my children and through them for Jesus then this is no waste but a beautiful pouring out.

When Jesus washed his apostles feet they were appalled, but Jesus was not ashamed.  He told them they too must serve.  This is an important direction to all Christians, and mothers are given the special opportunity to live it out.  We are honoured to spend half our lives on our knees serving others.  We should not see this as something to be excused, or glamorized.  It is what it is:  hard, slogging, dirty, unpleasant work.  For the good of those we love.  This gives us the opportunity to emulate Jesus twice over: through service, and through teaching our children to serve by our example.  As mothers could we ask for anything more?  Let us strive to embrace what is least appealing about our work, as a great gift of love we can give our children.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared on the author’s blog, The Unrepeatablesand is reprinted with kind permission. 

Caitlin Marchand


Caitlin Marchand is a home schooling mother of 4 and a graduate of Christendom College. She enjoys writing in her spare time and blogs at theunrepeatables.wordpress.com

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage

  • tanyahe

    I find my role as mother and the whole scenario of motherhood appealing. maybe I’m weird.

  • BillinJax

    There is no servitude greater than that of the one who gave us our first home and nourished us with their own blood in order that we might have life.

  • AugustGirl27

    Yes, it was at times a real grind, a frustration in exercise, a daily sloth-but mostly it was not. I’d do it again in a heartbeat, all of it from the early hours with a cranky baby, to the merry go round of homeschooling and activities, to Church and picnics after, to family vacations with stories to follow. It called upon all my skills and them some!! I’m a much better person for it, and I give thanks to God… by His Grace and His alone I made it through a lot 🙂

  • sez

    As one of those who bought the lie – that a career was more important, more fulfilling – only to discover – too late! – that a career is ultimately as unfulfilling as the empty home I returned to each night, I was delighted to read this article. The great work of motherhood should never be glamorized nor denounced or demeaned. Young women would do well to see it for what it is, as they should see the career track for what it is. Without clear vision – without the truth – we can choose badly, and live with regrets.

    Somehow, I doubt there are grandmothers who regret their children and grandchildren.

    Thank you for this very important article. May it bring many young women to make good choices, centered on truth and reality. God bless!

  • Stacy Peterson

    Son, though he was, he learned obedience through sacrifice.

    Moms have a vocation that is a sure-fire path to heaven if lived in the heart of Jesus, allowing his strength to fill our weakness. (And I am weak, this is HARD and requires decades of perseverence.)
    The youngest of my 12 kids is 3. I’m in the grind still, yet I see the fruits of my husband and my faithfulness to God’s plan for us. (Like 12 children at mass together, or a huge family squinched around the family table for regular dinners.)

    Children are a sure sign of hope. Jesus has overcome the world. And who doesn’t want to Rejoice in Hope?
    I pray that the obedience I’ve learned as a mom will carry me all the way to my heavenly family one day when my Father calls me home!