Thursday, June 25, 2009

If I Were Invisible

This week, all three children have been sick with something that gives them a low-grade fever and light red polka dots covering their little bodies, maybe "Fifth disease." At times like this, I really miss my old job where I could drive to the office, focus on my task, and escape baby drool, toddler throw-up (yes, 3 times this morning), diarrhea, and lots of crying. More than that, I find it hard to be "invisible."

I can see it in other working moms' faces when they ask me what I do. " stay at home." Never mind the second half where I said I WORK from home.

One of my students got my attention today when he described a literary character as "merely a homemaker." Yes, "merely." Mothers who have chosen to be solely housewives do not get the respect they deserve--period. But I, too, get lumped together with them as "merely" a housewife even though I hold down a full-time teaching load from home.

Perhaps a daily, grueling commute to the job-site is what is required to be considered a true laborer.

I have visions of such an office, a sanctuary, with all my favorite English quotations and literary art surrounding me, my fountain pens and ink bottles lined up in a row just waiting to bleed on some poor unsuspecting student's paper. My bookshelves are stacked carefully with each text ready at my fingertips, and my desk is covered with towering stacks of folders containing students' compositions. I calmly inhale the fresh scent of paper, put on a pot of tea, and open a pen to begin the grading task.

My current "office" is quite different--a couch with a permanently deflated center cushion sits in the midst of Thomas trains, Curious George books, baby rattles, assorted blankets, sippy cups, and three cats. At my "desk," I'm constantly snatching the laptop's cord away from the babies or trying to save the stack of textbooks perched precariously on one end from being torn as Wyatt climbs up to see me. I'm always in search of an ink pen, there is no calm silence except for after dark, and there is usually no tea--if there is, it will grow cold before my lips touch the cup's rim...or Wyatt will drink it.

The problem is there are also no visible signs that I'm "working." You see, everything about my life--teaching online and being a housewife--is invisible. I teach more classes than I did when I worked full time, but now, I never see a student's face. I "talk" to students via email or discussion postings. I receive, comment on, and return papers via a touch-screen laptop. Even my paycheck is direct deposited into my bank account! My paying job is merely a series of dots and dashes in a computer's memory. (And it's not nearly as satisfying to click "send" and return a set of papers to students as it is to lug a huge teetering stack of folders to class and watch the theater of emotions play out before my eyes.)

My non-paying job is just as invisible. The food I cook quickly disappears. Clothes magically appear clean in drawers. There's no record of how many books I read on a certain day; how many songs we sang; how many hours I've clocked on the road doing "errands" or taking the kids to play dates, church, or doctor's appointments; how many minutes I spent snuggling this child or kissing that child after she took a tumble.

And in the midst of my late-afternoon sob session, it's like God said, "But I see. I see every diaper you change, every time you lovingly caress your child's face, every time you sing "Jesus Loves Me," every sacrifice you make that goes unnoticed. 1 Peter 3:4 tells me: "but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God" (my italics).

Later tonight, I found a book entitled "The Invisible Woman: When Only God Sees." You need to watch this clip of Nicole Johnson's performance. Nicole says of being invisible, "It is the cure for the disease of self-centeredness. It is the antidote for my own pride. It's ok that they don't see." This is obviously next on my "to read" list.

Thank you God that you see, that nothing I do is too small, too inconsequential to be invisible to you.


  1. Dear Jennifer,
    What precious post! There is a word for what you write about, it's something very close to my heart... obscurity... being hidden... a pot of stew slow cooking in the back burner... oh, such a precious season this is, being invisible. How true... it keeps us from pride, from being focused on self-importance, self-fulfillment, and all those other self words that surely God never intended for His children.

    I guarantee you when you look back to these years twenty years from now, you'll have much to be thankful for.

    As a mother of three grown children, now ages 29, 26, and 24... I do remember those times many years ago when I wondered who else knew what I was going through, being a full time mother to three, and a full time housewife.

    Now nearly three decades later, I want to thank God for having given me the strength, and the J-O-Y, to be a mother to my children in the real sense of the word.

    Hang in there! Faint not, as Galatians 6:9 says... there is a coming day of harvest.

  2. Get daily ideas and methods for making $1,000s per day FROM HOME totally FREE.