As I think back to these years at home and the many lessons I have learned, perhaps one of the biggest is the one I will write about here. And, if you are a person of faith, and further, if you follow Jesus as your Savior and the teachings of Scripture, this lesson is huge…and it is a daily opportunity. I am talking about serving others in love and putting other people's needs ahead of your own.
The idea of serving others in love is an important part of most all belief systems and it is a focal point all through the New Testament. From a Christian perspective, the idea of putting other people's needs ahead of your own is the whole reason Jesus appeared on this earth. So, this is a big deal.
It is a graduated process. Anyone in a relationship is introduced to the idea of compromise and the realization that you can't always have what you want or do what you want because someone else is now involved and they also have a say in the matter. The introduction of children takes this issue to a whole new level as your primary focus now moves outside of yourself to a much greater degree. Your time and effort go toward being aware of and caring for other people and serving them because they cannot serve themselves.
When you work outside the home you are able to have some separation in whom you serve as some of your energies (potentially a lot of your energies) go toward serving your employer and doing what it takes to get the job done. This is not the case as an at-home parent. When you're the at-home parent nearly all of your energies go toward actively serving those in your family. You are physically doing tasks like laundry, cooking, cleaning, organizing and logistics, and when you aren't doing these tasks you are thinking and planning about when to do them next. You go to bed at night physically and mentally worn out but satisfied that you have served your family well that day, and you rest so you can do them all again the next day.
How you see your work is your biggest daily choice. If you see your at-home role as simply doing needed tasks for the home and the family members you will tend to focus on the monotony and futility of the tasks and be left dealing with frustration, resentment, and a measure of despair. It will feel like a never-ending grind and there will be little satisfaction in it.
If, however, you see your work as a daily opportunity to serve others by meeting necessary and important needs, recognizing that you provide a stabilizing force in the family dynamic and order to an otherwise chaotic flurry of activity, then the focus changes. The work becomes almost sacred. It is infused with a devotion and a grace because it seeks to lift others up. And becoming "other-centered" is one of the best things anyone can become. Can you imagine a world where everyone was more other-centered? Being an at-home parent allows you to practice that skill every day. It is your greatest daily opportunity.