If you're even a little aware of popular culture then you've heard of the TV show Downton Abbey. And if you're curious about all the fuss, or if you have a wife who is addicted to the show and wants to share it (like me), then you'll probably settle in and watch a few episodes.
Downton Abbey is an interesting show. It's good. Honestly, I've never seen a show quite like it where every one of the roughly 20 cast members has their own plot line. That alone is worth watching. But, there is another consistent storyline operating below the surface that deserves to be brought out into the spotlight. And, if you're an at-home parent, it's the storyline of your life. Mr. Carson calls it "the life of service".
Mr. Carson is the chief of the service staff within the Downton Abbey manor. In that role he makes sure his staff of valets, footmen (servants), maids, and personal assistants operate effectively behind the scenes servicing all the needs of both the family members within the house and their ever-present high profile guests. They do it efficiently, they do it consistently, they do it lovingly and they do it relentlessly. Watching Mr. Carson and his team reminds me of some striking similarities that any at-home parent would do well to remember.
First, the duties are often behind the scenes. The Abbey service team eat and live separately from the "house members". They are literally behind the scenes and go about their jobs without a lot of praise or thanks because, after all, it is their job and what they are doing is expected. Lamps just get dusted, clothes are just set out and ready, beds are magically turned down. It all just happens endlessly and without fanfare. It's just the nature of the job.
Second, the duties are necessary. It is clear to see while watching the show that the essence of the Abbey is created and maintained by these servants. They are, in effect, what makes the whole house run and without them the household activity would slowly grind to a halt. So, regardless of if it's folding laundry, putting away the dishes (yet again), picking up the kids from school, or helping with homework, these duties are necessary to running your house well. Without them getting completed your house would slowly grind to a halt as well.
Third, and finally, we would benefit the most from remembering what Mr. Carson repeats from time to time, "There's dignity in the service." Being in "a life of service" is how these men and women refer to their lot in life. They are servants and they live a life of service and there is pride and dignity in the work. Good things to remember.
Being an at-home parent keeps you working behind the scenes, it keeps you filling your days with necessary duties, and it keeps you ever working to serve those living with you. It is a life of service. But there is dignity in it. And you can be proud of the work you are doing. These are great lessons to keep in mind. Thank you Mr. Carson.