How much of the work that you do around your house is menial?
Menial is a word that is used to describe many mothering-related tasks in conversation, and one that I’ve used myself. Changing diapers, folding laundry, washing dishes, giving baths, vacuuming floors.
Mothering is made up of many menial tasks.
Maybe you haven’t used that particular word, but would you agree with the statement?
Here are two definitions that I found for the word menial:
- (of work) not requiring much skill or lacking prestige
- Lacking interest or dignity
I think it is fair to say that when we use a word like menial to describe our work in the home and with our kids we mean it in a negative sort of way. The synonyms of the word definitely give that idea, at least: Unskilled. Lowly. Low-status. Humdrum. Degrading. Inferior. Dull.
But then one of the definitions that I came across struck me as quite positive. Here it is:
Noun: menial; plural noun: menials
- A person with a menial job.
- A domestic servant.
synonyms: servant, domestic servant, domestic, drudge, maid of all work
If you took the time to read through that whole definition, did you catch the exciting part? The part that makes me think we need to flip the entire way we view homemaking in general and laundry, dishes, and all forms of scrubbing in particular?
Yes, technically speaking, folding clothes does not require much skill. But the work we are doing is servants’ work!
Still not seeing the exciting part?
In Mark 10:43b-45 Jesus said, “whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Jesus Himself came to serve. By nature, our work is servants’ work. We have opportunities over and over every day to imitate Jesus in our homes.
So when someone asks you what you did yesterday, don’t say, “oh, nothing, really…” in a humdrum kind of way when you know that you did two loads of laundry, played a board game with your kids, practiced addition and subtraction with your first grader, cleaned the bathroom and made breakfast, lunch and dinner for five people! (Now, if in reality you took a shower and stared at your phone, you have the right to say “nothing,” but that is another topic for another time…)
Do you remember when Jesus washed His disciples’ feet? (John 13:5-20) Peter asked Him what He was doing, and He didn’t say, “oh, nothing,” in embarrassment. He knew that what He was doing was important. It had purpose. Jesus came to serve and He was teaching His followers to do the same.
As we wipe dirty faces, dust the shelves and make sandwiches we have the opportunity to be a picture of Jesus as we serve. So let’s not view our menial tasks as something we need to just get through so that we can get on to more important things. These are the important things! We have the opportunity to make Jesus’ life clear to those around us (2 Cor. 4:10), and to teach our children to do the same.
Is there anything more monumental than that?