Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Invisible Woman

Many years ago (I think before I had children) I attended a Women of Faith convention.  For the first time, I saw Nicole Johnson "perform" as a dramatist.  She did one about motherhood and cathedrals called "The Invisible Woman."  I loved her skit so much that I bought the book.  The book ended up in my library (in the basement) with a zillion other books and I never read it.  I pulled it out this week as I continue on my quest to go through all of my books, read them, and donate them.

Her book, The Invisible Woman, is subtitled When Only God Sees
The book' premise is simple, and hits home for many mothers.  The narrator is a mother and feels "invisible."  She is a former attorney who writes that invisibility is the complete opposite of life in college and the workplace.  In school and in work, the more you did, the more credit you got.  You become more visible, not less

The narrator writes of feeling like her family only appreciates what she does, not who she is.  She considers herself a laundry folder, a floor cleaner, a toy picker upper, a dinner maker, a dish washer, etc.  She feels like no one asks her about herself or even notices if she changes her personal appearance.  In short, she feels like a slave.

I do not share that same experience.  I feel overly visible.  All day long I hear "Mommy!"  I feel like my children notice me all day long and want me to participate in their lives every minute of the day.  I feel like my husband is involved in whatever we do.  I almost want to be invisible, to get the peace and quiet.

But I do share the rest of her feeling.  Johnson writes that she feels like her hands, which once took notes in law school, wrote briefs, and shook hands with powerful politicians, have taken on a new role.  Those same hands now wipe noses, scrub toilets, and bake cupcakes.  This is a huge paradigm shift for me in my identity.  I still question my value as a mostly "stay at home" mom.  I am certainly busy: no question about it.  But am I fulfilled?

In Johnson's book, she compares motherhood to building a cathedral.  A friend of hers gives her a book about the construction of cathedrals in Europe.  As she reads it, she learns many things about cathedrals.  The vast majority of the stone cutters, the stained glass artisans, etc. are totally anonymous.  Construction often took over 100 years, which is several generations.  Sometimes entire towns or regions sacrificed for the construction of the cathedral for 100 years.  Many of the workers would never live long enough to see the cathedral constructed, let alone enjoy it.

The author of the cathedral book (not Johnson, the author of The Invisible Woman), concludes that no cathedral like the great European ones could be built today because of the sacrifices required.  That author believes that today's society would never consent to such an enormous, lengthy construction project.  Especially when the purpose of the construction project is to glorify God.   

Mothers are mostly anonymous workers building one little part of a child's life (there are other teachers and factors in addition to us).  We will likely never see the "finished product," assuming that our children outlive us.  Mother's work is, generally, not very glamorous.  Society tells us we are missing out on a better life, that other options are more valuable. 

But like the anonymous stone cutters carving designs into a cathedral, a Christian mother's faith is her motive.  The stone cutter knows he will never get the credit and has no desire for the credit.  His purpose is to glorify God.  Our role as a mother is also not about getting credit.  Unlike life in the business world, our sole purpose is to raise children to love and honor God.

Johnson writes that "Invisibility is not inflicted upon me.  It is a gift to help me truly serve."  Such  a paradigm shift ... mothering is about serving.  This is so contrary to the career woman mindset.

Johnson writes that "I'm building a cathedral, but not for them, in them.  They will not see me if I am doing it right."  Again, my career woman mindset says "What!"  I will be invisible if I am doing it right?  How can that be? 

I loved this book because it helps mothers answer a question that is near and dear to my heart: Do I matter? 

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