Today I sweep a bird beak the size of a cat’s claw. My broom pushes tiny feathers, a blend of gloomy grey and sunburst yellow – an American Goldfinch, no heavier than a child’s small toy. Just yesterday I watched it singing from the backyard, and today it has become pieces of dust to be collected with sandwich crumbs from today’s lunch, and, every now and then, a raisin or blueberry that seem to have glued their way to the floor from who knows how long ago.
It’s not just the sweeping; it’s the wiping too. Today I wipe mustard stains from my son’s lips, cheeks and chin. Daily, I wipe floors, counters, toilets, bottoms, hands and tears. It’s a dirty job. And yet, it makes me feel so alive.
Just years ago, I remember sneaking away from my cubicle and thinking of the lifelessness I felt at my job. So many letters typed from timid fingertips, so many people I tried to please that were still unhappy. I remember job applications those early years – the careful wavering of wages, hours, commute, and of course job duties.
And now I sweep. I wipe. I work on as little as four hours of sleep some nights. Was I to have been warned of the eternal changes to my body, the sting of sleep deprivation or the patience in soothing tears, calming fears and the responsibility creating a safe haven, I might have passed up the job–and what a mistake that would have been.
The job of motherhood allows for no justifying of overtime hours or defending the need for sweatpants as an appropriate work uniform. Though I miss casual conversation among the breakroom, receive little recognition and no bonuses, it's the things that children bring that has changed my life, the things that cause me to wake and work without the need for negotiation or awards.
As I finish the last pile of crumbs and feathers on the floor, I feel happy to have never had to complete an application for motherhood; no interview provided for someone else with different standards than my own, only the profound decision to bring life into the world.
It’s the hardest job in the world, and yet the immensity of gratitude makes me feel as though I could fly. For once, it’s the only job I’ve landed where the dealings of heart and emotion overrule logic and reason. I wouldn’t want it any other way.