When Life with Littles is Monotonous and Mundane

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I love the changing seasons — the crispness of fall, the newness of spring, and most especially the dog days of summer. There is something wonderful about knowing that something new and different is always just around the corner. I work in higher education, and I love its seasonality too. If a class or a group of students is difficult, just hold on long enough and the next semester will roll around, and an opportunity to start anew arrives.

Motherhood isn’t seasonal, or so it seems to me. It is mundane and monotonous. It is repetitive, always the same. Sometimes, if I’m honest, it seems like a long winter that just won’t end.

Wash the dishes. Unload dishwasher. Repeat.

Take out trash. Make (so much) more trash. Take out trash again.

Wash clothes. Watch child spill every known food substance on said clothes. Wash clothes again.

Fill car with gas. Drive to soccer, ballet, the dentist, and sit in carpool for hours. Refill tank.

Kiss boo-boo. Kid climbs the same stairs and falls the same fall again. More kisses.

Pack lunchboxes. Kids eat, make trash, dirty their clothes, and then the next day, need another lunch.

Discouraged by Drudgery

It is easy to be discouraged, as it seems like all of our motherly energy is spent doing stuff that is only going to need to be re-done within minutes (maybe hours on a good day). It’s not just motherhood that is like this, as the more I think about it, life just seems to turn circles on itself, as we repeat chore after chore, day after day. I honestly find this cycle pretty depressing.

And this is all “normal” stuff. I really should be grateful for a dishwasher and a washing machine and a car to fill with gas, because the mamas of the past had none of those things. I am not living in a time of war, I am not living under some great oppression, and I enjoy freedoms that so many who came before me could not even dream of. And yet, life with littles is so often mundane. We work, we eat, we sleep, and we do it all again, whether we are Mom or Dad, single or married, rich or poor, older or younger.

How do we make sense of this endless cycle of futile tasks? Should we quit brushing our teeth simply because they will need brushed again soon? Never make another bed because we will just need to sleep again? I think there are three important lessons we can learn (and teach our little ones) from mundane, always-on-repeat motherhood.

1. Work is good.

Our culture promotes two extremes when it comes to views on work. One view is that hard work is the way to be successful and that we should work as hard as we can so that we earn money, power, and prestige and prove ourselves to be valuable and worthy to be loved. This viewpoint produces workaholics whose lives are centered on themselves — their own success and their own gratification. The other (polar opposite) view is that work is bad and should be avoided as much as possible. This view says that relaxation and comfort and rest are what life is about.

The monotonous replay of the day-to-day that we experience whether we are “working” moms or stay-at-home moms (who work quite hard too, mind you) should instead remind us that while work is not the end-all-be-all, it is a good gift to be stewarded wisely. Without work, we wouldn’t have a lot of great things — like clean teeth or clothes that don’t smell weird. Work gives us purpose and meaning and makes breaks for rest and relaxation a treat, rather than the norm.

2. Live in the present.

The monotony of life also reminds us to live in the present. My tendency as a worrier is to constantly plan for the future, to worry about tomorrow instead of today. The boring, but necessary, day-to-day activities like buying groceries and wiping the kitchen counters force us to live in the “right now”. We have to eat today, so we can’t spend 100% of our time and energy looking to tomorrow. This focus on the present is good for our souls, and it is good for our children, who need our time and our attention and to know that their mama loves them today, as they are right now.

3. Look up.

I’m not into art at all, but I do have one favorite painting that speaks to this topic. The painting is called Lift Up Thine Eyes by the famous American artist Norman Rockwell. In the image, people walk along the street with their heads down, doing their thing, while a man elevated off the ground by standing on a ladder in front of a church paints the phrase Lift Up Thine Eyes on a board outside the doors to the building. It’s a reminder of how we get so busy doing our day-to-day thing that we forget to look up. There’s a lot going on around us — hurting people, physical needs, emotional roller coasters to ride, sweet moments to be seen, encouragement to be gathered — but we have to look up, from our mundane and monotonous cycle of caring for kids and keeping our homes afloat, to notice.

Life with Littles

Life with little ones is so often monotonous and can seem like drudgery. It’s okay to acknowledge this truth; we can still be good mamas who are grateful for our children despite admitting we often find the cycle of life while they are little to be dull and repetitive. Let the mundane remind you of some simple truths that will encourage and lift you up. The littles won’t always be little, but while they are, look up.

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Mallory grew up in Oklahoma, met her husband Dave in college there, and they have lived in Maryland, Michigan, and now Alabama since getting married in 2008. She graduated from Michigan State University with a PhD in exercise physiology in 2014, and her family then moved to Birmingham so she could start a job as a college professor. She is mom to five great kids ages nine and under, and considers it a tremendous joy to get to invest in the lives of both her kids and her students. In her free time, Mallory enjoys family walks around the neighborhood, reading to her kids, bargain hunting, home improvement projects, and being involved in the children’s and missions ministries at her church.