My friend Rachel posted some interesting questions to her blog last night. Questions about motherhood, and individuality…space. She’s getting ready to step back into the workforce…to go back to work.

Like motherhood isn’t work. According to work, as a noun, has nineteen definitions, and twenty-three as a verb. None of them relates to motherhood. Probably the hardest work any human being ever has to do, right from the beginning.

In utero (which, for the record, Microsoft Word wants to make “udders.” Really? Really?),  there is a parasitic relationship, a mother must work hard to maintain herself and the growing child. She must bear the weight of that child alone.

Labor is a synonym for work.

Work is the umbrella for so many verbs to do. Feed the baby, change the baby, wash clothes, teach (to walk, to talk, to use the toilet, to sing, dance, play a musical instrument, algebra [well, that isn’t something I could teach, but you know what I mean]), cook, clean, read, drive, advocate, sew, heal. The list goes on forever. And it’s all work by its first definition, “Activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.”

Result: some variation of healthy, well adjusted citizen.

Now, I’m not saying fatherhood isn’t work too. I know single fathers who work this same way. But they are less common.

Rachel is looking for a job, outside of her home. Teaching English. So, still, in many ways, parenting. Mothering, teaching… Having a job is easier.

Once upon a time someone posed to me the question, why are we Human Beings and not Human Doings?  There is a vast difference between the verb to be and the verb to do. I am a mother, passive. It’s what I am whether I choose to engage in any of the above actions or not. It is part of the fabric of my being. I am a teacher. Both are valid, important, necessary parts of what make our society work. Both are under-rated.

Rachel is concerned that her son will love her less if she takes on work outside the home. I don’t know that love has a more or less. You can’t do love. It’s a being thing, and as such, it simply is.

The hardest work a parent does is give her child to the world. To back up. To allow to grow. To stop and allow gravity to work its own magic. To teach the child that while it’s nice to have someone there to catch you, it is empowering to pick yourself up. It goes against all instinct.

But it is necessary.

When we travel by air, the flight attendant reminds parents that if the oxygen mask falls—take the first breath for yourself. Because if your lungs fail to work, you will be unable to help your child. It’s a hard lesson.

We shouldn’t see separation from our children as stressful, negative. It is a joyous occasion to work on the self. To seek vocation. Serenity.

Serenity for the child as well. We learn something important from our parents when we learn that we can pick ourselves up. When they pat us on the back, and say, a job well done, you’re ready, you did it. It is validation of our Being and capacity to do independently.

Sure, sure, we all have our own experience to fall back on. And that colors our choices. But ultimately our choice is to be. So, Rachel, be. A mother. A teacher. Whole.

Everyone else, should be reading Rachel’s blog at