Joyful work.








Despite my best intentions, I sometimes lose my cool when it comes to getting my children to participate in the running of our home.

Our journey to end entitlement with peaceful parenting strategies is off to a solid start, but sometimes I misplace my peaceful mojo.

I've gotten frustrated on more than one occasion with the grumbles that inevitably come when it's time to dig in and do the work of our life. Sometimes I'm just done with all of the complaining. It's true. And sometimes I freak out about it a little bit. A mama tantrum.

This was the case a few days ago.

There was the obligatory grumble when I announced it was time to get some work done. I lost it a little. I yelled. (Or I passionately expressed my need, you could say.) And then I cooled off and apologized. We regrouped.

The kids (the one who was complaining included) ended up getting jazzed about the jobs they had to complete and did the work beautifully. They took pride in their work and even accomplished the task above and beyond my expectations.

The next day followed a similar pattern. Time for chores leads to grumbling, minor mama-tantrum, hard-working kids, mama apology, pride in work and taking it above and beyond the request.

It's interesting.

Now I want to figure out how to consistently skip the part where I freak out. (It isn't my norm, but I've been feeling frusterated this week. It's just where I'm at in this moment.)

And then, despite my best efforts at sucking the joy out of work, a magical thing happened.

Two nights ago the kids fell asleep formulating a "secret plan". The plan involved me taking them to the coop in the morning, and also Pete and I being banished from the kitchen for most of the day. By morning the kids were (in secret) laying in bed with "How to Cook Everything" and my tattered copy of "The Joy of Cooking". They asked for a bit of help modifying recipes for how we eat, and then they ran with it.

They chose a menu.

They made a list.

They did the shopping.

And then I was shut out of the kitchen, silks suspended across the doorways and blindfolds ready in case I needed to come in.

With Sage at the helm they cooked all day. They set a beautiful table with a vintage cloth and some place mats, there was a centerpiece and fancy serving bowls. Candles were lit. Even dishes were washed. (All the prep dishes. Washed before dinner. I don't think I've even ever pulled that off.)

The menu included paleo/grain free biscuits and gravy, seasoned sauteed green beans with sage and oregano, and strawberry ice cream with fresh whipped cream.


It was amazing.

As we lingered in by candlelight around the table, Sage announced "Oh, my feet hurt from all that standing in the kitchen!"

And then he smiled a big, proud, satisfied smile.

And I thought to myself, hm. Maybe I just need to get out of their way.


23 thoughts on “Joyful work.

  1. Cassandra says:

    So were they doing it and feeling prideful because of their work or were they doing it because you yelled and they were prideful for making you happy again? Did they do all of that cooking and wonderful presentation because they really wanted to do it all without you there or did they do it because they wanted to surprise you and see you happy/not yelling?

  2. kari b. says:

    While not for me, I am confused by the question above. Is it not okay to do things to make one happy? While I try hard not to yell at my kid (and fail often, but I’m learning) and am very mindful of how easily manipulated he is, I think that doing something to make someone else happy is far from a bad thing. I personally find more joy in doing work to make others smile than in doing work for myself, (which is why I’d rather make cupcakes than clean my house.) 😀 Currently my family lives in a house with another family and we are consistently doing things for each other so as not to cause stress or break-downs on any one person’s part, I think that’s simply how human communities work. When one person is overwhelmed, the rest of us work a little harder, and there is nothing wrong with that.

  3. Cassandra says:

    No, there isn’t anything wrong with doing something unfun in order to make someone else happy. The problem comes when the child’s sense of self worth or pride is based purely on making mommy happy. That’s not joyful work, that’s fearful work. As the post is written, all I saw was “I yelled a bunch and my kids went out of their way to make me happy and not yell at them anymore.” For a lot of people, they would see her yelling as an effective tool to get her kids to cooperate, which totally goes against what Rachel is trying to do.

    But that’s the way it was written, I don’t know how exactly it went down or what words were used that would put it in a different light. I don’t question it in a judging manner, I’m just trying to further the inquiry if this was really a desired result and bring about meaningful discussion of motivations and recovering from the bad days.

  4. Rachel Wolf says:

    What it came down to was this: I was human and I lost it. I apologized. We regrouped. The kids, apart from my stress-load were still able to find authentic joy and satisfaction in their work. (To know my kids is to know that their motivation was internal, not external.) What I was trying to convey what that we all love to participate. But sometimes it isn’t easy. And just because it isn’t easy today doesn’t mean it will never be easy. Hope that helps.

  5. Rachel Wolf says:

    No, I would attest that they found satisfaction in the work despite my attitude. The “unhappiness” (frustration) was fleeting. My point is that even though I crossed the line they were still able to find the joy in work of their own choosing and contribute in a major way to the flow of our family.

  6. kari b. says:

    I see what you’re saying Cassandra, I got something totally different out of it though- of kids learning how rewarding work can be 🙂 Thanks for clarifying Rachel.

  7. Rachel Wolf says:

    I agree with the notion that, as you put it, “When one person is overwhelmed the rest of us work a little harder…” And I do see every member of my family going a little further out of love to ease someone’s day. What I was describing above, though, was more about them really digging in and doing some serious work, without being nudged, forced, or shouted into it. And that made my heart glad. 🙂

  8. Rachel Wolf says:

    …Ever the overthinker, I would also add (in reply to your questions Cassandra) that they were able to do this not because of me regrettably crossing that line, but despite it. That like you and everyone else I am imperfect and don’t get it right everyday. But even with our mistakes in the mix we’re still doing okay.

  9. Marie says:

    I think it was obvious that Rachel meant her children joyfully did this despite her shouting, not because of. No one has all the answers but hearing Rachel honestly talking through how things are going in her house is immensely helpful to me.

  10. Rachel Wolf says:

    Marie, I think sometimes I worry that I paint a picture of a perfect life. It isn’t. I think you got what I was going for – that I screw up too, but it still will work out okay in the end. Hugs all around!

  11. kari b. says:

    My son is three, moments this big are a long way off, but I do look forward to them 🙂 Any time he finds some joy within himself through forming his own ideas I am in awe of his little growing brain and spirit, so I totally see where you are coming from!

  12. meghann says:

    I love this post to pieces, for so many reasons. My littles want to cook in the kitchen all the time, but at three and two…well, they “help.” And they do a lot of pretend cooking in their own kitchen. I love it. I also love the thought that someday they will do these things that you describe.
    But also? I am stealing your line “I passionately expressed my need.” I come from an…expressive…family; my husband does not. He’s always complaining that I’m yelling. (I’m usually not; I just talk loudly sometimes.) But now I can tell him: “I am not yelling. I am passionately expressing my need.”
    (I’m kidding here. Kinda.) xo

  13. Michelle says:

    I have to say that I did not read it that way at all. But I do appreciate the asking rather than Judging. 🙂

    now for my general comment.

    I think that letting your children see you being human is a good thing on occasion. I want my children to know that they too can have tantrums moments like I may occasionally if they are willing to then dig deep like I do (and Rachel always does) Hopefullyand meaningfully apologize and express true concerns. No I do not like feeling out of control but everyone has those moments. what is important is how we communicate them and to me what Rachel does is what I would do. It is respectful but also honest. I
    wantt my children to know that I have strong emotions without feeling fearful of me or guilt by me and I think Rachel models that extremely well. None of us are perfect but we can all be reflective

  14. Rachel Wolf says:

    Michelle, I’ve been trying to keep that aspect in perspective. I so often want to “get it right” but none of us will 100% of the time. So as part of my work to accept myself when I get it wrong it to appreciate just what you pointed out – that it’s good for our kids to see us being human. Thanks Michelle.

  15. Rachel Wolf says:

    Meghann, SO funny. While I’m not normally a “yeller” (in the angry sense) I do tend to, um, have some volume when I talk. It’s a direct result of so darn much passion! Express away, mama.

  16. kara decarlo says:

    I grew up with a parent who seemed to only communicate VERY LOUDLY and only when they were UPSET. I have tried to avoid defaulting to VERY LOUD when I am upset. I get better at it day by day, but slip ups happen.

    My son is the master of work-avoidance. I have crafted a mantra for our family that seems to help him:
    If you live here, you help out.
    He’ll soon be 8 and has told me that he’ll NEVER move out, so it looks like I have a helper for life.

  17. amber jackson says:

    Its interesting, I did not relate you getting upset with your kiddos spending the day cooking a beautiful meal for the family. I am so much amazed by these acts of loving kindness from children, my girls do these things too from their heart. I also think that children need to see that no one is perfect and that emotions are a normal part of being human. I think the fuller emotional life we live the healthier we have the possibility of being, hope that makes sense…

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