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A Life of Errands
Mom with a View

A Life of Errands

Can a life consumed by doing errands be very meaningful?


Many years ago my husband asked a group of new students what they would like written on their tombstones. "She did errands!" blurted out one of the women. And we all snickered.

I think that she was only half-joking. And for many years I have had nothing but compassion/contempt for that woman. A life captured by "doing errands." A life consumed by trips to Target. (Well maybe that doesn't sound so bad.) I drew stark boundary lines -- my life was meaningful and hers was... not.

Being older (those many years again) and wiser, I have rethought this woman and my reaction to her. A life of errands can be a very meaningful life; it depends on the end game.

We are so used to making fun of the June Cleaver-style housewives of the fifties who could see their faces in their dishes (it never works quite the same way with paper plates!). But I think that part of the problem, part of the emptiness was that cleaning house is not a goal in itself. However it can be the means to a very important end. As can doing errands. And all those trips to Toys ‘R Us and Smart and Final and Kohl's and...

Cleaning house can be transformed from a mundane activity into a Godly one depending on our goal and our attitude.

What if you want your house to be clean because you view it, as the Torah suggests, as a miniature Temple, a place for the holiness of God's presence to alight? What if you want it to be clean because it gives your husband a sense of pleasure and peace when he walks in the door? Or you feel better able to focus on more spiritual ideas when the material is in order? Cleaning house can be transformed from a mundane activity into a Godly one depending on our goal and our attitude.

The same is true with "doing errands." Are we just "killing time" because we don't know what else to do? Is it the pleasure of conspicuous consumption that drives us? Or are we taking care of our family's needs? Perhaps in a budget-conscious manner? Errands are also part of creating a home. And running them, particularly when they may not be your favorite activity, is a meaningful effort.

While this may turn into a rationalization if a trip to Wal-Mart for the latest bargain is our daily errand, we can expand the definition. Growing families involve trips to doctors and dentists and orthodontists and dermatologists (just to name a few!). They also involve stay-at-home "errands" like filling out camp applications and college and seminary applications. They involve purchasing plane tickets and making other travel arrangements. Not always fun, not meaningful per se, but invested with meaning as acts of love and caring for our families.

I could go on and on. As our children get older, there are many family simchas, bar mitzvahs, weddings. They all involve planning, details, and yes, errands. Is a life involved in those activities meaningless? I think not.

February 16, 2008

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Visitor Comments: 3

(3) Beth Gibson, February 20, 2008 9:51 AM

Working Mums are doing huge errands

I have been a working mum, and gone off to work in tears many a day. And my job was a good one, a lawyer in the Crown prosecutor's office.
In later years I went from disdaining lawyers who retired to be SAHM's, to envying them, to being one of them and being sympathetic to the working mums. A mum who works for the benefit of her family is performing, in Mrs. Braverman's sense of the word, a huge errand every day, and her children will appreciate her efforts and cheerful mien as she does it, as does her husband, I am sure. I know that, as my mother worked and I ached for missing her, and loved her for the difficult life she led on behalf of my brother and me.

(2) Anonymous, February 19, 2008 1:49 AM

errands elevated

When we do these endless errands we can elevate them by saying....thank you Hashem that I have poeple in my life who depend on me & love me. A chessed for a family member still counts as a chessed. As we are doing laundry we have to say thank you Hashem that we have whom to do laundry for( and thank you for the energy that it takes to actually DO the errand/laundry). Many of my friends wish they had loads of wash to do because that would mean that they have a husband & children. Isn't that what we asked Hashem for??? If so then let's stop complaing about our errands & instead say thanks to Hashem for answering our tefilot. Yes, we can elevate our errands!!!!!

(1) nora, February 18, 2008 2:10 PM


I could just be saying this since I am a wanna be SAHM, when in fact I am a work-at-home mom. Although I work purely to pay the bills, and we would be unable to do so if I didn't I defintiley feel my job is the most uninteresting and uninspiring part of my day. My work hours feel like a waste of time compared to my time spent taking care of my house and family. I am uncomfortable with this feeling since I have a great job and an excellent boss (many wish they had a job like me) but although my head might eb in my work my heart is elsewhere.

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