When You Feel Like You’re in a Pig Pen


I was paid to shovel manure when I was in high school.  My sisters and I got off the school bus, changed our clothes, and went out to feed the pigs. Occasionally we shoveled manure.  It was not fun. Actually, it was disgusting.  But we worked for this man named Dad who paid really well.  We needed what every teenage girl needs.  We needed clothes.  Smelling like a pig was a small price to pay to be able to go to the mall.

My Dad has always said “I get to go to work”.  He never says “I have to go to work”.   There’s a lot of difference between get to and have to.  When I get to do something I look forward to it.  When I have to do something  I’m dreading the thought of doing it.  My dad looks at work as something to enjoy not something to dread.  Being able to work is a privilege.  We’ll be sitting in my mom and dad’s living room on a Sunday afternoon and my dad will look over at Brett and say “Did you get to work yesterday?” Working on Saturday is a have to situation for most people. But my dad thinks working on a Saturday is something that you get to do.

I’ll have to admit that my dad’s perspective on work didn’t make sense to me when I was a teenager. Shoveling manure was a have to situation.  I never once got off the school bus and said “Oh, boy!  I get to shovel manure and smell like a pig!  Can’t wait!”  I probably had a cloud over my head and looked a lot like Eeyore while I was walking across the farm to spend the afternoon with the pigs.  There was only one reason that I spent my time with pigs. Payday. Once that check was in my hand, I was almost glad that I smelled like a pig.

Some days I feel like everything I do is a “have to” and nothing is a “get to”.  I have to get up.  I have to wash the dishes.  The pig pen that we live in is a real mess and I have to get it cleaned up.  I have to referee another wrestling match. We have to take the girls to their therapies.  Some days are about as much fun as shoveling manure.  I collapse in bed at the end of the day and then I get up and I do it all over again. I need to change my have to’s into get to’s.

I need to open my eyes in the morning and thank the Lord that I can get out of bed.  Last week  I was having spasms in my back and I spent 2 days in the recliner.  I realized that getting up and walking is a privilege.  It’s something that I get to do.  I’m thankful for dirty dishes.  Dirty dishes are a simple reminder that we have food to eat.  I’m thankful that we aren’t homeless and that we have this beautiful pig pen that we call home. Sometimes driving 2 1/2 hours back and forth to Easter Seals feels like a have to.  But then I begin to think about all of the progress that the girls have made in the last year and I realize that Easter Seals is one of the best gifts that our family has ever been given.  And we get to go there every week.  I need to stop thinking “Why do I have to do this?” when I’m breaking up the wrestling match between our girls. The truth is that in those moments of frustration and irritation, my mind should flashback to the moment when the doctor didn’t give us much hope that our girls would be born.  I don’t have to be their mom.  I get to be their mom. It’s a privilege.

We all have days when we feel like we’ve been shoveling manure all day long.  We get up and we do it another day because we know that payday is coming.  It’s payday when our girls remember to put the “s” on the beginning of a word.  It’s payday every time they put their towel in the hamper without being reminded.  It’s payday every time they get their shoes on the right feet.  It’s payday every time we go out in public and they don’t have a a meltdown.  It’s payday every time they realize that they did something wrong and they say “I’m sorry”.   And it’s payday every single time our girls say “I love you, Mommy!”.


3 thoughts on “When You Feel Like You’re in a Pig Pen

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