Monday, November 09, 2009

Intrinsic or Extrinsic

One thing I find about being a stay at home mom is that it is seriously easy to be lazy. It's a bit of a paradox really: the comparison of self with others and the weight of expectations put upon the SAHM shoulders is not balanced but rather almost erased by the belief that we need to put ourselves first, take care of our needs so we can take care of others and that everything on our plate is nearly impossible so really, let a few things slide, for sanity's sake.

At the bus stop last week another mom of small children told me I could show up in my underwear and she would still be impressed that I managed to get to the bus stop on time. And the weird thing is, that is tempting. Not necessarily to show up in my underwear but to believe that people wont judge me if I do show up that way simply because I showed up and that in itself is a feat. To let myself not judge me for how I show up, to be glad simply that I did.

Husbands who work just as hard as we do are constantly reminded to encourage and support, that the job of a SAHM is so all encompassing. To come home and not ask; "what did you do all day?". But my suspicion is that many of them stew and harbor negative feelings that their shirts aren't ironed or they should let their wives sleep on Saturday mornings as a way of saying thank you.

I've often wondered why I don't feel the same push to be 'successful' at my current job the way I did when working in an office or even cleaning other people's homes. In discussion a phrase was introduced to my vocabulary: intrinsic motivation. Defined by Wikipedia intrinsic motivation: "comes from rewards inherent to a task or activity itself -the enjoyment of a puzzle or the love of playing." and it is in opposition to extrinsic motivation: "coming from outside the performer, ie money, coercion, threat of punishment."

In this discussion I came to the conclusion that being a people pleaser I am definitely not intrinsically motivated. Lose some weight? Why, no one expects me to be wearing skinny jeans. Get my house white glove clean? Why, everyone knows and understands and appreciates that it will be messed up again the moment it is clean. Learn a new skill? Why, I'm much too busy teaching little people new skills.

A friend of mine who is much wiser than she gives herself credit for was having this conversation with me and off handedly said; as Christians shouldn't we ultimately be trying to please God? If only she knew how deep she was.

I find it mind blowing that I love to do things for other people and yet find it so hard to do things for the most important people in my life. That I tend to groan about washing a floor or am known to say; 'I can't do it ALL, give me a break!" (when it ALL would consist of emptying the dishwasher and running a vaccuum over the carpet).

So maybe I'm not extrinsically motivated, but rather intrinsically motivated and in truth I don't do things because I just don't want to. I think that's a hump to get over.


EM said...

Wow! Great kick in the butt post! I really needed to read that. I've just been on a retreat with 22 other women who supposedly empowered me. What they really did was give me excuses. We commiserated our fate as wives and mothers and toasted ourselves for being able to get away from it all. You're right, when it comes down to it, "it all" is usually a stack of dishes and a floor speckled with cheerios. I don't need to get away from it all, I need to get over myself.

Amanda Franks said...

I'm doing a great study by James McDonald called 'Lord Change My Attitude'. This past week we looked at doubt. One point was that being surrounded by doubters makes doubting easy and we need to find friends of faith. I was thinking same concept here. Quite challenging for me. Thanks for the comment EM!

Lamb said...

Isn't it funny that we ask God to lead us through life and when He leads through the nitty gritty we complain. I think the human condition is to want something that others will see and be impressed. We forget that the everyday (so called drudgery) is exactly where He wants us to be with Him.
When we remember that His judgment is the only one we need care about we can get on with real life.
What a load that takes off our shoulders!!!!!

Amanda said...

well said! i am typing with one hand and snuggling with my sleepy daughter. trying to remember these days to find my joy in my salvation and see my current position as sahm as the most important job i have ever had!