It was the kind of splendid September day when school just feels wrong. We were homeschooling in California and I was calling the shots. So it was off to the ocean with five children under eight - Josh, Matt, Ben, Zach, and Sophia.
I staked out our territory, hauled everything in and set up camp. For five hours I served as personal valet, sunscreen slatherer, weather advisor, recreation director, swim instructor, lifeguard, EMT, food concessionaire, manners consultant, bus boy, interpreter, peace negotiator, psychologist - not to mention lost-and-found.
Finally, I hauled everything back to the car, strapped, snapped, and buckled five sunscreen-and-sand-coated no-longer-wiggly warm, limp bodies back in and headed for home.
The sun through the window was soothing, and the car was full of contentment. I was pleased with myself as a mother.
Then from the back seat came Zachary's deadpan four-year-old Eeyore voice: "Mom, when are you going to get a job?"
"This is my job," I said, somewhat amused and just a little edgy.
But homeward bound, as the kids fell asleep one by one, I began to see the beauty of Zach's question: somehow - even though it could be hard work and even though I had my testy moments - my kids didn't think of motherhood as a job.
Which is a good thing, because motherhood is really a calling.
We live in a world where success is measured by progress - as recorded on report cards, sales reports, performance reviews, and pay raises, and symbolized by ribbons, trophies, and merit badges.
But I don't know of any special awards for teaching a child to tie her shoe or come to dinner when he's called. No raises or praises when a mother drops everything to drive someone out for posterboard: "Your project's due tomorrow? But it's almost eight o'clock!"
But while motherhood can look easy, the irony is this: while lots of important people in important places conduct lots of important business every day, the truly most important work in the whole world is really going on at home, where the CEO is mommy.
I guess if we got disgruntled enough from lack of appreciation, we could start a Mommy Power movement . We could protest, march and sue.
But that wouldn't be very mommy-like, would it? Because there's something about mommies that should be soft where others are hard, kind where others are cruel, patient where others can't wait. We may not start out that way at all, but there's absolutely nothing like motherhood to change anything about us that needs to be changed.
At least, that's how it's been on my motherhood journey. I set out to make a home, to grow a family, and to help my children reach their potential.
The most amazing thing is that while I was helping them reach theirs, they were helping me reach mine.