When I was reading Russian folk tales to my children, I started to wonder why people kept asking the hero, who had to undertake difficult tasks, the same question over and over again:
"Where are you going, son? Are you going willy ? nilly (voluntarily or by force)?"
"Well, grandfather, I’m going willy and nilly. When I was a small boy my father promised me the hand of Vasilisa the beautiful: she is a daughter of three mothers, a granddaughter of three grandmothers and a sister of nine brothers. I am going to save her."
Fyodor Tugarin continued and arrived at silk tents. Marya Morevna, the beautiful caretaker, approached him. "Welcome noble man, where is your horse taking you? Are you going willy or nilly?" Fyodor Tugarin answered: "A good noble man does not go unwillingly."
When I realised a long time ago that I am – as a mother – confronted with a lot of traditional expectations of maternal tasks, I pushed the panic button. I didn’t know what to do first: bake a pie, darn the socks, get some fresh air with the children, read books about child-rearing, or look for a new interesting job.
I did my best with might and main, but taking care of the houshold was very exhausting for me. I felt lonely and worn out. Although my husband and I shared some duties, but as the provider he was in a better position to develop his interests and find self-realisation. A mere child cough, on the other hand, was enough to foil my plans to travel. And what was worse: nobody took notice of my sacrifices. The situation seemed miserable to me and my dreams about a fulfilling and interesting life were destroyed.
I often meet young mothers that feel the same way: they are taking care of their children without any help from their very busy husband or their family. Their situation seems hopeless: On the one side the beloved children with all their demands, on the other side the young women feeling the need to live their own life. Why should they give up their expectations and make sacrifices, even though they do it for their dearest?
When I was feeling down because of all this, I happened to get to know somebody, with whom I could identify and whose point of view gave my situation a new meaning: The great volunteer, Jesus Christ. Learning about Jesus?s sacrifices, my own sacrifices were somehow elucidated. When Jesus was on the cross, he couldn’t do much, nonetheless an important victory took place at that time.
Finding out about Jesus’s life, my own life became beautiful. I had no less work to do in the household, on the contrary. But my attitude changed: I felt that I am doing it voluntarily now and that made me feel good and happy. My life as a mother is undetachable from voluntarily giving up my own needs and desires. Following the example Jesus set, I am able to find a deep meaning in my "invisible" housework and my caring for others.
My motherhood isn’t voluntary in the sense of planning it in advance but because I accepted it voluntarily, although it took some time.
We can give blood or money, but we can give our time, too. We voluntarily adjust ourselves to the people we live with. We reduce our needs and wants, even our fancies. Our relationships would cease without it.
I remember this biblical parable on voluntary giving: John died and went straight to Hell. Great long tables. Bowls of delicious food. John was amazed by this sight. Even more amazing were the spoons that lay beside the bowls. They were a full metre and a half long. When you tried to eat with them you could not get them into your mouth. So everybody in Hell sat looking at the delicious food and starved.
John asked if he could go up and have a look at Heaven. Up he went. Again great long tables with delicious food on them. Again great long spoons. He asked someone what the difference between Heaven and Hell was. The answer he got was very clear: In Heaven we use the spoons to feed each other.
"The Czech word for voluntariness "dobrovolnost" consists of "dobr" (good) and "vule" (will). A good noble woman does not go unwillingly."