....is definitely a wild and crazy ride, one that's just beginning for me, in a way. My children are still young - the oldest being only 7 - and I have a lot of mothering years ahead of me. I'm looking forward to each and every one of them - and yes, that does include the teen years that are so feared by many, it seems. (disclaimer: I actually really like teenagers, so maybe that's why I'm not scared of those years. Check back with me in 10 years or so when the teenagers I'm around are my own flesh and blood...haha).
Recently, a mom friend of mine decided to go back to school and obtain her college degree. A lot of circumstances in her life - some good, some outright bad - had forced her to not go to college at the "normal" time of life. She and her husband have decided that now is the right time for her to achieve that degree, and I wholeheartedly stand behind her. I know she will persevere and do well.
To be accepted into college, she had to take a few placement exams, and the other day was her English test. She mentioned that she woke up, already thinking about what she should wear to the exam. She realized that while it seemed like a silly thing to be worrying about, it was really just "symptom" (if you will) of a deep-seated belief that she had. She realized that she felt that how she presented herself to the world represented a larger group of people: she represented stay-at-home moms (abbreviated by "SAHM" for the rest of this post). She realized that we, as human beings, tend to generalize. Sometimes, this is a good thing - it keeps us out of danger (ex: if we have a reaction to a peanut, we generalize that we should avoid ALL peanuts). Sometimes, however, our generalizations are completely wrong and need to be corrected. (ex: stereotypes) In her experience (and a few other moms, it turns out), she'd run into the generalizations that SAHMs were, by nature, not very intelligent. Her choice of what to wear was more than just wanting to look nice - she wanted to combat this image of less-than-smart SAHMs.
Now, I'm not saying that everyone has this image of SAHMs - not at all. I know that isn't true. What I'm saying is that she had - previously - run into this perception of SAHMs, and felt a need to consciously disprove it, through how she presented herself.
This led to a great discussion within my group of mom friends. Some had experienced the same sort of generalization. Others were struggling with it in their own mindset. After all, it doesn't take a certain intelligence level to become a mother, biologically. There aren't any required test scores (academically) to get pregnant. Some of the moms struggled with this - if it doesn't require any "smarts" to become a mom, what does that mean for ones who choose to stay home with the kids and be a SAHM (in terms of their own self-image)? Another mom made a comment that really spoke to me. She said (in addition to wanting to represent moms as smart and put together),
"I also try to represent being a SAHM as a happy person who loves her kids...not just tolerates them."
This comment spoke volumes to me.
I am in NO WAY implying that any mom out there does not love her kids. I truly believe that even the "worst" moms (you know, the ones that hurt their children in some way) do feel at least a tiny bit of love for their children. I honestly do not believe that it is possible to carry a child in your womb, give him/her the gift of life, and not feel a single ounce of love for that child. I don't believe that it is possible, biologically OR emotionally. There is some love there.
I understood her statement in the context of our popular culture. Everywhere I turn, there is another comment being made about a mom not being able to wait until the kids are grown and gone. I see countless articles about moms having feelings of dislike or even hatred for their children, or how to "get through" another day, or the importance of not "losing your sense of self" in motherhood.
I recognize that there is some truth in all of those statements. It's okay to dream about the days when you and your husband can vacation without worrying about naps and mouthy teenagers. It's okay to not always like your kid's actions. It's okay - and good - to recognize that you are an individual being with needs and not disappear into the service of others. But have we, as a nation, possibly gone too far with those mantras? Have we, through our articles, comments, and "experts," decided that there is no longer value to the vocation of motherhood, but yet, it is just something we need to do "on the side" as an obligation?
I'm not sure of the answers to these questions, to be totally honest. I'm rambling a bit. I can speak to my own experience, however, so that's what I will do.
I did - and do - identify with a lot of what my mommy friends were talking about. I have a college degree, but you know what? I didn't get that college degree for me. From as far back as I can remember, my one true desire in life was to be a mom. A stay-at-home mom. With lots of kids. I went to college because I had "potential," whatever that is (I'm assuming it had something to do with my 4.0 GPA and graduating in the top 10 in my class). I felt - thanks to well-intentioned advice and pressure, I'm sure - that becoming "just a mom" would be becoming a failure. I needed to "make something of myself" because my worth was dependent on what I did, career-wise.
So I went to college. I enjoyed it - and I DID meet my husband there, so good definitely came of it - but I have no use for the degree that I obtained. I don't need that degree to do what I'm doing now, which was the one thing that I always wanted to be: a mom. I struggled with this for a very long time - until about two years ago. I still felt like a failure because I was "just" a mom. I wasn't using the book knowledge that I'd obtained so many years ago. Nevermind that I was doing probably the most important thing that I could ever - and will ever do - forming little souls. Because I was not proving my intelligence to the world, I was a failure.
Two years ago, I had an epiphany. I realized that - you know what? - motherhood is a noble, valuable vocation. All women can become mothers....but not all women become GOOD mothers. Good mothers are what children need, and without them, our world would go down the drains pretty darn quickly.
God had called me into my role in life, and what was I doing fighting that? Fighting that, not embracing it, may have been the least intelligent thing that I had ever done in my life.
Embracing my role of motherhood probably looks different than every other mom out there. Socioeconomic and cultural situations play a big part into this. In my situation, I needed to embrace - and be grateful for - the gift of being able to stay home. Sure, it has its pros and cons, but it is a gift. I needed to recognize that I was being blessed with the ability to participate in my children on a day-to-day, continual basis. I was - and am - incredibly blessed to have this opportunity. Instead of tolerating my daily life - and just "getting through the day" - I needed to experience every moment, savour every hug, constantly thank God for the life I was living as a SAHM.
Embracing motherhood meant - for me - that I was being given the gift of a joyful marriage. Receiving that gift meant that I couldn't take my husband for granted, and I needed to make sure he did not feel taken for granted.
Embracing motherhood meant - for me - learning new ways of doing things around the house. My own mother can attest to my lack of umm..housecleaning skills or kitchen abilities. Embracing motherhood meant that I had to refine my skills in the homemaking realm. ;-)
Embracing motherhood meant - for me - that I had to redefine my "mission" in life. Maybe, just maybe, I wasn't being called to have an impressive professional career. Maybe, just maybe, I wasn't being called to lead within the Church in the way I thought I had been (through teaching in a traditional setting, which is where I thought I needed to be).
Maybe I was being called to witness to the value of motherhood. Maybe, just maybe, God was using me to show the world the GOOD that motherhood brings to life and society, and the joys and blessings that a mother can receive by embracing her role.
I can remember the day that I realized that I - possibly - was following a calling that didn't exist, but ignoring the true calling that I was receiving, like it was yesterday. I can relive the excitement, the wonder, the exhilaration of that moment. I have never felt such a freeing feeling in my life, to this date.
Maybe that's what realizing your vocation is supposed to feel like - not what I had been feeling before. Instead of feeling like I wasn't living up to my "potential" (in my head, that "potential" was my calling) and feeling like an eternal failure......I felt free. I felt blessed. I felt loved. I felt like I had been - finally - given gifts that I could use to serve God well. And yet, nothing had changed...except for my head. My head was finally aligning with my heart, and responding to the calling I felt within my soul.....and now that they were all in line - I could finally do what I was called to do: love God completely.
Obviously, I am not perfect. My life is not perfect. I still have struggles (read yesterday's post for an example). Sometimes it's not pretty - I am a sinner. I lose my temper sometimes. Sometimes I find it hard to overlook the mess to see the joy on the faces of my children. Sometimes I find it hard to want to clean the house for the thousandth time that week, or to prepare my husband's favourite meal when it's not really something I like to eat, or things like that. Things are not - by any means - perfect in my life. One day, in Heaven, they will be, but for now, some days are better than others.
Where does this leave us? Really, it leaves us with the reason for this post: my mission. (yes, I know this has been long, I and thank you for reading to this point!). I'm not a big fan of the word "mission," to be honest. I think it has too many contradicting connotations to really make a clear point in this situation. So I'll be pretty basic - what is my goal, in other words. My goal is simple: to honour God through my role as a mother. To show the world that He is good, and that He has gifted us with an incredible blessing in the form of family and motherhood. Motherhood has an inherent positive value - and I am called to witness to it. It is a source of love, of compassion, of virtue, and a challenge to grow in holiness through the mechanics of motherhood. Motherhood is learning to know, love, and serve God in a very unique way: and I am called to witness to it.
That's why I started this blog. Maybe it's sickeningly sweet to some of you...maybe it gives you something to work towards. Like I said, I'm not perfect. But I am a witness to the wonders that God can work in a life through the vocation of motherhood. Not me - I'm not working the wonders. I make mistakes on a daily basis (as this blog shows!) God is working wonders in my life through my vocation of motherhood, and I am trying to witness to that, and hopefully plant a seed in someone else's mind about the value of motherhood.
I know I mentioned the other day that I was back on Facebook. In reality, this post speaks to my decision to return to Facebook, no matter how much I wanted to avoid it. As you know, I jumped back on over Christmas, with the intention being to reach out to friends/family that I have no other contact information for and wish them all a Merry Christmas. My intention was to get on, contact them, send our greetings, and deactivate again. God had other plans, I believe now. In that short 24 hours that I planned on being online, I received three very heartfelt messages from people I hardly talk to anymore. We "see" each other on Facebook, but there were very few individual conversations between us. Each of these three people - independent of each other (they don't even know each other in real life) - asked me to reconsider leaving Facebook. They each testified to how my witness of motherhood and family had touched them and how they looked forward to my posts and comments every day. Each of them commented on how my witness gave them something to "aim" for, or something to work towards in their own lives or family. Each of them told me that not seeing my presence on Facebook created a bit of a hole in their lives, and that they truly missed me.
I'm not recounting this to pat myself on the back. I honestly was shocked - and still am - that what seemed so trivial to me could have made such an impact on someone else. I'm still finding it hard to fathom just how concretely they each stated something that I had felt more than a year earlier when accepting my vocation: that my witness to motherhood was important, influential, and what God was calling me to do.
I'm relaying this experience to ask you: what clothes have you put on today to represent yourself? It's not as silly as it sounds - what image are you giving to the larger community about your role in life? What is the message you are sending about your own vocation?
What is your vocation? Have you discerned that yet, or are you still struggling - like I was - to find that calling?