What looking back at a sacrificed career can teach you about your vocation as a wife and mom.
Forget the perfect Pinterest project, by the time you change every diaper that needs changing, feed the starving animals you call your children, put the cushions back on the couch for the thousandth time, toss every LEGO block back in the bin, feed those children again, teach them their letters, feed them again, brush their teeth, tuck them in bed, tell them to get back in bed – you don’t have the energy left to stay awake until a reasonable adult bedtime, so you’re passed out in your spit-up-covered jeans on top of the bedspread at 7:59.
Well I give you credit, you almost made it to 8:00.
Every day in the life of a parent is lived in survival mode.
There are times when we look back wistfully on what we had before kids – whatever that is: school, a career, a hobby.
For me, it’s math, art, baking, and sleep. Lots of sleep.
Usually, we can keep the past at bay, but sometimes it makes a desperate and unforeseen attempt to kidnap us.
I studied math in college. It’s been seven years since I graduated. Last weekend I attended a fancy reunion with my husband (we met in the college, I’ll tell you the story someday).
I was excited to take a little evening vacation reminiscing about the days before kids.
I didn’t think I’d be pressured to return to those days.
Is My Life on Hold? (Professor #1)
The hall was beautiful – a new building on campus that I had never seen before. But I soon found a familiar face.
The professor greeted me quickly then launched right into, “I want you to go back to school.”
I explained to him that I have three kids, am currently homeschooling them, and am quite happy, thank you.
Oh, he was very supportive… “Yes, that is good. Raise your own kids. But when they get a little older, and don’t need you any more, go back to school…”
Don’t need me any more? I thought of my mom. I honor her for her choices: She stayed home and raised eight kids. And even now that we’re grown and “don’t need her any more” (yeah right!) she STILL stays home.
She still helps every one of her children (and grandchildren) every day. Her number one goal in life isn’t to make something of herself. It’s to be a gift to her husband and her children.
My dream isn’t to be an accomplished mathematician. It’s to be a lifelong stay at home mom and eventually grandma, to give everything to my family – like my mom has done.
Jesus, there’s one part in the Gospel of Matthew where you repeat (6 times!): “You have heard… But I say to you…”
I have heard the advice from the world. Their definition of success includes accomplishments.
But You speak to my heart. You measure success by how well I respond to Your call to holiness. Your call comes in the form of a vocation.
When I discerned the vocation of marriage, success in starting a family suddenly became more important than making my place in the world.
As I look back, I see that pursuing a career wouldn’t have made me holier, but prouder. I did enjoy the praise and attention I received – Mea Culpa, Jesus – I know I should have given more credit to You.
But in my vocation as a wife and mom, I have opportunities to grow in holiness daily: by doing my best to serve You in my duties toward my husband and children.
This is not to say that women who choose careers will not achieve holiness. They can achieve holiness in any vocation if they discern Your will and seek to serve You.
But I would not have had the same opportunity, because it was not my vocation.
No one can tell another what their call in life is. Even though others thought I would be great at my job, that I could advance and go far, that I could make it big… You knew better. You wanted me to be a great wife and mom.
Yours is the call I need to answer every day. Yours is the voice I need to listen to. Yours are the lifelong goals I must adopt.
Did My Brain Decay? (Professor #2)
The next professor I bumped into asked if I had kept up on my math, or if I had lost everything.
Well, yeah, I haven’t done high level math for the last seven years, so I had to admit I had let it slip.
He gave a disappointed stare into the mid-distance, and the conversation soon trailed off. I got the impression he thinks I wasted my intelligence.
So, my Jesus, maybe I’ll never be able to study math in such depth ever again, but my brain was not created to gain knowledge as an end in itself. It was created for knowledge, yes. But the kind of knowledge that leads to better love and service of You, my God.
You say, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world if he loses his soul?” The things that I gain, the knowledge that I acquire, must have their end directed toward You.
But I haven’t just been sitting around not thinking all these years.
I have learned a ton about parenting, education, how to teach homeschool – even wrote a curriculum or two! I have discovered the art of meditation, studied the Bible and the Catechism, and even started a Faith-based blog.
The academic knowledge is slowly fading, but it is being replaced by beautiful, practical knowledge that I apply in my life every day.
Will He Convince Me After All? (Professor #3)
As the night wore on, I saw more and more clearly the line separating life before marriage and kids from life after. I was feeling pressured to answer the demands of others.
Professor number three was approaching, and I prepared myself for another round of defending my family life.
He opened the conversation with a frank confession of how he and his fellow professors wracked their brains to get me to continue school, but I would not budge.
“We did everything we could think of, and we couldn’t understand why we couldn’t get you to continue your schooling. Then one day it hit me –”
Here it comes… I wonder what kind of revelation he had. Did he come up with a convincing argument to get me back in school? Does he think after a few kids I’ll realize what I missed out on?
“It hit me that you were internally driven. Most people, men especially, get their fulfillment, their satisfaction, from external things. But not you. ”
Oh, it’s not a fight this time! It’s true: I had goals and dreams that had nothing to do with mathematical success, accomplishing great things, being known to others, or earning a lot of money.
“I’m living my dream,” I admitted with relief. I knew he could accept this.
“Yes, you are. You are living the life that will make you happy. You found your fulfillment within.”
Finally, a professor willing to acknowledge that life without math still has meaning. But I still don’t think he realized exactly where my drive comes from.
I am driven by desire to fulfill my vocation, to live the specific state of life You call me to, my Jesus.
Humble me, Lord: I have to admit that I do allow myself to be internally driven too. But I want to be driven totally by Your call, by Your will. Maybe that’s a good enough start?
The Gospel tells of the call of Your disciples. How they dropped everything – their jobs, their family, their whole livelihood – to follow You. To devote their lives to You.
You call all me to do the same. Years ago you called me to drop a career to pursue marriage. Now, as a mom, You call me to drop my plans all the time!
At any moment, I have to put less important things aside (like… errands) to attend to the needs of my kids (like… taking a trip to the beach on an unexpectedly warm fall day).
I have to answer Your call to do what’s best for my family.
I think of the man who did not follow Your call. He was internally driven. He wanted to be a good guy, to get to Heaven, so he asked You what he must do.
When You called him to drop his current life, to leave everything behind and follow You, he walked away sad.
I need to be more than internally driven… if I desire lasting happiness, I need to be driven to follow the will of Christ.
Jesus, bless my efforts to live my vocation and to love the life I have.
Help me remember the man who went away from You sad, not because he couldn’t follow the commandments, but because he couldn’t detach himself from the life he once had in order to live the new life You called him to.
Help me be more like your disciples, who dropped everything and followed you without looking back.
Be True to Your Vocation
I left that reunion a little disappointed.
Not disappointed that I missed out on a career opportunity. Disappointed that so many people just don’t see the beauty in giving yourself to the cause of raising children.
Your life is not on hold while you raise your kids.
You are not waiting for them to grow up so you can finally accomplish something. You are accomplishing the work entrusted to you by Jesus: passing the Faith on to future generations.
You are accomplishing it right now.
Your brain is not decaying from lack of lofty, important thoughts.
It is exercised in answering ten thousand “why” questions a day… and almost as many “why not”s. In keeping track of the family schedule. In settling fights between kids. In planning the weekly dinner menu.
In studying and applying solid Catholic parenting principles. In catching up on your Bible and Catechism reading. In finding ways to make the Faith an integral part of your family life every day.
Your fulfillment is found, not in externals, not in internals, but in answering Jesus’ call.
Your life is lived to its fullest potential in every diaper you change. Every sunny afternoon you spend on the park bench watching your kids play. Every peanut butter sandwich you make. Every band-aid you put on an imaginary wound.
Every bedtime story you read. Every hug you give. Every time you say, “I love you.”
Your life may not be Pinterest perfect, but it is real-life beautiful.
At the end of your life, may God welcome you into his arms, saying: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” (Proverbs 31) May your works as a wife and mom bring you the joys of Heaven.
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