Mother a Vocation not a Choice

My Aunt Dela was one of nine children.  Her family was very poor.  “There were some hard times,” she would say, “but oh we had some beautiful times.”  It was the wistful way she and her sister Mary would describe those beautiful times that inspired me, as though their humble little home was held together and made beautiful by the laughter and memories of a full life.

I always admired larger families, even the ones where the mother looked a little overwhelmed. These women were heroes to me, as inspiring as Amelia Earhart or Helen Keller.  Show me a reformer, a president, a saint, and I wanted to know their mother.  At a young age I decided if I were going to have children, I was going to try for at least four, maybe more if I was brave.  I always equated the number of children I would have with my willingness to be stretched, not with what I would “prefer.”

Apparently, that rose-colored view of larger families is not always shared by the rest of the world.

It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my third child that I began to learn just how undesirable big families have become.

Friends and family who were silent about my sub-par eating habits and boyfriend choices had a seemingly new found courage to speak their mind about my children.  Namely, several were weary of Jake and I having more than three of them.  More than once the words “unplanned” and “crazy” were used.  The words “irresponsible” and “burden” were implied.  I still remember my OB sighing and hanging her head when I declined to go on the pill.  She told me I would probably be happier and a better mother if I did.  I changed doctors after that.

With time, these conversations began to wear on my resolve. My motherhood vocabulary of “blessed” and “beautiful” began to morph into something less than ideal.  “Challenging” turned into “exhausting” and “calling” turned into “tedious,” and before I knew it, that euphoric joy of making little lives was turning into ash and slipping between my fingers.  It isn’t that these people didn’t want to have their own big family.  It is that they sincerely didn’t want me to have a big family either.  There was something about my choice that actually offended them.  And God forgive me I listened to them.

If I were running a marathon strangers would be cheering and handing me cups of water.

If I were running a billion dollar tech company I would be applauded for breaking that glass ceiling.

But have four children in four years…?

You made your crazy bed, go lie in it.

As my friends read this, I hope they have patience with my rant, because they have heard it before…a hundred times. The thing is, I couldn’t put my finger on why it so affected me.  Why can’t I just shake it off and not care? My conclusion, after years of wrestling, is this…

Motherhood has been reduced from a vocation to a choice.

Vocation is a matter of discernment and answering a calling; parenting should be seen as a cooperation with the will of God.

While choice is a PIECE of vocation, we are not to REPLACE vocation with choice.

Choice is weighing the foreseeable pros and cons and considering talents, means, desires and goals.  All of this is part of the path to discernment.  But there are generations of lives that hang in the balance that should not be left to man or woman’s mere choice.  Nor are we to give others the place of discerning our own vocation for us.  That is a sacred path that one must ultimately answer before God.

So here I have been struggling with doubts about my abilities and my human wisdom, because others weren’t seeing what I was seeing.  But at the end of the day, the vision, the calling, is uniquely mine.  Just as Noah had to withstand mocking as He built the ark, or the Israelites turned on Moses in the desert, or just as Christ had to take up His cross while His followers were dismayed that their Messiah was facing death, so we must stand boldly in our calling as mothers and not be shaken when those we love and trust doubt us.

If I were to stand before God and He asked, “Did I call you to this?”

My answer would be resoundingly “YES!”

And that is all I need to know.

Keep answering your call, in whatever form that is – the working mother of one, the stay at home mother of ten, the childless aunt that is a rock for her sisters and friends, the woman still waiting for marriage and a family, the adoptive mother, the grandmother of thirty, the single mother, the mother who miscarried a child, the mother who lost a child after birth, the woman who finds motherhood easy (can I follow you around for a week?!?), the woman who finds motherhood near impossible…to all of you stand firm in the path God has set you on.  Don’t let anyone rob you of the joy.  Don’t be discouraged when others don’t support you in your pain.  God sees your faithfulness and part of that faithfulness might require walking your journey alone.

But never consider the fact that you are alone as a referendum on your calling.  Many of the greatest saints were on a path separate from their peers.

The call is between you and God, and that is all you need to know.

Motherhood a Vocation, not a Choice

6 thoughts on “Motherhood a Vocation, not a Choice

  1. I understand how you feel. I think it is beautiful for a family to have many children. I do not understand those who get married only to limit their children to one or two. Why did they get married then? Love between a man and a woman is meant to be creative – and creating children is one of the fruits of that love! Those with only two children must not have a lot of love – or they would be open to doing a lot more creating! (Inability to actually have children aside of course.) I am sorry you have to deal with such criticism, when you are doing the right thing.

    I also understand how you feel in another way. I am single, and prefer to stay that way. I appreciate the single life, and think it is a great path. But just like how your friends and family, who expect you to be limited to one or two children, find fault with you for having more, I am aware of how the world sees single people and finds fault towards them as well. To many, single people do not have enough.

    Is it not odd that everyone expects you to fall into line, with 2.5 children? (What is the .5 anyways? The dog? In that case, I have .5 kids!) Is it so hard for people to comprehend that some of us just do not WANT their path? Is it so hard for them to see that having ten kids could be a wonderful blessing, and that being single could also be a wonderful path?

    I think the reason may be that so few people have genuine faith, and as a result all they can see is their own choices like you said. If they looked beyond, they would want those extra children, because they would see them as a gift from God. They would even see the call to not be married as a path in itself, and a gift as well. Each person has their own way, and people should cease to be so caught up in their own small perceptions and look at it through the bigger picture known as God.

    Keep up the great mothering!

    • A calling is so unique. I have heard it said the closer you are to God, the more unique you become. The individual characteristics that make you who you are come more alive. If we all had the same strengths, we would all be doing the same thing. But that isn’t how a body works – the eye is so very, very different than the heart, and so very, very different from the hand. We should support each member of the body and pull back our commentary on their walk with God. Admonishing on issues of doctrine and sin are one thing, but skepticism of giftings and vocation are quite another. Thank you for sharing and for your encouragement!

      • You are welcome. 🙂 Yes, it is important to realize that each member has their own path to follow, and that we should be careful not to shoot that path down when we do not know. Have you ever seen the movie on St. Teresa of the Andes? Some really put her through a lot in it, by questioning her vocation and telling her it was not even where she was called. God bless you in your path!

  2. You did an excellent job on this. In fact I do not believe I have ever read anything which explained it all so well. You know I converted to the Catholic Church, which I fought God over for a year. That one act of obedience has given me nothing but untold blessings, which keep coming to this day.

    When we are obedient to God, whatever our calling is, to me that is when the relationship truly begins and it keeps growing. It seems to me, as if God never forgets it.

    If this is your calling, then this is your calling. Others never seem to understand when we answer our “calling.” The thing that matters is we do, and God does. Jesus prayed that “God would take the cup from Him.” In the end though, He said, “Your will not mine, be done.” Jesus knew what His “calling” was.

    No amount of anything was going to stop Him from fulfilling His Father’s will. We are called to be no less.

    You really did a great job on this. I read where you see God in so many things, but always see Him in your children’s faces. To have so many created in His image. Take care and God Bless, SR

    • “I feel the call to change the way our friends and families use those words.” – Yes! Most people have no intention of hurting anyone, but the beauty of childbearing has been diminished in our society on so many levels. It is important to reclaim the sacredness of life in attitude and speech if we hope to change it in culture and law.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s