Monday, November 4, 2013

Motherhood and Vocation, Part 2

In the last post, I talked about how motherhood constricts your choices and your potential. And it does.

But that constriction doesn't last.

Children grow up. And you grow up, too.

You get better at caring for them. Of course, every couple of weeks, they hit a new developmental stage, and you have to revamp every last schedule and routine to deal with the new, crazy behavior they've sprouted now . . . but even then: you get better at that kind of flexibility. You know that children=change, and you grow in the grace of matching them rhythm for rhythm.

You get a little bit of space.

And you realize . . . you're still human. That girl who was brilliant with words or who was perfectly intuitive with people or who could make an office run like clockwork . . . you still have all her skills. And, what's more, now you're mature enough that you have an idea of what to do with those skills now, how to put them to best use. But you can't, can you, because you have to mother your children.

Here's the thing: motherhood may be the primary vocation of most Christian women, but that doesn't mean it's the only one.

There is a tendency in conservative Christianity to be weird about this. We're so worried about losing the family that we end up acting like the family is all there is. We think that because women are mothers that they can't be professors or police officers or teachers or council members or doctors. That they have hearts, but not brains.

And, honestly, we think this because we're at least willing to acknowledge the truth stated in Part 1: that mothering takes real energy and real time. We know that taking the time and energy to mother means we're not going to have as much time and energy as we would otherwise. We're willing to acknowledge the cost.

And that's good as far as it goes. But it isn't true that being a mother always takes all your time and energy.

Truthfully, this is a first world problem. I know we don't want to think that, but hear me out: you're only going to have opportunity to worry that you're not living up to your potential if you have enough energy at the end of the to stay awake fifteen minutes thinking about it. If you labored in the fields all day and barely kept your family fed, well, this isn't going to be your issue.

Or your husband's, to be fair.

So, anyway, I just had to point out: this is a problem for the privileged.

But it is a real problem. Ask any smart woman who's been through college. Especially if she's been to a Christian college. Ask her if there's a tension between having a family and having a career. Go ahead. Just ask.

Are you back? (Are you me?) Okay, so: there's a tension.  And I already gave my opinion that being a mother is a good thing. Ignore your biology at your peril: God created your body. You are female. You are made to mother. That's just bound up in your DNA, and trying to not be yourself never made anyone happy. (Yes, there are exceptions. No, I'm not qualified to address them.)

But being a smart person is a good thing, too. Being a gifted person is a good thing. And your intelligence and your gifts are just as hard-wired into your body as your fertility is. God made your brains, too.

The thing is, that you can't ignore people in pursuit of things. You can't ignore your husband and your kids in pursuit of your career. You can't neglect them. That's sinning. And so that's where we get caught up: we just mother, just housewife, because these things need to be done, but we're unhappy, because we're not using our brains and our gifts.

(And here I'm going to stop and say again: these things need to be done. Modern culture tries to ignore this, tries to act like we can have homes without homemakers or healthy kids without caretakers, but that's just ridiculous. And given, again, biology, mothers are going to usually be those homemakers and caretakers. Our bodies are made to sustain life. Bluntly: we can breastfeed. It makes sense for us to be home with, at least, the babies and toddlers, because We're Not Just Mom, We're Dinner.)

But, anyway: we're not using all our gifts, and so we're unhappy.

And, at that unhappy place, I'm going to leave you until Part III.


MaTorg said...

I'm really enjoying this series, Jessica. Thanks!

Jessica Snell said...

thanks, Kelly! that means a lot to me. :)

Bethany said...

I just checked your blog after awhile and was pleased to see this series. Thanks for taking the time to think this out! Of course, this is a topic I think a lot about, so I'm happy to read it and look forward to part III.

Jessica Snell said...

Thanks very much, Bethany!