A year ago, my baby went to kindergarten. I never wanted him to be my last, and my years of fertility ended with the burial of three babies too soon. But beyond my grief was the reality that for my whole married life my primary job had been making people and keeping them alive. Who was I if I wasn’t pregnant, and nursing, and sleep deprived? I had let go of other aspirations, shelved many of my talents—forgotten what they were even—and had focused completely on these beautiful, vulnerable, needy people. This was my vocation after all, but then, suddenly, the longest days of my life became the shortest years. And they did not need me in the same way.
Almost immediately, the Lord opened a door for a part-time job that I could do from home. At first it was just a way to make some extra money, to feel the joy and satisfaction of finally contributing financially, and that was great; but soon it became more. Parts of myself were reawakened, talents rediscovered, and a new kind of satisfaction came as I rediscovered my identity as a unique child of God, living in harmony with my identity as a mother.
The older my children get, the more opportunities seem to present themselves, and the more exciting it is to see myself in a new light, but it isn’t without conflict, and guilt, and the need for discernment. My children aren’t tiny and helpless anymore, but their needs are still many and varied. My new constant prayer is for clarity and wisdom every time I make a decision that takes me away from them a little more. (For example, as I write this piece they keep knocking on the door asking if I am done writing yet). Many mothers make these decisions and feel this conflict throughout their entire journey as mothers. After all, full-time working mothers are every bit as committed and ensconced in this vocation. We are all constantly wrestling with the seeming conflict between our identity as women, as unique persons with talents to lend to the world and the kingdom of God, and our identity as mothers, responsible for these unique persons who have their own talents to lend to the world and the kingdom of God. But God never intended them to be separate. One must inform the other, and at the center of it all is the feminine genius. St. John Paul II puts it best when he says,“The history of every human being passes through the threshold of a woman’s motherhood.” In other words, we are an integral and irreplaceable part of humanity’s journey toward heaven. My identity as a mother has enhanced and infused every talent and informs every decision. Giving decades of my life to motherhood has created new perspectives and abilities that then enhance these new seasons of my life.
The truth is, motherhood is a vocation of both sacrifice and gift. If God is asking you to give in new ways outside of your home, listen to his prodding, and trust that he will help you to discern the proper balance for your family; trust that his grace is sufficient in all circumstances. One woman’s fiat changed the course of humanity forever, and God very purposefully chose a woman as the vehicle for our salvation. Don’t underestimate what God wants to give to the world through your fiat: your “yes” brings Jesus to a dying world.