Motherhood vs Talents: The Internal Battle and Trusting God

m and me

My regular Confessor knows just how much I struggle with being a stay-at-home mom. The reasons are varied, but more than anything, I am trying to find the balance between doing what is best for my daughter and using the gifts that God has given me. I know that the best thing is for me to stay home at this point. I love being with my daughter all day, even when she is throwing her 3 year old tantrums. I get to see her develop and grow. I get to read with her and snuggle with her. I get to teach her the alphabet and about the Church. I am called to homeschool her, even though I know that will be a major challenge and sacrifice.

On the flip side of that, I get lonely and I crave intellectual stimulation at a deeper level. I have always been this way. My Dad and I spent hours talking philosophy and theology while I was in high school. That fire was stoked at a young age and has burned, even as embers, for decades. Unfortunately, this has turned my primary vocation into an internal battle ground.

There is no reason why being a stay-at-home mom should be pit against the gifts that God has given me. I turn it into a battle. I realized recently, that while I was focused on my own struggles, God has been taking care of it for me. It is possible for me to serve and teach my daughter and use the intellectual gifts that God has given me. It just happens that it will not be on my terms, but on God’s.

When I focus on gratitude and pay attention, I can see where God answers those struggles. I am a full-time graduate student. If that doesn’t fill an intellectual void then I don’t know what will. Out of nowhere an opportunity to teach theology for an online homeschooling academy popped up. I have an interview for the job today. Even if I don’t get the position, God is saying that options are available to me. I can serve my daughter and share my studies with other people. He is not asking me to sacrifice one for the other, but He is asking me to trust Him.

The world can make women feel like our only option is to work long hours outside of the home or stay home. It’s an all or nothing. Women who are stay-at-home moms are made to feel like second class citizens, while I know many women who work feel tremendous guilt for not being home. Women are not in competition with one another. We need to find the balance that works for our family and that is in line with our vocation and gifts. I made the decision before I got married that I would be home with any children we had, but that didn’t mean forever and it didn’t mean that I am lazy or lack intellectual capabilities.

I have found that these stereotypes or hostilities are most telling when someone learns about the life I had before motherhood. You did what?! As if my entire life has been me at home. You means stay-at-home moms have something to give?! It’s amusing and annoying at the same time. My husband and I both lived in Europe in our 20s before we met. I worked for government agencies and tried my hand at politics. I lived all over the U.S. As far as our culture is concerned, I truly lived in my 20s. I guess the difference is that none of those things satisfied me the way that motherhood and theological studies do.

Even though our culture can be anti-motherhood, I need to examine those areas where I have taken on that mantra. My battles come in part because I have accepted some areas of the cultural cry for productivity. That productivity is strictly defined by full-time work and long hours. I am firmly opposed to that idea.  For me, I want to find the balance between giving my daughter what she needs from me and serving others with my talents. That is where God wants me.

I need to look up more, so that I can see how God is working in my life. He provides. I have wandered a bit in the past few years as I adjust to this period of my life. It is an adjustment to go from the rugged individualism of my single life to the union of marriage and family. I am finding that this period is a lot quieter in many ways than the past. It is also noisier, at least volume wise. There is real peace in learning to live the vocation God wills for me. It takes the pressure off of me to try to figure it all out on my own.

Do you struggle in your vocation? If you do, let go. That is what my husband is always telling me. “Stop fighting it and just be.” If you haven’t figured it out by my blog, my husband has me more figured out than I do. God knows the desires of your heart and He will provide in His time. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows what we need when we need it. So utter that prayer for guidance or tell him of your dreams.  Then make sure that you are looking up to see what wonderful things He has in store for you. It probably won’t be how you expect it or want it, but what you need will come. Embrace what He gives and that storm inside will quiet.

I actually have an interview for that teaching position today. Say a prayer for me. I am looking up, and if God wills it, I will begin teaching once a week for a homeschool academy this fall. If not, then there will be more on the horizon.

A Vocation I Never Expected

A vocation is not necessarily where we thought we would end up.  Instead, a vocation is where God calls us to journey towards Him.  In short, it is how He makes us saints.  And that, my friends, is the meaning of life: to be a saint.  We either choose to answer is call or we don’t.  To be quite honest, I still struggle with openly answering His call in my life.  Being a homemaker, was not what I had envisioned for myself.  I have imagined myself having a career since childhood.  I guess that is just what a child of the 80s and 90s did, even though my own mother took a long break from working to stay home with us.  I also did not get married until I was 29, so I had been working for over a decade and I had lived all over.

I guess I left behind the notion of a big city career at some major university when I moved away from Washington DC for the last time.  I did not know it then, but I was making a choice for the life I wanted to lead.  I had really enjoyed city life for most of my Twenties, but by the last part of that decade of my life, I was burned out.  I craved quiet and nature.  And while DC is still my favorite city, whenever I go back, I know that I made the right choice.  It is not where I want to raise a family.

 
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When I met my husband we had agreed that we would homeschool our children.  Not only to raise them in the faith, but to ensure that they get a good education.  We are both products of public school and knew that we wanted  more for our children.  Not to mention that my time working in public school during college, showed me just how much things have changed since I graduated.  I also knew that I did not want my children raised in a daycare.  I had to make some touch choices and that is when I made the choice to be a stay-at-home mom and homemaker.
 
I think my mind began to change when I started to think of marriage and parenthood as a vocation, rather than a relationship and job.  I started to see that love and my family require sacrifices.  It meant that I no longer come first. A truth that I still struggle with greatly.  When I had my daughter it became even more clear to me that I belonged at home.  That did not make it easy
 
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I am the type of person who enjoys being engaged intellectually.  I like a challenge, I enjoy study, I am passionate about teaching, and I want to write.  Staying home with a two year old presents great challenges to these God given drives of mine.  It is difficult to feel intellectually stimulated when your day is full of incomplete sentences, diapers, and play.  My friends know when I have been in the house too long.  I talk incessantly.  Some days I am on the computer way too much, because I want adult conversation.
 
Here’s the paradox, when I fight against my vocation, I am the most unhappy.  Even though laundry, dishes, and playing house do not give me intellectual stimulation, they bring me the most peace.  That is because I am doing the right thing staying home with my daughter.  It is a great sacrifice, and I would not change anything.  God is making me a saint here in my home.  He is teaching me how to put others before myself, something that I greatly lack.  He is increasing my capacity for joy through my daughter and husband.  He is showing me the Little Way.  I am sanctified here, not out in the world.
 
If I had stayed on my previous path and pursued a high powered career, I do not think that I would be where I am spiritually.  I probably would not even be married, because meeting men in DC is a lot like trying to find a good man at a fraternity.  I had to give up that life in order to find God’s real calling.  Sure I have moments of nostalgia and miss it, but I would miss my daughter and my husband infinitely more.
 
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Yes, I will still have days that I will fight this “ordinary life”.  But, that is a part of my journey.  That is the Divine Gardener pruning away at my imperfections and sin.  That is not to say that my path is your path.  We all have to discern where God is calling us in the different stages of our life.  Who knows what God has in store up ahead?!