The Myth of the Highest Calling
When I was trudging through my first pregnancy, what caught me off guard wasn’t all the strange physical changes that overtook my body or the people who felt the liberty to bowl through my carefully constructed arm’s length bubble of comfort to make friendly with their hands on my belly. What caught me off guard was the way my self-perception so drastically changed. The week before I got the double pink line on the pee stick, I’d walked across the stage of the RBC center with triple lines on my sleeves indicating the three levels of hell I’d walked to earn my PhD in Engineering. The year leading up to this moment was fraught with the question of how I could justify applying for tenure track faculty positions when my current heart’s desire was to have kids and be home with them. My problems were solved for me as I didn’t land either position I had applied for, and I had a part time, work from home gig lined up that would still utilize my education.
For the next nine months I struggled with the feeling that at the age of 26, I’d already accomplished the greatest thing of my life, and it was amounting to nothing more than a framed piece of paper with fancy lettering (which my toddler would later pee on) propped on the floor of our bedroom, because who hangs a diploma in their house? Diplomas are for office walls. The diapers came, the laundry piled, the boobs made buckets of milk, and my utility as a woman and mom in no way mirrored my training. I heard from multiple sources, including church, that motherhood was the highest calling. After all, a mother was in the position to shape her child’s soul. The more she sacrificed, succumbed to those swelling waves of home life, the crazy, the chaos, the Pinterest craft/cooking/sewing weird stuff on your clothes love affair and hiding veggies in every place imaginable outside of your armpits in order to get kids to eat them, the play dates, the right preschool, and a good Pandora worship station, the more she was fulfilling her calling. In the midst of PPD, instead of getting help, I just dove beneath the waves, because I figured the complete change of identity and feelings of being swallowed up were just part of motherhood. Several months after my first was born, I was driving down New Bern Rd with a newborn in the back seat and found myself weeping that perhaps he was my greatest life’s work. Now I could die in peace.
Over the next five years, with another kid thrown into the mix, I’d wrestle with valuing these two hands for the menial and yet fully meaningful tasks they carried out on a daily basis. And I would struggle with the question, “How, if I am fulfilling the highest calling for woman, do I not feel fulfilled? Were my part time and job and my passion for pottery detractors from my true calling of caring for them? I would take breaks to be more present with them, and try to ease back into a healthy balance. My son noticed and would sigh, "More pottery?" and then it would be, "More gardening?" "More laundry?" "More work?" "The gym again?" (I've been four times in six months). So the week after preschool ended, I abandoned it all to play dates, pool, and playtime, and the lady I was by Saturday morning was quite angry and mean. I wanted to just crawl into a dark cave and wither away. Some of my mom friends probably experience this on a daily basis, and it's why closet doors should have locks on the inside.
The truth is that small children will consume your soul and most likely spit out the veggies you’ve tried to hide in there too. They will take whatever pieces of you that you offer, chew them up, spit them out and demand more. Losing yourself completely to motherhood is not fulfilling any calling. In truth, I believe motherhood isn’t the highest calling – but it is a place in which some find to be the most difficult to carry out your highest calling, which is TO ENJOY GOD and WORSHIP HIM. It is awfully hard to enjoy God if you believe in your heart that you were “created for motherhood” or “created to breastfeed” or “created to make babies” and feel like you aren't doing so great at that. What happens when one or all of those three don’t pan out the way you planned? What happens if God forbid, you lose your child at an early age? What happens when they grow up? What if those just aren’t even things you desire in your heart to begin with? Are you broken? When we as a Christian culture elevate motherhood to a place where it is worshiped, we cause so much pain. We set unrealistic expectations on mothers, demean women who aren’t mothers, and sideline women who are no longer mothers.
Let me just say, it’s okay. It’s okay if at the end of the day, you feel there is something missing even though your walls are bursting with crayon doodles and cheerios. It’s okay if you have decided to use daycare so you can go back to work. It’s okay if your womb is barren by choice or by design. You are not in any way failing to fulfill your calling because of these things. Motherhood is hard and can be very rewarding, but our fight is not to nail it, but rather to not be nailed by it. We were created to enjoy our Father and, through whatever we come across on our journey, to PERSEVERE. Press on for the joy ahead. Press with the victory behind us. Love and enjoy your kids well, but let them see you love and enjoy God more. Teach them how to do the same. If you enjoy God most while you are in nature, get into nature. If it is while creating art, for Heaven’s sake, go create! If it is while caring for orphans, go feed and clothe and love on them. If it is making Pinterest crafts with your kids, go get your Pinterest on. If it is organizing closets, go do that.
And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, and let it be through Him that you give thanks to God the Father. – Colossians 3:17