You can’t fail in your God-given vocation – you’re the mama your child needs. God made each of your children for you and you alone. That is rocking motherhood.
What will you do with your degree?”
It was the fall semester, 2004: my first graduate paper conference. The professor sat across from me in an A-line, floral dress; her blunt cut bangs framed a pleasant face. Her class was the first step toward my MA in English, a degree I hoped to complete in two years, and then:
“I’d like to have a baby and stay home.”
My professor’s eyes widened. Rosy lips pulled into a forced smile, revealing a set of bright white, clenched teeth. Awkward silence crackled between us, and then:
“I love children. I mean, I have some. But…don’t you want to do something with your life?!?”
I stood in the dairy aisle with three children, contemplating the price of eggs. F was in the cart’s seat munching from an open box of Kix; his sisters twirled in front of the Entenmann’s table, eying a package of chocolate donettes.
I pulled a carton of Eggland’s Best (on sale) and set them behind F in the cart.
“Mooooooom…..can we get some dooooonuuuuutssssss…..”
“Nope. We have cookies at -”
“Oh noooooo. Kix!”
Cascading cereal makes a lovely sound. It would have been lovelier had a great sea of yellow not spread across the floor in front of me.
“Girls!” I hissed. “Help!”
The culprit giggled from the cart, and by the fifth handful of this nutritious breakfast I had pretty much tuned him out. I didn’t even notice he’d gone quiet, really, until a flurry of motion caught the corner of my eye.
“Oh nooooo. Eggs!”
Our complete breakfast had just gotten a little more, well, complete. The last of the Kix dammed rivers of raw egg into delicate pools, and a spectacularly large yolk quivered at my feet. It looked up at me, wide eyed, and I flushed.
“Don’t you want to do something with your life?!?”
Motherhood and I have had a rocky relationship of late.
It started in February with this post about homeschooling. It was raw and honest and apparently something people could identify with, because the 30 minutes I devoted to writing it turned into three times the number of page visits I get in an average month.
My post went viral, and it was exhilarating. It awakened some sort of primal need, a final answer to the question: “Don’t you want to do something with your life?”
As I watched those numbers tick ever upward, my life finally had a purpose. I had a reason for being far beyond raw eggs and cereal on a grocery store’s tile floor. But I had to maintain the momentum. My universe crumbled while I spent an inordinate amount of time online, promoting, sharing, and building my brand.
Pretty much everything took a beating, from my prayer life to my writing, to my motherhood.
Friends became competition.
School and housework became a chore.
My children became an inconvenience.
Until a dear old friend shared this:
“Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential — as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.
You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them.
To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.
Bill Watterson (creator of Calvin and Hobbes)
When my professor’s question threw me in the crosshairs of a society’s binding dichotomy, I looked her in the eye and vowed to take a different path. Grateful for the chance to balance vocation and career, I delivered three children and built a successful business. But pride and viral notoriety bit me in the butt. I fell prey to a not-so-subtle desire for ambition, letting someone else’s approval invent my own life’s meaning.
I felt worthless, like I was letting my children down.
Except I wasn’t. My children absolutely still loved me. They wrote letters to me in our journal; they climbed up in my lap at night. They adored me even when I hated myself, a living testament to Christ’s love for me.
We can’t fail in our God-given vocation. Every child who grew in our heart, every baby who came from our womb; God made each one of them for us and us alone. That is rocking motherhood:
All we have to do is show up and love them, because everything else is gravy.
Whether we homeschool or outsource.
Whether we work in an office or at home.
Whether we take walks to calm down or hide in the closet with chocolate.
We are rocking motherhood.
We are doing something with our lives
We’re raising saints and building cathedrals.
Because good enough is perfect – even when it’s covered in egg.