I read this article the other day entitled
and in it the author writes:
Now I am writing the novel that I never “had the time” to write when I was too busy living for myself. In a way, it’s a paradox. With Sofia by my side, I am no longer free to do whatever I want, whenever I want, however I please. But, instead of that idea of freedom, I now possess a clearer focus of my true passion—writing. Somehow, in a way I can’t fully express in words, I am more alive as a mother than I was as a happy-go-lucky girl who traveled the world and reveled in freedom.
The entire thing is worth a read, but I've been thinking about the insights this young mom has gleaned in the short amount of time she's spent parenting. The idea that she gave something up to become a mother, yet found a greater part of herself is truly profound. Although the world sees motherhood as a complete imposition on a woman's freedom, the reality is that motherhood has allowed this young woman to discover a freedom she didn't know possible.
It wasn't until I reflected on the author's words that I realized this has been my experience in my vocation as well. When I was a young mother with a bunch of toddlers running around, I was often bored with my at home duties.
Yes, I was hopelessly in love with the child who grinned at me while I wiped his dirty bottom, but I didn't realize motherhood would sometimes be so....boring. I didn't realize I would not be intellectually challenged like I was for some many years in college and graduate school or when I worked professionally. At school and at work, I was recognized for my contributions and successes, but at home, so much of what I did was hidden. When John came home from work, it wasn't unusual for me to regale him with a list of all I did.
"Did you see I organized the pantry, John?"
"I folded all the laundry!"
Or my personal favorite, "Guess what? I showered today!"
How was he supposed to respond to those Mount Everest feats?
"Ummm, that's great, honey?!"
I quickly realized if this whole at-home motherhood thing was going to work, I needed to find something to do outside of taking care of my family. I needed a hobby or an interest to engage me while I fulfilled my main responsibilities.
So I took an inventory of Things I Might Like To Spend Time Doing So I Don't Lose My Mind (or something like that) and one of those things turned into a blog for family and friends. For the last nine years, I've been writing on this little online journal, telling funny stories or sharing spiritual insights I've had. I have written some really, really bad stuff(my apologies to those who read these early pages) but I kept writing...in the morning, late at night, during nap time, and while I burned dinner. I wrote and wrote and wrote and over the years, my writing got better, not New York Times essay journalist better, but substantially better. I joined a Writer's Guild, went to a few conferences, read some writing books, made some contacts, and was even able to publish a few things online and in print.
All of this was possible only because I was at home with my children with small pockets of time to devote to an interest/hobby and not because I was working full time. (It also helped that John has always supported and encouraged my other interests, but that's another blog post entirely).
Once, after one of my articles was published in a magazine and I earned a whopping $500, I decided to upgrade my point and shoot camera to a real DSLR. I was tired of paying large chunks of change to professional photographers to take my kids pictures, especially since I left each session sweating and exhausted from motivating my kids to "SMILE!"
So I decided to buy a fancy camera with that small paycheck I earned because I was going to learn how to take that camera off of auto and use the manual settings if it killed me.
At the time, John said, "Why do you always have to do things the hard way?"
But I ignored him and bought the damn camera anyway.
Then, I took a photography class so I would know how to use the gazillion settings on the daunting piece of equipment and once I figured those out, I brought that camera with me everywhere. I took so many photos--really, really bad photos--but I kept shooting and you know what? My photography got better. (It's funny, no one has ever emailed me to ask questions about writing technique, but I do get questions asking about my pictures.)
All this to say,
if I had maintained a full-time job through my twenties and into my thirties and had never had all that downtime with my children, I would never have discovered some of these passions that were hidden dormant.
I would have been too busy bringing home the bacon to write or take pictures. Through the gift of extra time I found while I mothered small children, Godshowed me my own gift of creativity. In laying down my own desire to work and develop my professional abilities (which has always been there for me), God gave me something better.
He gave me a piece of myself.
I remember seeing an Oprah show once years ago where a bunch of empty-nesting women were bemoaning the "wasted" years they had with their children, years where they served without appreciation, years where they lost their identity without anything in return. I was sad when I listened to those women speak, but I remember being fearful that their experience would become mine.
But it's not.
The world tells women that motherhood, if you let it, will rob you of your identity and your body, your mind and your intellectual pursuits. And while there is a hefty dose of self-denial that comes with it, mainly motherhood has enriched me as a person. It's made me a better version of the young girl who married John twelve years ago.
Motherhood has not robbed me of myself. God has used my vocation to reveal to me who I really am.
"Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire." St. Catherine of Sienna
"For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
" Matthew 16:25