Motherhood is not my highest calling

As a mother of five children, you’d think I’d be way on board with this whole “Motherhood Is My Highest Calling” thing. But I’m not.

Motherhood is part of my calling, but it’s not the sum total of my entire existence. I love my children more than life itself and would gladly–GLADLY–give my life for any of them, but I also know that motherhood is not my highest calling.

Maybe what I’m really objecting to is the common practice within contemporary Christian culture of placing a “highest/lowest” value judgment on just one portion the female existence. We’ve elevated the vocation of motherhood to The Holiest of Them Allllllllllll.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s a sacred vocation for sure. But the way Christians talk, it’s like a woman hasn’t FULLY LIVED unless she’s given birth. She is viewed almost suspiciously, as if she is only half-matured and perhaps a little broken/damaged.

There is very little value placed on the single or childless woman.

This incredible weight of expectation places an almost impossible burden on mothers and non-mothers alike.

When we artificially inflate the importance of motherhood, then average, everyday, good-enough mothers are always found lacking. I simply can’t live up to the expectations. No matter how hard I try, I always feel like I SHOULD be doing more and doing it better.

I’ve never heard once heard a Christian mom say to another mom, “Hey, it’s OK. You’re doing a good-enough job.” Because it’s never really OK for Christian moms to do a “good-enough” job. We’re always supposed to be striving for something higher, better and more perfect.

Well, I’m done with all that.

I mean, the last time I felt like I had it all together as a mother I was pregnant with my first child. That was twelve years ago and if I keep trying to work harder, be better, strive for more perfection–I will ALWAYS be that perpetually stressed-out, too-busy-to-enjoy-my-life person. And my children will all grow up before I’ve even made time to enjoy them.

Living a fulfilled, abundant life didn’t happen automatically just I happened to have a fertile womb. This is simply the life God gave me. I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t pray for it. And without meaning to sound egregiously ungrateful, there are days when I wonder why He gave me more than I can handle (because contrary to popular opinion, God often DOES give us more than we can handle–for me, at least, it was because I needed to learn the hard way that I can’t control everything!).

Worst of all, the heavy burden of expectation pushes us to push our children in academics, in sports and in religion. I’ve heard Christian mothers say that their biggest fear is that their children will grow up and leave the faith. I know I should probably be more worried about this…..but (gasp!) I’m not.

I guess I just don’t think that’s within my control. Yes, I can pray. Yes, I can do all the “right” Christian things. But ultimately, my children will have to make their own choice and no amount of my worrying is going to change that.

I’m beginning to think that what my children–and what the whole world!–needs is less mothers who are overprotective, hyper-involved, hanging-on-their-child’s-every-move. Maybe what our kids need are mothers who enjoy their lives and are happy.

I know! Subversive, right?

I’m not saying that being a super-involved mother and being happy are mutually exclusive, but I do think I can do a better job at doing LESS and enjoying my life MORE.

If there is a “highest” calling, maybe it’s to enjoy this one, wild, precious life and by my happiness, bring joy to the heart of my Father.

  • http://blog.amberlbaker.com Amber-Lee

    Love it. Thank you. And it makes my comment on twitter about my priest that much funnier.

  • http://stmonicasbridge.wordpress.com Kristen @ St Monica’s Bridge

    As a woman who has suffered the burden of infertility, I tip my hat to you for this post. While I was eventually blessed with children and my fertility issues were considered “primary infertility” and generally speaking had an easy solution (and also Church endorsed) I suffered greatly not just under my own unfulfilled longings but the whispers of others. Because, obviously there was SOMETHING wrong with me if I wasn’t procreating YET…I MUST be using artificial birth control (I was not, I was actually using NFP TO CONCEIVE to no success because, I required a surgical procedure to get pregnant and stay pregnant…NFP does not take into account anatomical anomalies such as a septated or bicorniate uterus).

    God taught me an important lesson in infertility though, that there were other, more difficult crosses for me to embrace. My oldest child, my only daughter, has low functioning autism. She cannot talk, she has terrifically huge sensory issues. Do I worry about her “future?” No, I don’t. First of all, because it has and it will consume me. There is just far too many unknowns that have the potential to make her life so incredibly difficult (and mine and her father’s and brothers’ as well) that I cannot waste that kind of energy. Not to mention, it robs the now of the love and joy it brings. So she can’t talk, she might or she might not. But right now, she loves to cuddle and get a back scratch and “read” her Strawberry Shortcake books, and I will miss this time someday. Am I worried that she might not be a “Christian” despite her baptism because she cannot vocally nor through sign language profess Christ as her savior? No, I’m not. God knows her heart and soul even if I never will.

    Am I a perfect mother? No. Maybe on a good day I’m a passable one, but my best has to be good enough for me and my kids…and if I wasn’t given those kids I would have learned to not let my lack of children define me. I was something before them, I am something now, and when they grow up,I will still be something. I will be a child of God. And that is my highest vocation.

  • http://agibsongirl.tumblr.com Emily

    How much do I LOVE the picture of your daughter in her pointe shoes? A lot. :)
    I don’t have kids, but I’ve always felt that moms have to do the best they can–and that’s it. They’re people. They don’t have it all together, and that’s OK. No one is June Cleaver. She’s FICTION, folks! So many of the moms I know have done phenomenal jobs. I applaud all of you!

    • Christine

      Yes, what a beautiful ballet photo – her turnout and arch is gorgeous. Also love the post

  • http://www.peanutsareevil.com Cara

    Love it!

  • KatR

    You know its interesting, I always felt I HAD to have a family. HAD TO. But recently it occurred to me; I wanted a family because I crave nomalcy and stability, and being 38 and single didn’t seem to be either of those things. But do I REALLY want to raise children, with all that entails? Do I want to be in my late fifties with teenagers? I don’t think I do.

    I don’t think I have the emotional capacity to be a mother. I barely have enough emotional capacity for myself.

  • Susan Hill

    Love, love, love this. Thanks for being honest. When I use to admit to people that i didn’t like the ‘being pregnant’ part of having kids, I got the ugliest looks sometimes. Mercy. Dear lord, people, I love my kids…just didn’t like waddling like a duck. ;)

  • http://hubcityfirefly.wordpress.com Tara S

    YAY! What a refreshing thing to hear. Some of the online communities I frequent give me a great deal of encouragement and ideas for my life as Mommy, but also a heaping dose of discomfort at the awoved ideal of wife+motherhood as the ONLY real calling for women. It is cognitive dissonance in the 1st degree for me, when so many of the saints (including the women!) were either virgins or had been pressured against their wishes into marriage and simply made the most of it. And the women saints were all so *different* from each other! With varying strengths and goals and personalities…. I try to take a hint from their diversity, as permission to stop worrying about the approval of my peers, much as I respect them. :-)

  • http://bluebonnetreads.wordpress.com Hannah C.

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU.

    I’m a mom who’s struggling to find a way to stay me while also being mom. Thank you for reminding me that it’s okay to be me, and not just mom.

  • http://www.sundayschoolrebel.typepad.com Sam

    Yes, yes, yes. I can’t say YES enough to this post.

    My mother is truly a WONDERFUL mother. She’s like a dream mom – I know she would do anything for me, anything to help me. She was always there for me as much as she could be. My best friend said, “Your mom is always on your side.” Not that I wasn’t disciplined or that my mom was my buddy – I was raised very strictly! But I knew my mom was my advocate, always. And she still is.

    That said, she could have made some better choices for herself. She should have been more selfish. And my father, too. When I went to college, she ended up having a nervous breakdown. She was carrying the burden of depression and lingering grief. To think of how WELL she functioned in so many ways – it blows my mind. I’ve always been proud of her for going to work because she just couldn’t stay home. She has too much energy and I think she needs work outside the home to stay sane. So I knew that you could have a seriously great mom who went to work, too.

    I love being a mother. Is it my whole calling, no…it’s just a part of me. I think that you have to weather the seasons – when they’re so little, it can feel like mothering is all you do. And even if you love it, it’s hard.

  • Mark S.

    Wonderful post. As a Catholic Christian, a man, husband, father and pilgrim I find your insight to be rich. If I may add, the gospel we preach to our kids is the one we give by the way we live. We teach them to love unconditionally as Jesus does is to love unconditionally, wordlessly. That is all we need…well, that and complete trust in the Lord’s promises. In that love there is such joy as you well know. May you always know the Lord’s peace.

  • Abby

    Thank you! This is exactly what I needed tonight! :-)

  • Tammy

    I loved your post…the pressure on moms (both self inflicted and from society) is simply too much. We all need to collectively chill out.

    As for the moms who say their worst fear is their child leaving the faith, well let me assure you that you cannot prevent it…your child has free will and God doesnt have grandchildren…they will have to go on a faith journey of their own that you will NOT be able to micromanage. Right now both my sons (22 & 20) claim to be atheists…and I raised them well in the Church. I pray for them but I cant direct them.

    While were on the topic of cutting each other some slack, I cant tell you how often I feel very judged my moms who’s kids are a few years younger than mine…like I should be doing some magic to make my kids not atheists or that thier friends would not be gay …well, they are all what they are and my job is to love them. It wouldnt surprise me if in a few years I heard “I feel so bad, I thought you were a terrible mom and now I understand”

  • http://lovingfromtheinsideout.blogspot.com Connie

    I’m not a mother and have never longed to be, but this sentence really resonates with me: “There is very little value placed on the single or childless woman.” Thank you, thank you, THANK you for noticing this and speaking it “out loud.” I am both….I’ll not forget reading a Christian financial advice book and coming to a sentence where he said something about “the highest role of a woman, that of a wife and mother.” Oh, so…until I’m married (hey, I’m 42 and it hasn’t happened yet!) and have a child, I’m automatically in a lesser role? Nice. Should I run out and snag the first man who’ll have me and marry–and have a child with–him, just so I can *boing* automatically be in a “higher” role? *gag*

    Elizabeth, thanks for speaking up for those who don’t fit the contemporary/American/middle-class Christian mold. Keep doin’ the good work.

  • http://Rosieandthebutcher.com Angie wirthlin

    I really enjoyed the blog post. For 16 years I have suffered tremendous guilt about not being a good enough mother, first to my step daughter, and then to my 3 younger kids. I am getting over it. Recovering , if you will. Slowly, but surely. Thanks.

  • Kristy

    A woman’s true calling is simply the one god placed on her. Whether that is to be a wife/mother, career woman, working mom, foster parent or simply a woman who doesn’t have children shouldn’t matter. A woman is a blessing because she is a woman! Nothing more nothing less. I’m tired of society telling us what we should/shouldn’t be! Be proud that god created you to be you, be pleased with that, then do your best. I think if we can do that we will all be happier.

    • http://www.4andcounting.blogspot.com nicole

      “A woman’s true calling is simply the one god placed on her.”

      You said exactly what I was thinking.

  • http://angryjuliemonday.com Julie {Angry Julie Monday}

    I feel like I lead two different lives sometimes….mom and employee. When I’m at work, I’m in an adult world, where people don’t realize that I need to get off in time to make it to soccer etc. And the mom world, where everything discussed is what the school test scores are, and when is picture day.

    I like having my two worlds. I appreciate the fact that I’m using the degrees that I spent YEARS earning, and I’m still paying for. Yes, there are days when I’m over it all.

    But then, I see some of the moms at school. Where their entire life is their children. These women seem to have no hobbies, or no really friends at all (other than other moms at school). Is that healthy?

    I’m glad that I lead a well rounded life….

    • Tara S

      Oh noes, not the Mommy Wars! :-)

      Allow me to say, it’s possible you may slightly misunderstand where some of these women come from. Some women (like me!) are blessed/cursed with an extremely one-track-mind, in which children *and* career would (and have) caused us endless grief because we are only happy when we can throw all our focus on one thing (children *or* career). In this case, we gladly make child-rearing and homemaking “the thing we do” to the exclusion of most other things. Does this mean we are not well-rounded? Well, probably, because we wouldn’t have such a one-track-mind if we were superbly well rounded people. But it’s just the way we are. For those of us who made the choice to appear to be kid-centric, it’s often because of *our* specific psychological requirements to be a sane person (whether it be insane single-mindedness, or a mom knowing she’d be plagued with regret for not soaking up every second with her kids while they were little…or a hundred other reasons!). To me, the main thing to remember is that no matter who we are or what we need to get the job of parenting done, like Elizabeth said, we are children of God just like our own children. Even if our lives are hardly our own when we become moms or dads, we need to remember that our highest calling is to God, and we don’t suddenly know what His plans for us are just because we begot us some offspring. :-)

      • Tara S

        Hmm. I don’t know if I agree with what I just posted. I agree with my first comment farther above. I’ll stick with that one.

        • Tara S

          I know what bugs me about my comment. What I *should* have said (it was Before Coffee, forgive me!) is that we ought to be carrying a spirit of service and humility into everything we do. If we’re “all about God” then it doesn’t matter if that expresses itself in us being a lifelong celibate, a working mom, a SAHM with few other interests, or a childless spouse with fertility issues. None of these are less worthy or less interesting.

          Sorry for the barrage!!

  • Heather

    Amen!! I work full time in a career I KNOW God called me to, I am a lay pastor and the mother of two special needs kids. Motherhood is hard work, and my kids aren’t perfect. I have lots of callings on my life, and some of them involve mothering other people’s children when they are hurt or in danger. My own sometimes have to wait their turn in line. But I think that is healthy–instead of being taught servanthood in some Sunday school lesson, they are seeing it modeled on a regular basis. They are learning that they are not the center of the universe. Beloved, yes. But there are others whom God loves too and we as a family make sacrifices to show that love every single week. By being a strong working mom my kids are seeing first hand the role women have in the world. My kids also are learning to dothings themselves, like get their own meals sometimes. Gasp! Did I really just admit that out loud? What will the mommy cliques say? I don’t care. My kids are learning to be independent self-reliant people who take care of other people as well as themselves. I may not be the perfect mom, but my kids will know how to be independent, free-thinking Christian (if they choose) adults when they leave our home.

  • http://www.unbearablywright.com Amanda

    It’s tough – I really want to applaud the messaging and YET… Something just strikes me wrong. If I were a nurse, I dare say the patients in my care would not want to know that I was saying to myself, “Well, no sense in striving to be the BEST nurse I can be, I think I’ll work on just being a HAPPY nurse!” Also, I think people tend to get really hung up on their “calling” – if you are saved, your “calling” is to live out Jesus’ commands in your life and through the opportunities presented. For some that will be using their words while they are raising a brood of children; for others it will be completely different. Our highest and only calling is to obey the example set by Jesus, and seeking out how to do that in the rolls we have.

    • Claire

      I agree with you, Amanda. I don’t think motherhood is the only calling for women (it’s one that almost eluded me due to years of infertility and miscarriages). But for women who are blessed with children, I believe that while it isn’t their only calling, the vocation of marriage and motherhood is their highest calling. This doesn’t mean that they should beat themselves up for not being perfect, it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have other outlets in their lives, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that they should be hyper-involved (although it’s best not to judge, because sometimes their are extenuating circumstances that warrant more involvement). Striving for improvement in motherhood, like all other callings, is a good thing as long as we don’t put unrealistic pressure and condemnation on ourselves.

    • http://www.elizabethesther.com elizabeth

      I’m not really making this an either/or. Being happy and being the best mother you can be are not mutually exclusive. I want to be both/and and that means not holding myself to an impossible standard, giving myself permission to say no to a plethora of expectations, and truly knowing what is the best expenditure of my time and energy. God gave me the gift of motherhood and I do what I can with what I have, leaving the rest to God’s grace and provision. :)

      • Tammy

        Having been a Nurse for 26 years, I can tell you that being a happy nurse will help you be a good nurse too. All the book knowledge in the world cant help you be compassionate. You need both though… I wouldnt want a really happy gal that cant give medications safely.

        • http://www.elizabethesther.com elizabeth

          LOLOL! Good point! You mean, you don’t want a happy/slappy nurse who doles out Percocet like they’re gumballs? WHYEVER NOT?? :D

      • Claire

        That makes a lot of sense.

    • HippieGramma

      But if you were going to be the best nurse you could be like we’ve defined being the best mother you could be, you’d never leave the hospital. You’d be there 24/7 for your patients, forsaking your own nutrition, sleep, and hygiene if necessary. You’d research the best nutrients for each individual patient and insist on organic meals tailored to their specific nutritional needs. You’d schedule them for music, art, physical, occupational, respiratory therapies whether they had any need for or interest in them, just make sure they are well-rounded and improve their chances of getting into the best rehab center, and you’d push the wheelchair yourself, to make gosh-darned sure you had quality as well as quantity time with them. You wouldn’t think about delegating tasks; you’d give them shots and medications yourself, eventually taking over most of their care because who knows them better, a doctor who spends 5 minutes a day among 100 patients, or their very own nurse, who changes their bedpans? When they eventually improve, and are able to do more things themselves, you’ll use the time to add little touches you hadn’t before; monogram the sheets, organize the x-rays into a scrapbook with cute little headings and descriptions to preserve the precious memories for future generations (“They’re only this sick once… sniffle.”).

      EE is right… it’s way out of hand. Running ourselves crazy like that doesn’t do our kids any favors. To figure out our priorities, we need to ask ourselves, what do we really want them to remember?

      • http://www.unbearablywright.com Amanda

        I actually think that would make you a CRAZY nurse ;-) Just like doing all of those things makes you a crazy mom. BEST is absolutely something to strive for and BEST does not include any of those crazy things many, many mothers focus on. BEST is what’s outlined in the Bible, nothing more, nothing less. The problem is not that mothers take on too much to be the “best” – it’s that they refuse to allow scripture to stand alone and insist on adding the “therefore now shalt all mothers craft organic meals and scrapbook prettily” subtext.

  • LizzyZ

    I wrote a lot of these same comments on my blog last year after reading “Parenting Is Your Highest Calling and 8 Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt” by Leslie Leyland Fields.
    For anyone who is pondering this topic, I really lover Leslie’s approach. She continuously points the reader to their relationship with Christ and away from the common pressures and misunderstandings of our culture. It really spoke to me during a very trying time of my life (soon after my first child was born and I was already struggling with depression and misplaced guilt). Actually, I also bought her book “Surprise Child” and have read it through four times besides going through the discussion questions in the back.

  • Matthew Fox

    Well,
    When I first started reading this, I was expecting something gushy-spiritual about how being the best Christian is your highest calling. I am glad it wasn’t, but I think you are venting your disgust for a certain type of Christian woman that you have grown to loathe.
    I have met mothers of all faiths who are just as kooky as you are saying “Christian” women are. Self-righteousness comes in all flavors. There are Mothers who vicariously live through their children so they don’t have to grow up or the ones who don’t view their children as people, but as a line in their piety resume. And that brings me to my deepest concern.
    When you say that there is more to you than just being a mom, that is not entirely accurate. When your fertile body shot out baby number 1, you started being a mom. When you write, you are a mom. When you talk Tao your husband, you are a mom. I am a dad. I don’t get to call time-out from the responsibility for the rest of my life. When I make stupid decisions, I am being a bad father whether it is in front of my children or not. I do stress about being the best dad I can be and never settle for good enough…..that being said, there are days I go to bed knowing that I DID do my best and it wasn’t good enough, it was freakin’ awesome!
    You hit on a lot of truth in this blog post, but it was skewed by your clear distain for hoity-toity Christian moms. Trust me, hoity-toity women are just snotty….mom or not. I worry because my mom was self-absorbed and selfish about her needs. I can imagine the amount of times that she thought she did “good enough” and then shuffled us off to the side so she could do more important things. Maybe I just read it that way because in my own weird way I feel just as jaded as you do.
    I like your blog. I will be reading it regularly.

    • Tammy

      I also have a mom who was (still is) self absorbed and folks like us can experience knee-jerk panic to a topic like this because (for moms like ours) ANY reason to ignore the kids is a good reason to ignore the kids. In truth though, they would have been selfish no matter what, so nothing was going to make it worse or better.

      I applaud you for seeing that all of your decisions impact your family and reflect on your fatherhood. Please please dont forget this if yu ever start to fall into the midlife delusion that your family causes you misery and you need to flee.

  • http://www.inahazelnutshell.blogspot.com LauraW

    Thank you for this, EE. My favorite mystic, Julian of Norwich, wrote, “The mother’s service is nearest, readiest, and surest… No one ever might or could perform this office except only [Our Lord]. We know that all our mothers bear us for pain and for death. O what is that? But our true Mother Jesus, he alone bears us for joy and for endless life, blessed may he be.”

    Is it weird for me, as a new mom, to find comfort in the knowledge that I only follow in Jesus’ Motherly footsteps? I go to this quote whenever I feel guilty. I don’t have to be perfect, because He already is!

  • D

    Thank you. This needs to be said. It’s not just the mommy cliques putting pressure on us – it also comes directly from the pulpit. My Bible study group just finished a lesson where it was stated as Biblical truth that the woman’s role was childbearing and the man’s role is breadwinning. I felt like I’d time-traveled to the 1950′s! Thank you for speaking the truth.

  • Amy

    Great post! I have to tell you about a comment I received not long after I became a mom. My husband and I chose to adopt rather than have “homegrown” kids. We just felt really convicted by James 1:27. So I was at a women’s Bible study and was sharing about our adoption experience and a woman told me I was “shirking my duty as a Christian woman” by not birthing children. Oy.

    • Tara S

      THIS! This is exactly what I suspected! I have had a sneaking idea that the modern type of “motherhood-is-the-most-noble-and-only-true-calling” perfectionist-neurosis described by EE is actually a way for Christians to keep our hearts closed to the rest of the world, rather than open as they ought to be. If motherhood is our only true calling, then our children are the only people we need be concerned about. SO WRONG! So. Wrong. That ridiculous “who-cares-about-the-0rphans” attitude betrayed by your fellow Bible study student is a particularly shocking illustration of this. I’m completely blown away.

      • Tammy

        Tara, I agree with you fully

    • http://www.elizabethesther.com elizabeth

      I’ve encountered similar attitudes in Christian circles where the idea is that we have to provide 5 star luxury for our biological children and the orphans and widows get the leftovers. So sad.

  • http://deodate.wordpress.com Andie

    Wow, Elizabeth, looking at these comments, you have lifted a huge boulder off of the shoulders of many women! I love your post, and what I think is the best part of it is what you are teaching your children. You are gifting them with a ‘real’ mother and are thus allowing them to be fully themselves and giving them the freedom to become their own person, not a cookie-cutter version.

  • Catherine

    I applause!
    In fact, the whole notion of ‘biblical family values’ is misguided, as Jesus was single, his disciples left their families to follow him, he said himself that whomever loved their family more than him was not worthy of him.

    As for the old testament families, most are disfunctionnal and a very poor example for us. The great men of God were so-so as husbands or fathers, to say the least.

    I love my kids to death but they are with me only for a time. God is everlasting!

    • Agnes

      Yes, amen. Since when did apple-pie American motherhood become the holy standard for women everywhere?! I am single and childless, and God has very definitely called me to be a child psychotherapist, helping wounded children heal… sorry but there is no way my God-calling is less important than someone else’s call.. methinks this is a cultural thing more than a ‘religious’ one.

  • ARM

    How about using Chesterton’s motto as a motto for motherhood: “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”

    • http://www.elizabethesther.com elizabeth

      Oh, I LOOOOOVE this!

  • http://silly-bear.com Sarah@From Tolstoy to Tinkerbell

    Amen, EE, may it be so with all of us who don’t quite fit into the “highest calling” category.

  • http://soulformation.wordpress.com Matthew

    My wife and I were just discussing some related issues yesterday.
    Too often, the only value that we place on children is as self-objects, relational ties that sustain our very identity and therefore personal stability. But in so doing, that makes their identities subservient to our identities. As much as we say it’s about them, it’s really about us. We attempt to use our children and our relationships with them to shore up our own inadequacies and emotional needs. That’s a pretty huge burden to put on a kid, especially when that’s what we’re supposed to be for them, not the other way around. Once there, we have to place the same “shoulds” on others in order to turn our broken and neediness into normalcy in order to justify ourselves.

    I don’t think most parents mean to do this, but when they carry around holes in their being, it’s unavoidable. If you cannot be fulfilled apart from being a parent, who’s to say being a parent will fulfill you? “If you’re not enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it.” If we’re empty, then we need Christ’s healing and love, not a role to fill.

  • http://www.madamerubies.com Heather Truett

    Took the thoughts right out of my head. I existed before my children were born and I will exist once they are grown, Lord willing. They are a part of my calling and my identity. They are not the total of it.

  • joy

    YES! Oh, this was a great thing to read on Monday morning before setting to work. I loved this post.

    • joy

      I just kept thinking about this, and another reason the whole “motherhood is the highest calling” thing bothers me a lot is the way it devalues fatherhood. You never hear folks saying, “fatherhood is the highest calling.” It’s like fathers are second-class parents. That’s not good for mothers, fathers, or kids.

      • Tara S

        AMEN!

      • http://www.lara-thinkingoutloud.blogspot.com Lara Laity

        Yes!!!

      • http://www.sustainablemommy.wordpress.com Naomi

        Yes, second-class parents… or that fathers have more important things to do. Wasn’t it Mark Driscoll who said he would excommunicate any congregant who was a stay-at-home-father?

      • http://www.elizabethesther.com elizabeth

        YESYESYES! I can’t tell you how many times people give my husband all these admiring comments simply because he’s “babysitting” his own children at the playground, or taking them grocery shopping. He almost feels insulted by the low expectations people have for him, as if it’s surprising that a father would be involved with his own children.

        • http://bluebonnetreads.wordpress.com Hannah C.

          Yes to all these comments! There is a double standard. Men’s highest calling is supposed to be their job, even if they are fathers. Women’s highest calling is supposed to be mothering, even if they work outside the home. I see this in the culture in general.

        • http://beccafied.wordpress.com Becca

          Oh, my dad used to tell me how angry he would get when someone would say he was “babysitting” me. “I’m not BABYSITTING. I’m SPENDING TIME WITH MY DAUGHTER.”

  • http://www.momsforhope.org Stephanie Mumpower

    So good…..!!!!! Thank you!

  • http://Kylajoyful.com Kyla Cofer

    Elizabeth, this is beautiful. This really touched my heart this morning. I’d say that learning to live an abundant life has been my theme this year. I thought it would be easier to do, but I’m constantly fighting the “shoulds”. I “should” be doing this or that. At 28 and single with no children, I struggle between wanting a family because it’s what I actually desire or wanting a family because I should. Thanks for reminding me on a Monday morning that I’m free to live THIS life, not the one I should.

  • Leanne

    Thank you. Motherhood is not the highest calling. Pastoral work is not the highest calling. Missionary work is not the highest calling. The highest calling for each Christian is to be transformed by the renewing of our mind into the image of Jesus Christ.
    How does it look like for you to live out the highest calling of being Christ like as a mother or as a single woman or as a pastor or as a business person, etc.?
    When we place “The highest calling” on anything other than being Christlike, we get off balance and border on making idols of other things in our lives. That is not to dismiss or demean being a mother, being a pastor, being whatever vocation we have been lead into for this moment. Do that with all your strength for the glory of God. Whatever God has us doing at this time is important. It is important to shine with the love and grace of Christ. It is the point of ministry. It is the place we are called to be Christ like in.

    • Handsfull

      Yes! I like this :)

  • http://www.veronicamonique.com Veronica

    Well, said! Absolutely wonderful to hear another woman say it. We are people. Mother is only one of our potential roles. Though it is one I embrace as part of my core being, it is not all that I am.

  • http://theabbeyfarm.blogspot.com Suzy Roeder

    Thank you, Elizabeth. Satan has a sneaky tactic of taking our desire to do what’s right and confusing it with discouragement and even envy. I love how St. Edith Stein wrote that a woman does not have to physically bear children to be open to life. Her prayers and example and effect in others” lives can produce “spiritual children.” Through this post I believe the Holy Spirit has brought up several profound lessons that we can all ponder. Thank you for reducing my stress today! God bless you!

    • http://www.elizabethesther.com elizabeth

      Thanks, Suzy. What an insightful quote from St. Edith Stein. Thank you!!

  • http://fromthepulpitofmylife.blogspot.com/ Ruth Ann

    I’m one of those women who had a Catholic school education back in the days when the teachers were mainly Sisters. The vocational focus was NEVER on motherhood. Vocations were one of three, matrimony (or marriage), priesthood, religious life, of singleness. Yes, being single was considered one possible vocational calling. I suppose motherhood and fatherhood were implied by the marriage vocation, but it was more about the commitment of love between the spouses with children as a possibility. I guess I see motherhood as integrated in the vocation of marriage.

    • http://fromthepulpitofmylife.blogspot.com/ Ruth Ann

      That should read “or” singleness, not “of”.

    • http://www.elizabethesther.com elizabeth

      Interesting perspective, Ruth Ann. I love the idea of there being multiple, equally-viable and appreciated vocations. We need a greater appreciation for the vocation of singleness!!

  • Leanne

    not sure why my comment didn’t post. Or perhaps it did and it is not showing. If that is the case please feel free to delete one.

    Thank you for your post. Motherhood, fatherhood, pastor, missionary—none of this is our highest calling. Our highest calling in Christ is to be Christ like in everything we do. We are to be Christ like in how we mother for the period of our lives that we are mothers, in how we father for the period of our lives we are fathers (there is a time before we become parents), in how we work for the time we are in an occupation. We are to do everything to the glory of Christ. No, this doesn’t mean if I think of motherhood, pastoral ministry, nursing, etc. whatever God has called me to as not my highest calling that I will not do it to the fullest. That is to misunderstand our calling as Christians to be Christ like. We are to love and live sacrificially, doing all to God’s glory.
    To say our highest calling is anything different than being Christ like is to bring unbalance to our lives, lose our full purpose, and also to border on idolatry. Anything–ministry, family, country, etc–which is brought higher or more important than Christ begins to pull us from our First Love.
    This is not to demean being a mother, a pastor, a business person. Those vocations are important not because we function in those positions but because we bring Christ’s love and grace into those places.

  • http://www.twitter.com/Joi_the_Artist Joi

    One of the best things my mother ever did for me was to keep herself as a whole person. Though she was mostly at home while I was growing up (she had a nursing job that would take her away for 30 minutes at a time, which worked out great for our family), and homeschooled my sister and I, we always knew that her entire life didn’t revolve around us. She read books that we didn’t. She and my dad saw movies together that we weren’t old enough to see. When my sister and I left for college, my mom and dad took ballroom dancing lessons, learned to drink wine, and took a cruise to Mexico. Because my mom allowed herself to be a whole adult, it gave me something to look forward to. Adulthood as I saw it modeled by her looked interesting and exciting. And you know what? It is!

    • http://www.elizabethesther.com elizabeth

      thank you for sharing this, Joi!

    • http://www.sundayschoolrebel.typepad.com Sam

      Yes! This is it, exactly! I think it’s so important for kids to see that moms have their own interests and TAKE TIME for them. Being a whole adult – I like that!

  • http://faithandfood.morizot.net/ Scott Morizot

    I was under the impression the “calling” of every Christian was union with God in Christ. It’s hard to imagine a “higher” calling than that. ;-)

    Doubtless an area in which Protestantism has suffered in its abandonment of the parallel married/monastic paths and examples.

  • Liz

    Hi Elizabeth — I love your blog and I think this post is on to something. BTW, I have six kids ages 10 and under and I always tell my friends with less kids that “Good enough is good enough.” This problem exists in the secular world too — sometimes I think more so. Perhaps it is years of the “Every child is a wanted child”/population control mentality combined with the trend in psychology and social sciences to blame Mom and the nuclear family for everything. I can’t remember a historical drama that didn’t portray the family of yore as nothing but a trap of sadness and disfunction, well, not since Little House on the Prairie (and that was autobiographical!) Too many mothers over-parent, leading to nervous, dependent children, with poor impulse control, and an entitlement problem. Yes — a few women do seriously neglect or abuse their children — this is the real bad bad mothering! The other day my daughter went to a friends for a “playdate” (where the heck did that word even come from?) The mom had invited the same number of friends for her younger sister so it was “fair” !, organized a baking project and bought all 6 girls a craft kit to complete. This was like a little party. When my kids have friends over the itinerary is to “Go play with your friend.” Period. People always ask me “I don’t know how you do it with 6?” I’m tempted to answer that it is because I don’t parent like they do their kids — or I would have stopped at one. :-)

    Thanks for letting me sound off! God bless you all.

  • http://www.lara-thinkingoutloud.blogspot.com Lara Laity

    I love you. Thank you for this. Maybe you could hear my sigh of relief reach all the way to OC.
    I believe my kids are better off when I decide to turn up Sugarland really loud so I can dance through cleaning the house, than focusing on discipline which makes me so crazy sometimes I scream, and makes them bossy to each other because they emulate me! I want to teach them to choose joy. So I need to choose joy. Choose joy. Choose joy. I’m going to chant this to myself today. Choose joy. Yes!
    I love you. Thank you.

  • Sarah in GA

    great post.
    an older woman in our church, who had raised 4 children, once stopped me, looked me in the eye and said, “God told me to tell you that He gave you your children and He never makes mistakes so you are the BEST mother for them, even on your worst day.” i started crying right there because it had been such a hard week and i was feeling incredibly inadequate.
    i grew up learning the catechism question “Q:What is the chief end of man? A: To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” i try to remember that often when i start thinking that my complete identity is in my kids and how i parent them.

  • http://www.lara-thinkingoutloud.blogspot.com Lara Laity

    Can I say something to the opposite too. I think part of the talk about motherhood being the highest calling is a reaction to many mother’s feeling like their job is meaningless. It’s hard to spend all day everyday home with with little ones, essentially cut of from the world. And much of the world treats us like we’re on vacation. They say, we get to stay home so we should be full of joy and have the house spotless when our husbands get home! Ugh.
    So I wonder if this whole “motherhood is the highest calling” thing started out as an encouragement to discouraged mommies. To remind us of the necessity and beauty of what we are doing. I want to take it that way when I hear that phrase. Unfortunately it’s been used to keep women from following their other callings, and to place more burden on women than they can handle. And to elevate some callings over others and to alienate those without children and make those with only one or two kids feel the burden of guilt, etc. etc. etc. These things are awful and I’m so thankful to you for fighting these today. There will still be days when I will cling to the knowledge that motherhood is A high calling. A worthy calling. A beautiful job. But not the highest. And I will still dream of the day when I can go back to school and get my degree and license to be a high school counselor. Only a couple more years!

  • http://stitchinguptheseams.wordpress.com/ Stitching Seams

    As a woman who may or may not be able to conceive and/or bear a child without miscarrying…thank you. From the bottom of my heart. Thank you.

    • http://www.elizabethesther.com elizabeth

      all my love to you, sweetheart. ((hugs)). EE.

  • http://patsybaker.blogspot.com Patsy

    Amen, 100%. My 5 were always well taken care of, taught about Jesus, but now 4 are on their own and number 5 is almost there. If all I had was motherhood, I’d be lost. My greatest calling? Always to be a godly woman. Everything else falls in place after that. I love your blog and your tweets, sweet Elizabeth.

  • http://snoringscholar.com Sarah Reinhard

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for this.

    And now I have to go deal with those kids. Drat. I had so much more to say. (I think we’ll be talking about you in other places this week, though. This is a wonderful post…and just how I feel, though I didn’t have the words for it (probably because I’m so sleep deprived and chaotic right now)).

    Thanks again, Elizabeth, and keep up your great work!

  • Matthew F

    Since first reading ths and making my initial comments, I have spoken to a few moms and had no idea the amount of guilt there is out there. I can honestly say that this does not make sense to me and I comment out of complete ignorance.

    If someone could help me understand a little better, why do you feel guilty?

    I never saw a direct reason for guilt in the blog but it is spoken of like common knowledge. I really would like to understand (although not experience)

    Thanks :)

    • http://www.elizabethesther.com elizabeth

      Well, I’ll hazard a guess, here. :) Maybe the reason you didn’t know there was so much guilt is because, as a man, you’re not held to the same expectations as women are–especially mothers. You haven’t experienced first-hand the kind of pressure we mamas face on a daily basis. The pressure comes from other moms, men who want us to be a certain way, pastors who preach certain things, etc. I’m glad you are asking these questions because it shows you are concerned and I hope by reading this blog you can understand how mothers feel sometimes. I’m not saying men don’t experience unfair pressure, but you did ask about the pressures mothers face and that’s why I’m explaining that. :)

      • Matt F

        Please indulge my man-logic for a few sentences. Do mothers actually pressure each other, as in verbally? or is it more passive? What men are you talking about? If it isn’t your husband, who cares? and pastors . . . that one I can actually speak to. There are certain principals that are written in God’s Word that we are supposed to abide by. If a pastor is preaching something that does not jive directly with scripture, it is pure speculation at best and a great way to become a heretic. Those people are just crazy and I can’t imagine how their opinion would hold any weight in your head or heart.

        I feel that I have clearly stated my manly confusion and have a sudden urge to go hunting and grill things while I produce flatulents. :)

        I don’t do a lot FOR my kids. I do a lot WITH my kids and it really doesn’t matter what it is because we are able to have fun together. I definitely don’t give a hoo-ha about what other people think, pulpit or not (except my wife. what she thinks has the most profound effect on me both good or bad)

        • Sarah

          Are we supposed to not mind if it’s our husbands putting the pressure on us? Is that what you’re saying? Because they’re the last person who’s meant to be pressuring and guilt-tripping.

          Did you ever think that while you don’t do a lot for your kids, that their mother is picking up all the rest of it? The necessary but less-fun stuff that you get to do? You don’t think that would get exhausting after a while?

    • Tammy

      matthew…I will come up with a few examples, maybe others will chime in. Im 46…when I was little, if something bad happened to a child, the response you would hear was “the child is sick/dead/abducted the poor mother must be heartsick” now you hear “where was that child’s mother?”. Were supposed to keep them safe 24 hours a day, know when they need vaccinations, toenails clipped, teething drops, enough food to cover all levels of the food pyramid but not so much to encourage childhood obesity. Were supposed to clean the house while they play, but we have to go outside and watch them lest they get stolen. Were supposed to clip coupons to be thrifty with family money and take them all to the store in between naps while they are all still happy lest strangers correct our parenting when our kids are grumpy. If we dont all sit around the table for meals we are responsible for the decay of western civilization. Were supposed to keep them occupied without too much TV and preread all thier books so we are certain the content is appropriate. Were supposed to get them all in bed with a story read aloud and then have enough energy to have sex with our husband so he doesnt feel like the kids have usurped his place of primacy in our lives. Oh and I forgot the quiet time with scripture…and for those if us who have to work, throw in a 12 hour shift in a Neonatal ICU trying to keep wee ones from going towards the light so on those days, you can figure that I just did all these things on no sleep.

      • http://hubcityfirefly.wordpress.com Tara S

        Yep. That’s the model of modern motherhood alright! Oh, and don’t forget to run for an hour every morning (before your kids wake up!) so you stay sexy and also have enough happy endorphins to be cheerful for everybody.
        Aie – count me out!!
        Matthew, your question is a good one. But there is an entire *industry* of magazines, gurus, products, services, etc whose whole purpose is to make money by exploiting a mother’s concern of whether she is doing enough. If this (and the pace and unsafeness of this modern world which demands such a neurotic intensity in childcare) pushes us far enough off balance into insecurity and envy, it is easy for us to start taking it out on each other and tearing each other down. In short – we feel the weight of unattainable perfection surrounding us most of the time, coming from almost all directions at once!

        • Matt F

          Truly there is something out there that has gotten into the hearts and minds of mothers out there. Sara asked me if I was insinuating that it is ok that husbands put pressure on their wives . . . that’s crazy talk! Husbands are supposed to be (at the VERY LEAST) their spouse’s greatest cheerleader and support. They should also be an integral part of the family routine.

          And as much as I stand by what I just said, I am equally taken back at the offense that my question has raised and surprised at the amount of assumptions being made about how I spend my time; so I will be clear:

          I am 37 years old and I work part time as a private art instructor. My wife is a NICU nurse (don’t go into the light baby!) and we stay afloat by only the grace of God. When I was six months old my father left my mother for another and lived about 7 miles from the house I grew up in. I met him for the very first time less than a month ago at his father’s funeral….did I mention it was the FIRST TIME? My mother had a really hard time growing up. In fact, she still isn’t there. She was in her early twenties with three children (two boys and a girl) and felt very much that dragging us to parties or hiring the worst of babysitters was “good enough”. Well her parents did not agree and asked to let us stay with them until she could figure it all out. She let my brother and I go, but kept my sister. Those two people took on two little boys because some people’s “good enough” just doesn’t cut it.
          Those two great people are in their 80′s now. My mom (a title given to the one who sacrificed for me) now has something called white-matter disease (its like Alzheimer’s) and my dad (a title that has been earned several times over) is having a harder and harder time getting around and caring for her. I go to see them every day to cook and clean and do laundry as needed. I owe them everything and what I do is a choice I make because I love them. With a back story like that, this next part will become all the more clear.
          I LOVE being a dad. Remember how I said I don’t do a LOT for my kids? That means I don’t buy them everything and enroll them in the coolest classes so they can socially compete with family or friends. They get ME. When my girls were little, I did their hair. When they were learning how to read, I was the one that taught them. My oldest daughter is a year ahead in school and still top in her grade NOT because I sent her to tutors or put her in some crazy advanced learning. She loved spending time with her daddy and he made it a point to never be too busy for her… My middle daughter (11 years old) does NOT go to dance class. She helps give her mamo a shower when she has an accident in the house. She loves because she sees love, not opportunities. Even while I write this, my wife has just come in to inform me that I need to stop letting our son eat pb& j in bed and that I need to wash his sheets. I suck at laundry, but he and I just had the best time eating pb&j and watching Yo Gabba Gabba. Is doing the laundry worth my son’s giggles?….without question.

          My wife rarely wears makeup and I make her coffee on the mornings she doesn’t have to work. I make sure the kids get to school and the dogs are let out. I am not saying I am the bee’s knees or anything…just ask my wife. I am terribly creative and that ALWAYS comes with a mess. I suck at dishes (but I try to do them), laundry (yeah, I’ve thrown a dress or two into the drier), and keeping schedules straight; but I couldn’t stand not being in their lives.

          When I was 16, my cousin’s 13 day old daughter died from hemorrhagic pneumonia. I went to the hospital with my parents and went in to see her. she was lying on a stainless steel table with a diaper on. The pain of her last moments were still imprinted on her delicate little face. The blood had separated and settled so that the side of her body closest to the table was blue while the other side was grey. It changed me.

          Do I think there is a higher calling than parenting? If you are a parent, then I can’t really think of one. Parenting is not for everyone, and I am totally cool with that. I would say to those who don’t have children and are completely happy, that is awesome, but don’t keep your life lessons to yourself. Pass them along to someone younger than you. For those who cannot have children, birthing a child does NOT make you a parent; loving and caring for a child does. There are too many little hearts out there longing to be loved for hopelessness to rear its ugly head.

          In this context I will rephrase my question:

          Who is really putting this pressure on you and why? I have read a lot of conjecture, but nobody has given me specifics.

          And to the industry of people who prey on your fears…shame on them! And (like I would tell my girls or myself) Shame on you for letting them sucker you.

          • http://hubcityfirefly.wordpress.com Tara S

            Definitely there is no reason for anyone to put words in your mouth or give you motives or perspectives you don’t have, and I for one never suspected you of being an uncaring or unhelpful parent, or anything less than complex and whole human person!
            As for the rephrasing of the question, though – this is the third time you’ve asked in this one bitty community. If we’re speaking such very different languages, it may be time to let it go! Obviously from this comment section and from your own interviews with women you know, this is a very pervasive and widespread phenomenon. Those kind of phenomena are often the most difficult to nail down with exact and specific measurable causes, and so I very much doubt whether we can arrange an answer to your satisfaction. I’m sorry! These aren’t the droids you’re looking for! :-)

          • Matt F

            Jedi tricks only work on the weak-minded. :) Please don’t be dismissive of my very real interest. There has to be something there…something nobody wants to admit or talk about, which is why I feel like I am wading in nuance.
            Sometimes a phenomenon is a very real reaction to a very unreal problem, as in the case of Orson Welles and his broadcast of War of the Worlds.
            I don’t want to just say “well, I speak guy and you speak girl so I guess I don’t need to understand” I really just want an answer.

          • http://www.elizabethesther.com elizabeth

            Matt: well, if you’re going to suggest that we’re all just having “a very real reaction to a very unreal problem,” no wonder you’re being dismissed! :D Very clearly a bunch of women here have experienced this kind of pressure and honestly, it’s pretty hurtful when a guy suggests that we women are all just reacting to an unreal problem. I’m sure you’re a nice guy who works hard and is just trying to understand…but I gotta be honest, we women feel dismissed by comments like that. Thanks for understanding.

          • Tara S

            The thing is, we are *trying* to answer, but all we can speak to is our own experience. I think, looking at the openness of the women on this comment board, it is *not* a matter of not wanting to talk about it! It is a little frustrating to feel that our explanations are not “good enough” or that our experience has not been cataloged rationally enough for the easy palatability of those who have not been through the same thing. The compassionate thing to do in this case, I think, would be to understand that this feels very real to many women, and to keep an eye out in the future for the circumstances that might make us feel this way. You *are* wading in nuance, and nuance requires patience and observation, not an axe. :-)

          • Matt F

            Elizabeth,
            I knew as soon as I wrote that phrase that it was the wrong choice of words. I really can’t apologize strongly enough that my comment insinuated that the problem is not real. I was asking for specific examples because I don’t think that the competition is between mothers. I think it is a matter of measuring your own worth as a woman based on the actions of another. If I just came out and said that, I would see it as arrogant and chauvinist. I do understand the feeling. I actually don’t like going to functions with other adult couples because I can make myself feel inferior pretty quickly. In fact, I know that I am typing this to a blogging mom with a nationally recognized status as well as a professional writer and it is a bit intimidating. Just one example was when we would spend time with my wife’s best friend and her husband. I socially worker with a master’s degree and psychologist respectively. I HATED the thought of visiting them because I was not as smart or well off as they were. I can only imagine that the stress is similar. I just faked confidence and realized after having a great time that the problem was not an unspoken competition, it was me. I felt like the peasant boy in The Emperor’s New Clothes who just looked and saw a naked man walking down the street. I am not saying that I don’t still struggle with feeling like I’m not as good as the next guy (which is a little guy secret….they do the same thing) but I recognize it for what it is. It is a problem with how I see myself. I work on it daily.
            Tara,
            I didn’t say they weren’t good enough, they just were not clear to me. I thought that the comment before this last one was pretty awesome with the Star Wars reference. This latest one, however, was put so well that I had to stop and smile for a bit. I will happily put my ax away and keep my waders on. Maybe if I stop moving around so much the water won’t be so muddy.

            Have an GREAT day!

          • Tara S

            I WILL! :-)

  • Laura

    This is really beautiful, thank you Elizabeth. Especially as I just found out I have a condition which may mean I’m infertile, this was encouraging.

    The bit regarding children and religion really reminded me of a chapter in a book by Rob Parsons, called Getting Your Kids Through Church Without Them Ending Up Hating God (brilliant title, brilliant book -which I read as a youth leader) – he says in it that “God has no grandchildren”, a phrase I really loved. At the end of the day, your responsibility for their faith has to cease and they either become God’s children themselves or they don’t, and you can’t make them his children through your faith alone…

    Love your writing as always xx

  • Laura

    P.S. I love the posts and pictures about all of your daughters, but I really miss hearing about your sons!

    • http://www.elizabethesther.com elizabeth

      Good point! I will write more about my boys soon. promise! xo.

  • http://www.kathleenbasi.com Kathleen Basi

    What a freeing thought. *Thank you.*

  • http://www.seekingfaithfulnessblog.blogspot.com Holly

    This is wonderful, and true, Elizabeth.

    Have I never really said to you, though, that good enough is good enough?

    Because, if I haven’t, I should have.

    Good enough is good enough. We do better for our children by being happy, peaceful, centered human beings than we do by obsessing over the clean house, the perfect schedule, or even the “perfectly presented” child. They learn more by our example than by our direct control.

    Hey ladies – here you go. E. E. has said it best, and I re-iterate:

    Good enough is good enough. (())

    !!!!!!!!

  • Linda Brody

    Two must reads if this is your (new?) philosophy that will support your ideas thoroughly. “It’s a Kid, not a Gerbil” by Christian writer Kevin Lehman and “The Idle Parent” by Tom Hodgkinson. The Idle Parent is a bit extreme, yet I loved it, and I just bought Lehman’s book and am about to read it b/c it supports the same idea. Love this post and I agree wholeheartedly!!!! RELAX MOMMIES!!!!!! (Idle Parent talks about how you do have “control” over how fondly, or not so fondly, your children remember their upbringing, but not much else… especially not true religious devotion).
    Thanks for being so candid! It takes a vulnerable person to do so, but obviously you’re not alone in this sentiment.

    • Linda Brody

      Oh, and I must admit that this is a new idea for me. I used to compare/contrast everything my kids and I did with other families to see how we “measured up”. And people’s talk is so competitive that it’s hard to engage in it. I’ve finally become secure with us and don’t do that anymore. Glad this came so early in our lives and I hope I can maintain it.

      • Linda Brody

        gosh, meant to write hard NOT to engage in it…

  • Linda

    Well, this is refreshing, and not said enough. Thanks. I am reading a great book that’s supposed to be an encouraging book for home school moms. I’m not a homeschool mom, but I have a few friends who are and i wanted to get into their world by reading this, and I figured it could have stuff in it for a non-homeschool mom too. All that to say, the encouragement to be a good mom is sincere and some of it right on, but there is a pressure there to be GREAT. To build amazing child hoods for your kids and shape their character uber-intentionally. It’s a bit over the top for me.

    I take parenting seriously. But, sheesh. Let’s love life and grow kids who love us while we’re doing it. I don’t know that I need to choose my kids’ character traits that they need help in, maybe I just need to be a woman of character…

    I guess the moral of the story is, let the Holy Spirit guide your parenting and not society (even “Christian” society).

    Lovin you and your writing and your whole Jesus journey. :)

  • http://campfire-song.com Lindsey

    I think sometimes I elevate myself above others because I’m a mother. It’s utterly silly. I think it’s more of an ego thing, like “look at how much more responsibility and productivity I boast than you do – now give me credit.”

    I don’t really believe that God wants all women to be mothers. So making it the highest calling would shut a lot of women out, wouldn’t it? Here’s to me not doing that anymore.

  • Delores

    I just had a conversation about this with my spiritual director; about doing the what I think is the best thing but not really being happy… so is it then the best? I am just not sure. Thank you for your post about this. More food for thought.

  • http://teaatelevensies.com Charlotte

    I’m not a mother yet. I want to be a mother someday, but I’ve always wanted to have a career too, and I just started mine six months ago. I often feel like people in my life, especially those older than me or new mothers, look at me like I’m still a child, even though I’m 25, have been married for three years and have lived 1400 miles away from my family for 6 years. I know I still have plenty of growing up to do, but come on. I hate that I won’t be validated as an adult and a woman to some people until I’ve given birth. It’s almost enough to make me never have kids if I let the spite get to me. But I’m working on that.

    • http://downtoearthwomen.blogspot.com Tracey

      Just a note…..I think that what you are experiencing may be the fact that you are under 30 more than anything. When I turned 30, it was like all of a sudden people asked what I thought and paid attention to what I said. Really, my 30′s were the bomb.

      I had 5 kids before I turned 30 and having kids really didn’t make anyone listen to me much either.

      So, wait a few years, and you’ll probably be surprised. ;-)

  • Felisha

    Wonderful! What a radical thought for women to enjoy life secure in the knowledge that their joy and love was the thing sustaining their children? I’d be much better off in a lot of situations if I chose to enjoy myself and love more, rather than be better and do things “right.”

  • Sarah

    Amen! Amen! I LOVE this post. It’s exactly what I’ve been thinking and feeling lately and I’m about to give birth to my 8th child!

  • Nurse Bee

    I know I count as a bad mother among certain Christian groups for working and putting my kids in daycare while I’m working. Never mind that’s for less than 20 hours a week or that my kids are happy and well-adjusted. It would be nice if we could all just calm down and support each other, wouldn’t it?

    • http://downtoearthwomen.blogspot.com Tracey

      As a daycare provider….I would thank you, ;-)

      People like you make it so I can be home with MY kids. I appreciate it!

  • Robyn

    wow!! 100 responses. no way I can read them all!! You must have said something really good. I did read your article, and I think you did speak well! I don’t have any children, so I wonder what I have missed out on. Some has been my own choice. I finally did get married, but have seemed to struggle with it, so I have pretty much chosen not to have kids. When I was younger and Single, it was a future thought, and also one that was out of my control since I was Single. Now, I have been in a situation where I could try to have kids and I’ve been too scared and unsure. My sin I wonder?? I know that God wants to forgive and heal no matter how many times I mess up. But, at my age I don’t guess I will ever know the joy or wonderment of having children. It seems like so much hard work, but I have learned it must bring a whole lot of joy as well. I think you are right in saying that some people teach that being a mother is the “only” thing you can do, and that is the only thing you “are”. I guess all females are so much more. Because one day the children will all grow up and go their own ways. It looks like you are doing a fine job, though………..:)

  • Robyn

    also, one of the Christian figures who seemed to be admired (ok, perhaps exploited?) in Christian environments when I was growing up was Corrie Ten Boom……..and she was always Single……….:/

  • vivianclare

    Sounds to me like you know some rather strange Christian women. Find a new group of Christian friends.

    Near the end of your piece, you talk about how important it is to “enjoy your life”. Enjoying one’s life is not an especially biblical concept, in fact, I can’t think of a place where we are told we should “enjoy” our lives. We’re told not to fear, to have faith, to weep with those that mourn, comfort the afflicted, make disciples of the nations, etc.

    That Americans largely have adopted the idea of being owed enjoyment stems mostly from the extremely high expectations engendered relatively recently by the very high standard of living Americans have had in the 20th century. While motherhood should not be the hallmark of all of female endeavor, it does deserve respect and support, especially because a great deal of motherhood is not enjoyment, it’s self-sacrifice and work.
    I don’t think most people in the world spend a lot of time thinking about how much they “enjoy” their lives, and I don’t think most people did in past centuries either.

  • http://evenonesparrow.blogspot.com rachel – even one sparrow

    It’s so true what you said about control, and wise to remember that it’s not in our control to make sure our children follow the faith. We can teach them and we can live it, but ultimately, it’s their own journey with the Father.

    Before we were ready to have children, I asked a couple close people to pray that God would ready me for children. His response was an agoraphobic attack. It was a brutal summer, and anxiety is still something I battle with every day, but it was a HUGE indication of how I was NOT trusting God but was putting trust in my own ability to control. During the pregnancy, I just realized how much this little baby belonged to God, because even with doing the right things, something could always “happen.” It’s beyond me. I don’t have the control. It’s the Lord’s. And that’s what God has taught me during the parental journey — even long before Gwendolyn was a reality.

  • Pamela

    The single and the childless are somewhat like the pariahs of the church world. We just really don’t fit in as part of the church family, if we are older than say, 25 years old. It’s not the “single” part that is the most hurtful — it’s the alone/”you aren’t part of it” that really stings.

  • http://downtoearthwomen.blogspot.com Tracey

    *Shrug* I’ve always held the opinion that kids just simply were not for everyone. I don’t know why we are so inclined to think that eveyone who can have them actually wants to have them.

    And anyone who goes around with the idea in their head that they have to have a husband or children to be “complete” has a serious case of insecurity.

    I hope to teach my own daughters that there is more to them than being someone else’s help mate or mother.

  • http://anotherespressoplease.net/ coffeemom

    I agree.  On so many levels.  And I’m christian, Catholic (cradle catholic even…but now I actually think about it instead of dismissing it, bc, as you say, “you can’t touch this” good stuff), and have long thought that, it’s ok to be “good enough”  It’s ok to NOT be the most or the best. 

     I drop the balls I try to juggle EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  And often I wonder why I’ve been given more than I not only think I can handle, but apparently CAN handle, in that I screw up in some form every day.  See the juggling above…..  But, I think we forget that we ARE called to be happy/relish the life we’ve been given and instead we wrap up all that need into a push on our kids to BE….all that.  And we have so much less influence than we think and they will BE..not ONLY all that but just exactly who they are made to be.  W/ our help, yes.  But, not, not by all of our actions, or even necessarily who we think they are supposed to be.  Nice post! Happy to find your blog, very interesting good reading.  Thanks so much!

  • http://www.farfromflawlesslife.blogspot.com Missy June

    We can never “parent-away” our children’s need for a Savior – that has given me freedom to mess up and do my best, allowing God to fill in the gaps where I fall short.  Thank you for posting this perspective.  I wish more people ‘got it!’

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  • http://www.leavinglegalism.webs.com Stef

    Well said Elizabeth..

  • Falfie4

    YES!!!  I cannot tell you how much this mentality infuriates me!!  There are way more verses in the Bible that talk about caring for orphans than there are about parenting.  It absolutely astounds me that so many “bible believing” Christians miss this and think the only way to be a biblical woman is to provide the perfect life for their kids!