Motherhood,  Writing

What I Do Matters

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a mother. This desire began as the simple dream of a little girl who looked to her own mother as the pinnacle of femininity, womanhood, and a life of service to her family. Years later, it became a grown woman’s fervent prayer, which I hoped and trusted God would answer in His time.

When I met my husband, married him, and had our first child last spring, I felt as though a new part of me was also born; a part of me that was more protective, intuitive, nurturing, and gentle. The challenges of caring for a newborn surely came (as I expected they would), but I felt whole in a way I had never felt before. I now had a real, unique purpose that extended beyond myself and into eternity. I became responsible for shaping this little soul who was entrusted to me and was truly a part of me, an extension of myself. The honor and privilege overwhelmed me. I felt a new sense of gratitude toward God and, as my husband and I navigated the ups and downs of parenthood, God drew me closer to Himself and to His own dear Mother.

I became responsible for shaping this little soul who was entrusted to me.

As this deep sense of gratitude and joy grew within me, somewhere along the way I felt something entirely different that caught me off guard, leaving me unsettled and confused. Amidst the newfound peace and purpose, I wondered whether what I was doing was enough. Doubt and uncertainty crept in as I watched my siblings and close friends earn PhDs, graduate from business school, and work high-paying jobs. I questioned whether my simple vocation as wife and mother held as much value as the impressive accomplishments of my family and friends. I was 24, married, and a mom. Just a mom, not even a mom with a part-time gig or creative-endeavor-turned-small-business that proved I did more than “just stay home.” Although I was truly happy in my vocation, living the dream that I desired for so long, a nagging thought still told me that maybe it was not enough, that maybe I should do more to stay as busy and productive as possible.

I questioned whether my simple vocation as wife and mother held as much value as the impressive accomplishments of my family and friends.

One day, I noticed discomfort arise when someone asked me what I did; I realized that I needed to do some thinking and praying. It nearly killed me to say, “I don’t work. I stay at home with my son.” Often, I would respond, “I might do something part-time soon, but for now I’m doing some writing here and there and just enjoying this time as a new mom.” I hated admitting that my sole work was staying home with my child. This realization was both frightening and disconcerting; I felt ashamed of not being completely secure in my current state of life, the state of life that I desired all along.

This insecurity, which went unnoticed for a time, inspired me to reflect. Why do I have trouble admitting and owning that I am a stay-at-home mom? Where do I fit in with my friends in the workforce? Where is my place in this new community of stay-at-home moms? What unique value do I bring to the Church and the world that makes the work I do every day important and absolutely vital? I know that I do not need a job title or my own income to have worth and feel accepted, but I often think that people will take me more seriously if I can share what I do in addition to staying home with my son and caring for our unborn second child.

Why do I have trouble admitting and owning that I am a stay-at-home mom?

Unsurprisingly, when I allow myself to be led by grace instead of jealousy or doubt, I know the truth. I know that it is a great gift to have the luxury of not needing to work and to be with my children day in and day out. I know that not every woman has that choice, nor is every woman called to this particular kind of work. I continue to learn that every woman is different and with those differences come variations in how we spend our daily lives as mothers. It is a beautiful reality, this array of vocations within motherhood.

At this moment, my vocation as a woman and a mother is to be at home with my children, and it humbles me to recognize that all of my energy is needed to raise them as well as I can. I use my gifts and creativity in ways I never did through my day job, and that is a wonderfully rewarding thing to experience. In those brief, but illuminating, moments of grace, I realize just how full my heart is in living this vocation and how much the Lord has already done to make me a better, more whole version of myself through my decision to stay home with my children. I am deeply grateful for the tremendous responsibility of forming these souls under my care and leading them to Christ. Indeed, the work that I do every day—although exhausting and unglamorous—brings me such deep, incomparable joy that reminds me to accept it all as gift and embrace it wholeheartedly.

One of my favorite parts of Pope St. John Paul II’s Letter to Women says,

“Necessary emphasis should be placed on the ‘genius of women’, not only by considering great and famous women of the past or present, but also those ordinary women who reveal the gift of their womanhood by placing themselves at the service of others in their everyday lives. For in giving themselves to others each day women fulfil [sic] their deepest vocation. Perhaps more than men, women acknowledge the person, because they see persons with their hearts.”

Through this hard, holy work whose value I sometimes doubted, the Lord fulfills my deepest vocation: to love and serve others. I know that there will be days when I will struggle again to see the worth in my work as a stay-at-home mom, but through the eyes of Christ and His Church, I know that I am more than enough. It is not what I do or accomplish that determines my worth as a woman, but who I am.

And who I am is enough.

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