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Mission & Motherhood

March 29, 2010

I recently read a thoughtful and fascinating article on motherhood and mission. I encourage you to read it. It really resonated with me on many levels. I loved the following quote:

As Christians, by and large, we are comfortable helping a woman explore her identity as a mother, the role-based identity that raises new circumstances, new challenges and new needs. However, we are often less comfortable exploring what it means for a mother to take up questions of personal identity—those which address her expectations for life and motherhood, her long-held hopes or ambitions, her doubts about parenting or other abilities, her sense of duty or obligation to many different relationships, her body image, her understanding about personal sources of fulfillment and so forth. We vaguely recognize these tensions, of course, but hesitate when it comes to engaging them as honest questions, fearing that such inquiries might perpetuate selfish inclinations or yield too much ground to the politics of feminism (emphasis mine).

I find this to be true. Motherhood is one of the most important roles I’ve taken on to date, as well as the hardest. It’s a precious and not to be taken lightly role. It’s a lifetime role. But it is a role, and one role of many roles that I have. It does not totally define me.

I’m also innately creative. We all are in different ways. But you know what I mean. I’m the artsy type. And I’ve found it hard to explain at times to others who think I get a lot done (in the writing/art sphere) that it’s not about what I do, it’s part of who I am. I think it may be hard to explain to non-creative types. Maybe that’s a generalization, I don’t know.

It’s not about getting in “me” time. My creative “pursuits” have flexed and changed with the many seasons of my life, so it is no different in the season of motherhood. I will always write. I will always create art of some type. Sometimes I may have more time, other times I may have less. And whether people see what I create or not isn’t ultimately important. But motherhood and my creativity can co-exist.

This season of motherhood has allowed me the most flexible time in a long time to create from my heart. It might not be that way for everyone, but I’ve not found it constraining. I’ve more time than when I worked a full-time job. I’ve more time than when I was a full-time student and part-time employee to really do the projects I want. And I’ve been very blessed by that. In other seasons it may not be so. I will always have to re-evaluate my priorities at every life change. That’s why it’s important to remember that:

The comprehensive realities of life, such as whether a husband works from home or travels frequently, whether family is nearby or far away, if finances allow room for extra help or require extra income, if kids are healthy or not healthy, if marriage is stable and happy or requires extra effort—these are all enormously consequential in how we come to steward our responsibilities faithfully. Not all work is for all seasons, and at the same time, some work is perennial and will inevitably find ways to sprout up. In every instance we need to carefully discern what work we are to pursue—or not pursue—in light of our other responsibilities (emphasis mine).

In all of this, whether it be language, category or context, it is essential for mothers to recognize that the goal in exploring identity in light of work is not to do more or be busier, but rather to think better about the ways we engage the fullness of our callings (emphasis mine). For some women, it will mean granting themselves permission to explore interests, skills or opportunities that persist outside, alongside or amidst their responsibilities as a mom. For others it means evaluating whether or not their priorities and commitments are properly aligned with the commitments they have to their family. For all women, it means being humble enough to step outside the bounds of our own comfort and offer the fullness of our gifts in service to Christ, trusting that if it His work to do he will provide the margin needed to do it.

I love that.

Searching out the fullness of our callings in various seasons and what that means practically can be exciting and painful. Exciting to explore potential that we’ve thought we’ve always had. Painful to cut back when we’d like to do more and are capable of it. I’ve experienced both.

It also means knowing our specific calling and not looking around at other women and wishing we had their calling. And that can be tough, especially in this age where we can peek into so many people’s lives via the internet. And there are definitely times that I look at another woman’s life and think, I wish I could do that.

But I want to be content in my own calling, however much or little it may look like to the world. To also know that the calling will continue to evolve and change and be okay with that.

Anyone else have thoughts on this subject as it relates to their life, motherhood, and mission? Can you share a time you’ve gotten to explore your interest, talent, or skills or conversely, had to cut back external commitments to focus more on your family? What have you learned through either process?

12 Comments leave one →
  1. March 30, 2010 8:11 am

    Danielle –
    This is something I’ve been wrestling with a lot lately. What should the balance be between the needs of my family and my own personal needs? Do my creative pursuits get in the way of what I should be doing for my husband & kids?
    I keep going back to the idea of fills and drains. Writing and connecting with people fills me. Sharing what God is doing in my life excites me. Cleaning the bathroom? Drain! So, in order to keep pushing forward in the areas of my life tar drain me, but are necessary, I need to replenish my spirit by allowing those fills to be just as necessary. The thing I try to keep in balance is that I’m not being gluttonous with my fills.

  2. Bethany permalink
    March 30, 2010 9:43 am

    I was just telling someone the other day how I find the need to stay up late a couple nights a week to get in some undisturbed creative time to work on various projects. Even though I might be a little tired the next day it recharges me in a way that sleeping cannot. Finding balance to keep a part of who I am when the business of the day doesn’t allow much room for it. Yes my time has sort of had an ebb and flow. I think of seasons where I worked a ton ( in my creative career) and now when a take a select few clients. This is such a good article. Something that does need to be talked about. I’ve at times felt condemnation for pursing those things but have realized how much they are a part of who I am and making time recharges me and makes me a better mom and wife in the long run

  3. bethyoung permalink
    March 30, 2010 9:55 am

    Danielle, this is so good! At this moment, I am sitting at my desk in my bedroom. One computer to my right, one to my left. My 9 month old is downstairs with a babysitter. Currently, I am on a 90 day assignment that will provide us with the ability to pay off hospital bills, college loans, replace 4 windows, pay for school tuition for our children; etc, etc. God has given me the ability to provide extra income for our family at a time of need and I’m grateful. I embrace this God given other “career” of mine.

  4. March 30, 2010 1:01 pm

    Excellently said. I have had similar thoughts, though often lack the eloquence to articulate them so clearly. I make things because it is a part of who I am, and I can serve others and worship the Lord through that ability. However, I am currently in a season of making a little less than I’d like, since the needs of a newborn require more of my time. And that’s cool. I’d hate to miss my baby’s “babyhood” because I wanted to make another hat.
    I do struggle with the “me-time” concept, however. While taking time to do things I love is fine, they are only a part of me, while the roles of wife, mother, etc are also parts of me that must take priority. So I won’t plague myself with being the Stepford woman who’s up all night waxing the floor, I must also make sure that I’m not using my “creative space” to alienate my family or shirk other responsibilities – something that would be very easy for me to do.
    Thanks for thinking this through and seeking to find the balance – it’s all about worship, whatever we’re into.

  5. March 30, 2010 3:55 pm

    I have learned (or should I say) AM learning to prioritize. Creativity is a part of each one of us since we’re made in His image. It just looks different for each of us. I love the creative aspects that come with teaching–planning curriculum, projects, writing assignments to make the rest of it “stick,” and so forth. I have found that I can be the teacher whether I’m paid for it or not. Homeschool, day school, whatever, the love is there for teaching.

    That said, when I’ve been paid to teach other people’s children, my own have been shortchanged. I throw myself into the fun, creative stuff that gets a paycheck. Not that my paycheck is much, really.

    But what I’ve also learned is that creativity in children needs to be nurtured and it often makes a mess, so let them make a mess and teach them how to clean it up. And whatever you do, don’t squelch it because you hate mess. (I’m learning to clean up my own messes, BTW.) I know I will always be creative and looking for ways to use God-given ideas, but listening to the Holy Spirit say “use it here” and I say “yes” or “no” determines whether or not the Lord is blessed. If your kids are being pushed aside for a long time, they will internalize that mommy loves herself more than she loves them. They don’t say it, but they feel it. I have had to give up creative endeavors, for money or otherwise , when the Holy Spirit has shown me when “I” have been more important than “we” . Thankfully my hubby speaks his mind when asked:). He’s been fine with me teaching for these past 2 years, but sees that if I’m going to invest most of “me” in anyone’s kids, it should be ours. Most of “me” is lived 9A -6P, by the way:). After that, everyone gets leftovers.

  6. March 30, 2010 9:11 pm

    I thought I would email you b/c I think this will be a lengthy comment, but I’ll go ahead and comment here anyway.

    I read the entire article which helped me a bit more with context.

    I thought all day about this. My comment is likely to be a jumbled up mess of thoughts. 🙂

    I’m with Zo in regards to all of us being creative in some way b/c we are all made in His image and He is a creative God. I am not creative like you or Beth Young, the both of whose creative manifestations I often envy, but I am alas creative. As for the areas of creativity where I am weak, I try to be inspired by others and courageously try things (eg in my wardrobe and home decor…which I know probably makes others gasp at times…but, that is why I say “courageous”).

    Okay..the work thing. Get on topic, here.

    I had to think about this for a while. What would I do if I weren’t a mom b/c I really feel like all the ways I’m gifted for work get funneled into my role as “mom”. It’s just where I am currently, and I have come to enjoy that and give thanks for that opportunity more and more each day. I am blessed to not HAVE to work outside the home for pay (and trust me, my family is blessed, too, b/c if I had to, we’d likely be very, very poor…I’m just not a money maker).

    Two of the most prominent things I could think of in regards to working as a mom are being “nurse” and “teacher” to my children. I’ve invested much time into reading, researching, learning how to care for my children’s health and carrying through with regimens, making appropriate changes needed for their well being. I often say that by the time my kids are out from under my roof, I should be given an honorary nursing degree. This “role” was thrust on me due to the needs of my children. I would never have chosen it. But, God’s provided much,much grace. I do things I, at one time, would have never thought I’d do…all for the sake of my kids.

    I’ve long felt that I am inclined to teach/instruct. This was true even before I had children;hence why I gave teaching a try at our church’s school. I never felt good at it, and I’m sure when I begin homeschooling, I will feel again woefully in touch with my shortcomings. Nevertheless, I can’t get around the fact that I see myself inclined to instruct…may not be as effective as others at it, but there’s raw desire and base know how at least. 🙂

    Honestly, apart from all the various pursuits I take on as a momma, I jotted down just three things that I have left to want to do outside the boundaries of motherhood…and they may seem kind of funny to ya’ll…
    1. aerobics instructor (though as my aging body continues to fail me, I wonder if this will ever happen, so I might change it to a fitness coach, nutritionist, or personal trainer).
    2. cheerleading coach
    3. author. Like you, I love to write. Must say that being exposed to a plethora of amazingly gifted writers out there in blogworld, I have become a bit intimidated rather than inspired by my desire to write b/c I’m just not that good. But, I love it…kind of like running. I love it, though I’m just average at best at it, and my body certainly doesn’t love it. 😦

    SHould have emailed you, huh?

    • bethyoung permalink
      March 30, 2010 9:49 pm

      Bri: You absolutely can’t throw my name next to Danielle’s for being creative! She is an artist. I slide furniture around on my laminate flooring. Ha ha ha! And I enjoy your writing! God sure has given you a gift in caring for that family of yours and you are an encouragement and a blessing for me to watch you do so.

      • March 31, 2010 8:29 am

        Whatever Beth! You are soooo creative and are an interior artist/stylist for sure! Not to mention fashionista! That takes talent. There are so many times I’ve thought, “If I could just have Beth Young come over and give her take on (fill in the blank)” when it comes to decorating/organization.

  7. March 31, 2010 8:48 am

    Thanks everyone, for sharing your thoughts and where you come from on this.

    One thing I really loved about this article was how the author talked about stewarding instead of writing a stay-at-home vs. work-outside-of-home article. Her article was MUCH more broad than that. It’s about stewarding gifts, spiritual, creative, or otherwise.

    Someone who came to mind as a perfect example of this is De Neumann. For those of you who don’t know her personally she’s a woman who’s kids are grown and gone and although she doesn’t work outside of the home, she does an amazing job of stewarding her talents and having a “mission” that includes her family and many others. She has the gift of creativity and service. She helps many people who have health problems and serves them in many ways. She also serves creatively through decorating for various events, weddings, creates handmade invitations, etc.

    Although De is past the place that many of us are (being still in the throes of young mommyhood and all that goes with it) she inspires me. I know for a fact that she stewarded her gifts in more limited ways while her children were growing up. She wasn’t driving people around for Dr. appointments then. She was a homeschool mom. But, her life reminds me that though I may feel limited at times in being able to be creative and raise children at the same time, this time truly is precious and ultimately fleeting. And someday when my kids are grown and gone, there will be a whole other season to explore possibilities and serve others in a way I can’t now.

    But for now, I want to find the ways I CAN steward my creative gifts while raising children and nurturing their gifts and talents too!

  8. March 31, 2010 3:20 pm

    thanks for taking the time to write down your thoughts on this.
    particularly enjoyed your thoughts on incorporating creativity because that is just a part of you, versus something you fit in/make time for. i’ve often had people ask that question of me… and i found this a helpful way to think about it. it does all come back to stewardship not an either/or all or nothing.

    i look forward to reading the whole article…

  9. March 31, 2010 4:53 pm

    Thinking some more on this issue today, I think it’s important to know yourself and ask for/accept the input of others, particularly your husband in regard to where/when to invest your time/talent outside the boundaries of your home, children and husband. Are you pining away to get out the front door and serve anyone else but your family? Are you driven to be recognized by others? Or, are you longing to do something that just “suits” your interests and yes, even your gifts more?
    OR, are you one who is invested exclusively in your home, children and husband and need a little nudge to use your gifts outside that sphere?

    Coming to know myself over the last 5ish years, which has definitely included my husband’s invaluable (and sometimes unsolicited) input, I am among the first group mentioned. God has brought me through a process where I did not just set aside my many and varied ambitions to be used outside the boundaries of my home but died to them altogether.

    Observing my own mom’s life and the demands motherhood STILL places on her time/energy (she’s 60 yrs. old, has 7 kids and 11 grandkids, soon to be 13!) , I have come to realize “once a mother; always a mother”. For me, that means that I may never realize many of the things I once dreamed of doing.

    And, I can honestly say that there has much, much joy for the most part in giving myself in an undivided fashion to this particular season of motherhood, which for me means I do very little else outside my home and serving my hubby and children. Not that I do NOTHING to steward my gifts outside the boundaries of my home, but it has an ebb and flow and most of the time I can do very little.

    It was better for me to die to all my desires to be used b/c now when the opportunities present themselves AND the time/energy is available for me to use my gifts, I consider it a privilege and something that I GET to do rather than having that constant striving to use my gifts. That’s not going to be true for every mom. There are women who apparently can do more than just mother. I cannot. 🙂
    It’s humbling for me, but that’s good. It keeps me close to Jesus.

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