Monday, February 18, 2013

A Vocation to Motherhood

This is me on my last day as a flight instructor:
Scanned from a Polaroid, but isn't it awesome?
My student is totally pointing at my belly.
Well, I guess not quite.  This was my last flight, one month to the day before Jack was born.  But I was still teaching a couple of ground school classes right up until the end.  The husband had to call my boss on the way to the hospital to tell him I was going to miss my class that night.

Because I hadn't quit yet.  Because I wasn't sure if I wanted to.


Honestly, I had never been a real "baby person."  They are adorable, sure.  But they seemed awfully needy.  And I hadn't really known any babies very well since my sister was born 22 years previously.  So I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about sitting around all day looking at one.


My mom had worked, and I don't remember it ever bothering me as a child.  (If you ask nicely in the comments I bet she'll tell you the story of what happened the day she went back to work after my sister was born.)


And wasn't I rather overqualified to be just a mom?  I had two degrees and had only recently acquired enough flight hours to start applying for airline jobs.  I figured that was out of the question, at least in the short term.  But I thought maybe I would want to keep flight instructing locally.  


The husband was in business school, so my pitiful little income was all we had besides his savings.  (Saving hadn't really occurred to me before I met him.)  And my parents and I had invested a lot in my education and preparation for the job market.  I already owned all the books and gear and had just finished organizing and standardizing the whole ground school curriculum.  Didn't I owe it to my parents, and my students, and my flight school, and myself to go back? 


Then . . . baby Jack was born.  And a funny thing happened.  I became a mother.





And all those things that had bugged me about other people's babies were totally awesome in my baby.  And even the things that weren't totally awesome were manageable.



I realized that while I enjoyed being a pilot, my vocation was to motherhood.  I realized that nothing else would fulfill me in the way that dedicating myself to motherhood would.  The hilarious stuff, and the adorable stuff, and the tedious stuff, and the boring stuff, and the gross stuff, all of it.  I realized that this was the path God had chosen for my sanctification.

Once I knew those things, it was just a question of logistics, and of allowing myself to trust God and my husband to provide for our family.  They say, "Every baby comes with a loaf of bread."  In our case it has been true.


I didn't learn much from the husband's time at business school (I believe that he did.)  But I do remember the concept of "sunk costs" really resonating with me.  Whatever time or money I had invested in my career was already gone.  To make decisions for the future based on sunk costs is a bad way to run your business.  It's an even worse way to run your family.


And I have been amazed by the way that things I learned and experienced and prepared for to be a flight instructor really have turned out to be applicable in my life as a mother. 



Well, not that literally.
I guess it didn't help much here.  
But what could prepare you for that?
(He was supposed to be getting dressed for Mass.)
Now, my vocation is not every woman's vocation.  I believe that some women must have a dual vocation, as it were -- to motherhood and to a profession for which they are uniquely gifted.  Saint Gianna Molla, for instance, had a vocation to motherhood and to medicine, both of which allowed her to give a beautiful witness of love to the world before she died.  And, as my family has settled into a manageable routine lately, I have felt called to write as well as to mother.  But I am grateful that it can all be done while my babies are sleeping (sometimes while they are sleeping on me).

I am so very grateful to God and to my husband that I am able to stay home with my children.  I know some women must work to support their families.  I think they make a great sacrifice to do so.


As I look back on my early days of motherhood, I realize that it was my indecision that saved me, really.  If I had been decided on going back to work I may have followed some of the terrible advice I read about starting my baby on bottles "just in case" and being sure to leave him with other people so we would both "get used to it."  I shudder to think about what I would have lost.  I'm so glad I put off my decision, and allowed myself to be devoted to motherhood in those first weeks and months.


When I did go back to my flight school again it was just to gather my things, and I brought my baby with me.


It hasn't all been cupcakes and pony rides since then.  But I have always been comforted by the conviction that I am where I'm supposed to be.


I think that the best place for my babies to be has been with me.  But babies are resilient.  They probably would have been great in another situation as well.  I think more importantly, the best place for me to be has been with my babies.  In saying "yes" to God's plan for my life I have been blessed in ways I couldn't have imagined before.  These children are my vocation and they are perfecting me day by day.



This little nerd, for instance, is working on my humility.




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10 comments:

  1. Wow, Frankie's Mom...flight instructor? You really are cool. I think I've got to try that bare-back trike riding...well, at least once the snow goes away. love, Frankie's friend Adam

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  2. I also was convinced I wanted to go back to work after my son was born (when I was pregnant!). The moment I held him in my arms, though, I knew I couldn't bear to leave him. Unfortunately, I did end up going back (after a 3 month leave) for about 7 months, until we would put the financial changes in place for me to stay home. It killed me EVERY day to send him to daycare, and I know I was not fully effective at my job OR at being a mom and wife in those months. However, he survived, and I survived, and when he was 10 months old, I was able to quit and stay home. He's now almost 17, and has 3 younger brothers who have always had their Mom at home. Will I go back to work eventually? Maybe. I do take on some projects from time to time, that I can do at home. But my heart and my focus is on my vocation as a mother right now.

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  3. "Then . . . baby Jack was born. And a funny thing happened. I became a mother."

    Loved this post. Thank you!

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  4. Working or staying at home with children is a hard decision for any mom to make. I went to work as a stewardess (now flt att) for American Airlines right after college. At that time stewardesses had to be female, under 32 yrs old, very trim, unmarried and not pregnant. Any of these means quitting. By the time I was married and pg with Kendra both were allowed and I took a year off for baby so came back to flying out of San Diego when she was 6 mos old. I gave her one last goodbye kiss before leaving and she spitup all over my uniform jacket so no matter the cleanup she was with me the full 2 days I was away. Their dad was a Navy pilot and then an airline pilot so we had live-in housekeepers...several Marias. The leaving on a trip story Kendra mentioned was when she was around 5 and her sister 2. It was a warm SD day in Jan and the girls stood crying at the window for me as I left in my car for the airport. At the bottom of our hill I remembered I would need my coat for the east coast so drove hack up to get it. When I went in the door no girls at the window but with an open bag of cheetos jumping on mom and dad's water bed with cartoons on the TV and housekeeper Maria shouting "you no maka da messa...turn off cartooness!". So who was missing who? Righted the situation, got the coat and off to the airport minus a small amount of guilt. Kept my flying job until I retired with 37 1/2 years of service. The family has always enjoyed the use of my pass privileges and it enabled us to travel as a family to some amazing places and also for the girls to go on work trips with Mom to NYC. The kids and grandkids still use the passes now to go interesting places. This job worked well for me for added income, travel privileges, mom time alone and enough time at home to be class room aid, scout leader, ccd teacher, wife and mom. I feel I have been blessed to have it all. God has been very good to me and my family.
    Nanacamille

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    Replies
    1. I always thought you and Dad both did an amazing job of juggling jobs, marriage, and parenting.

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  5. Kendra, I love that you've written this post. It's been on my heart so much recently. So far we haven't had the option for me not to work. I had to work. That was that. But our situation is changing and in a few months I'll have the option to stay home, and I'm trusting that God will make what I need to do clear when the time comes, but right now I find myself thinking about it a lot.

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  6. Kendra, I love this post. I had the same thing happen when I got pregnant with Oliver when I was 23. I had just finished design school. I was listening to Dr. Laura of all people talk about how important it is for mom's to be home for their babies and it hit me. I wasn't going to be putting him in daycare! Ever, Can you believe no one had ever even told me I should stay home with my baby before that?

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  7. I am so glad you linked this because i needed to re read it. This post really, really speaks to me. And happens to have been posted the day I gave birth to our second child! After our oldest, I went back to work, I believed I could do it all and no one could tell me otherwise. I was content but not happy. Then our second boy came along and you summed it up perfectly:
    "Then . . . baby Jack was born. And a funny thing happened. I became a mother."

    That was exactly how it felt, though I did not love Easton any less, it took Hudson's birth for me to realize that my current vocation was motherhood! And that was a perfectly good vocation. It took me too long to realize, even then, that it wasn't that I couldn't go back it was that I did not want to. I wanted to be with my children and live life with them at this moment! Luckily I am able to and have a great husband who supports us! I also managed to stumble across a handful of blogs right in that time that were written about the choice to stay at home or to work, funny how you are drawn in certain directions.. :)

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  8. Thank you for having a blog! I feel like I relate to you in so many ways and you inspire me to be a better wife and mother! Plus, flight instructor? You keep getting cooler with each post you write :)

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  9. Thank you so much for this post! I really appreciated it – it’s helpful to know that some mothers whose way of doing “family” I respect and admire may have had some initial ambivalence about not working outside the home when children arrived. That is very, very reassuring. I confess that when my husband and I were first married, I had absolutely no ambivalence at all about being a stay-at-home mom. It was, in fact, all I had ever wanted. Unfortunately, things didn’t really work out for us that way. Now, five+ years (and many blood tests and injections and medications and examinations, but sadly, no kids) later, I’m not so sure. I still really, REALLY want to be a mom, but I’ve become so used to working outside of the home that it’s hard to imagine anything else. Now, maybe if we ever have a kid that we don’t have to give back (we’re licensed foster parents) it will be different, but…eh…anyway, I appreciate your transparency on this issue!

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