Tuesday, July 23, 2013

This Just In: My Vocation is not Everyone's Vocation

It's easy for me to fall into an us against the world mentality. Especially when the priorities and loves of the world are so far away from my own. But, lately, I've really been trying to be aware of not closing my circle in so tight that I exclude a lot of folks that ought to be in here with me.


I've written previously about how important it has been for me to find like-minded friends, friends who share my love for God and my Catholic faith, and for the teachings of the Catholic Church, even on "controversial" issues.
 

We often have other incidentals in common as well. Many of my friends also homeschool, also have big families, also stay home with their children. It's easy to begin to see those things as things that all "real" Catholics do too.

Especially since, for me, those things didn't necessarily come easily. I never would have thought I'd end up with a big family, but God keeps blessing us with children. I thought homeschooling was only for weirdos until it was the only thing that worked for our family. Up until after my first son already was born, I kept my options open for going back to work, because I wasn't sure I wanted to be a stay at home mom.

But I have come to believe that all of those things are an integral part of my vocation. I feel very deeply and strongly that those things are right for my family and they are helping me get to heaven. I had to make the (sometimes difficult) choices to follow what God had put on my heart, and I'm so glad I did.

It's taken me much too long, however, to fully recognize that MY vocation is not everyone's vocation. And that the mentality that we must all be just the same can be really hurtful to Catholics who are just as devout as I am, but are living out their own vocations -- which just happen to be different from mine.




There are women who would love to have a big family, but that's not the way it worked out for them. Or who would love to stay home with their children, but can't. Or who would love to homeschool, but are not able to do so. How terrible it would be if our Catholic community was making these mothers feel any worse as they do their best in a challenging situation.

But it's more than that. There are also devout Catholics who are open to life but are happily living out a vocation of one or two or no children. Because that's God's plan for them. There are devout Catholics who are called not to homeschool, but rather to start private schools that serve their community, or be a light to the public or private schools where they choose to send their kids.

I don't understand it myself, I couldn't imagine it for my own children -- but that's because it isn't MY vocation!

Saint Gianna Molla would probably have something to say about the idea that women who have children, even many children, can't also have a professional vocation.



I think that's what finally sold it for me. Glancing over at my four volume edition of Butler's Lives of the Saints and realizing that THAT is how many ways there are to do it right.

Because if the only way to get to heaven was to found a religious order or preach the gospel in foreign lands or die for my faith, I might be in trouble. But those are the ways other folks have made it to heaven. You never know what God will have in store for me, but I'm pretty sure it's not going to be any of those things. I think I'm going to continue to be sanctified by trying to bend over a pregnant belly to pick up a baby spoon. Again. By changing diapers and wiping up after sick kids. By reading the same story for the 716th time. By homemaking and homeschooling and blogging.

That's my path, probably. But it's unlikely that yours is exactly the same as mine. It's hard for me to remember it always, especially when my own vocation seems so right to me and has born so much fruit in my own life. But God made us complementary, not the same. We need each other. We need our differences.

It's hard enough to be a mother and a Catholic and a Catholic mother without feeling that other Catholic moms might be giving you one of these:



Not cool. Let's not be that guy.


Hey, the cry room link-up is still open. Have a blog? Have an opinion? The world wants to know.

 



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26 comments:

  1. I love these thoughts, Kendra. Thank you for articulating them so well. I particularly appreciated your point that "God made us complementary, not the same. We need each other. We need our differences." So very true!

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  2. Ah yes, it takes all kinds! I used to feel so badly about having to work full-time, but then I found some wonderful women in similar situations (and the example of St. Gianna) and realized it was possible to raise good and holy kids even if they aren't being homeschooled by a stay-at-home mom. Plus, most of the time I felt badly because I desired to be at home, and couldn't, and I was so sensitive to the blog posts that were like "Being a mom is the most important job, and everyone should sacrifice to be home with their kids". With a husband that is a Catholic school teacher, and 5 kids, and living in MA, there is NOOOO way we can afford me not to work. So I had to get over myself pretty quickly and realize this is the life God wishes me to lead right now.

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  3. Catholic woman with smaller families are "real" Catholics too and no less of a mother. I'm glad you wrote this post. I get tired of hearing "oh you ONLY have two children." Before someone passes judgement they need to know they don't know why. Maybe it's medical issues, financial constraints or simply they are happy with the size family they have. Not every (I'd say most nowadays) Catholic woman want a van full of children. I applaud those who do. It just wasn't in God's plan for our family
    Just my two cents...
    Deborah M.
    Catholc Mom of 2

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    1. Thanks Deborah,I agree that the "only two children" comment needs to go. I've met too many women who have struggled with infertility and multiple miscarriages to ever make that mistake again. But there's something about "Not every (I'd say most nowadays) Catholic woman wants a van full of children." that worries me a bit. I hope you aren't advocating for contraception or even nfp just for "want" or convenience. That's certainly not a mentality I was intending to champion in this post.

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    2. Not at all. I can see how it sounded that way. One of the negatives of not be able to see people face to face. I meant that I think Catholic woman today in general don't have large families anymore and it's a shame. Would you agree that the majority don't have a van load of children anymore? I would based on what I see at my parish. Most of 2, maybe 3. Now I wouldn't go asking around but some are very vocal that they don't want more. So obviously they are doing something to stop it. Personally we would have loved to have a large family but due to multiple miscarriages, trouble getting pregnant and some financial issues we weren't able to. I am blessed with two and have to find peace in that.
      Sorry for any confusion.

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    3. You're right, it's a flaw in the medium that we can't get nonverbal cues! Anyway, I have kind of a skewed perspective because so many people I know through our homeschool group and our church have the big van. We're about to make the leap ourselves! But what made me want to write this was an exchange between some women in the homeschool group when one confessed to always feeling like she was having to explain herself for *only* having two children.

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  4. This is a lovely post. It took me a long time to accept that God's plan for my life was to work outside the home AND raise my five (+1 in heaven) - so far - children to know, love and serve Him. But eventually, my hard head (and heart) softened and I understood this was the way He wanted me to go. There's such peace that comes from knowing we are all different and have different ways to Heaven.

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  5. I really liked this post. I earned my 2nd M.A. by 30. God called me to teach and lead in Catholic schools for 11 years and I thought it would continue to be my vocation... until our baby was born. But after my maternity leave was over and I returned to school, my husband and I realized my vocation had changed. So I finished out the year and turned over my keys and curriculum and now I am a brand-new stay-at-home mom with an 8-month old.

    It is a little hard for me because most of my friends and graduate school classmates decided to continue serving Catholic schools after the birth of their children. It's also hard for me because I NEVER imagined staying home; my mom taught and had 4 children. But I realize now that God had a plan for me all along to serve the Church in a different way. Going to Catholic graduate school was His way on showing me my path: it's where I finally listened to the Holy Spirit calling me to start a family and it led me to meet and marry my husband. So, in sum, my vocation has surprised me, too!

    Last, I also want to add I am very fortunate because my husband can provide for us and his company has excellent health benefits. We'll have to live a modest lifestyle (no smartphones, vacations, new cars, or meals out for this family and we'll live in our condo until we truly outgrow it) but we can easily make ends meet. I realize not everyone is so fortunate and my heart goes out to those women who long to be at home but can't.

    Thanks for spreading the Good News through your blog,
    Anne

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  6. I totally agree. I will admit to feeling a little bit bad/judged what-have you in Catholic circles because I have wider spacing between children and I know so many who seem to have one every 2 years (or less).

    But, I also think that maybe some of that judgement may have just been in my head. I think it's really easy to think others are judging us, when they really aren't. We homeschool, and it seems as though some people seem to take the very fact that we homeschool as disapproval of their choice to send their kids to public or private school (because as soon as I say we homeschool, they immediately start to justify or list all the things they love about their school). When really, I don't disapprove of public school or private schools and that's not why we homeschool but some people seem to take the very fact that we do as disapproval.

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    1. This is a great point. I think so often, no matter what it is, junk food vs organic, naps vs no naps, whatever, we just assume that other moms are thinking badly of us because we're not doing it just like they are.

      I think especially in the uber-Catholic circles in which I now run, that's almost never the case. People are so nice and think the best of others, but some moms still feel insecure.

      But I will say that on this particular point, from where I came from as a Sunday Catholic, not raised around big families etc, once my heart was changed on things it did take a while to get to the point of understanding that while some women were contracepting and limiting family size that way and some women were working so they could afford to go on fancy vacations away from their kids, not ALL women were doing that.

      And now, I'd much rather just assume the best of everyone, even if I'm wrong. Really, it's not my business, anyway.

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  7. Absolutely, I have recently made the decision to become a stay-at-home-mum and it is something I feel very strongly is the right decision. It doesn't mean that I think every mum should follow in my footsteps. It's my vocation, they must find their own.

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  8. This is a great post Kendra. I recently wrote something similar on my blog but it was about the funny looks and (rude) comments because we do have a big family and the discrimination that comes along with it. Have you ever experienced that? I am currently expecting our ninth baby who has a severe encephalocele. So I am probably more so sensitive to the looks and comments.
    I have some very dear friends who are and have been open to life but God blessed them with three. They ache for more but that is what He meant for them. So, yes we don't know what crosses people carry and should never make judgements. God's plan is so different for each of us. Thank God there is more than one way to get to Heaven!
    In Christ,
    Kirsten @ sonlightgarden.com

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    1. Well, I wrote here on how I try to respond to the standard comments about my family size. But I have to admit, I've never had one quite so shocking as yours was!

      I'm so sorry about baby Thomas's encephalocele, you'll both be in my prayers.

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  9. Thanks for this post, Kendra. I'm 32 and expecting my first baby, and was 30 when I got married. I have had more than one person in the uber-Catholic crowd hint or out and out ask if we lived together while dating. We didn't but that's not actually their business in the first place. I would love to have had a huge family, but given my age and the fact that it took us over a year to conceive this baby, that's probably not going to happen. In fact, that kind of attitude has caused a lot of distancing between some of my friends in that crowd and me. I'm sorry that my life did not work out where I got married at 22 and had 5 kids by now, but I'm not a bad Catholic because of it.

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    1. I can't believe people said that to you! How unkind....

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  10. I agree! I have one child, two miscarriages, and infertility. I would like to wear that on a shirt sometimes but really in the big scheme of things, it doesn't matter. We are all on our own journeys in holiness. Without this cross of IF, I wouldn't be on the faith journey nor would be husband be Catholic. So here we are. I love big familes and often have them to my home. It just isn't in the cards for us, unless a large sibling group falls from the sky into our home.

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  11. Thank you so much for sharing this post to us Kendra. It was really a wonderful article and it was a very good read. All the things that are happening in our lives are God's plan for us. God knows what's best for us. We just need to realize, understand them, and accept whatever they may be. :)

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  12. This is my favorite blog. You are so thoughtful.

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  13. Yes, oh and yes.
    Opus Dei (ultimately Josemaria) has taught me so much about this - about the beauty of "naturalness" and seeing Christ in others, and those "others" as a providential part of our journey toward heaven.

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  14. http://www.ourcatholicprayers.com/litany-of-humility.html

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  15. Would you allow a non-Catholic (but Christian) to comment? I have an only child, almost died twice getting her into the world. My sister has 10 children, adding a child every couple of years. She homeschooled from the beginning, I thought homeschool was bad! Until I was show that there was no other way to successfully educate my child. I was shown a great curriculum (www.Time4Learning.com) and a path I never thought I would take. I became not only a homeschooler, but learned that following God might not be the easy path sometimes. Many homeschooling parents seem to look down on my and my "poor only child". Just know that lots of people tend to judge even though they don't mean to. Trust me when I tell you that your post was inspiring for me, and was just what I needed to read today. Thanks!

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  16. Kendra...what a thoughtful way in which you present your point.
    What a delight this was to read.
    Since I was away, I missed this initially, but just saw it under 'clickworthy' over on Jen F's blog...

    I could not agree more on your POV..I esp found this:
    Especially when the priorities and loves of the world are so far away from my own.
    and this:
    But it's more than that. There are also devout Catholics who are open to life but are happily living out a vocation of one or two or no children. Because that's God's plan for them.

    The latter is my family and you hit the nail on the head. At 48, it appears that it will remain so.

    What I find so very sad is that catholic women and women in general can be so competitive and hurtful.
    Two cents from a catholic HSing Mom of 2? ~
    My dh and I run programs at church and ran our CYO program for years...now he still coaches both boys' teams but I'm just a mom on the field and happy to have it that way!
    ...I could not do it any more --it became a full time job in addition to household stuff plus schoolwork with the kids....

    Hubby and I thought that since God has not sent us many kids, we felt that His plan for us must be to look outward to church to volunteer...this is our ministry. If we had more kids, we could not vol to run these programs.
    Ok fine.
    Except that we were SO taken for granted and taken advantage of and ppl would say, "Well, you're home all day/ You only have 2 kids..you can do this. I work..there's no way I could volunteer." and similar outrageous comments. Then they talk of how busy they are.
    At one point, the hubby, who gets annoyed at very little, said...what are they so busy doing?? Bringing their kids to things WE run?? I knew it was time to step down at that point before we felt really embittered.
    I am still tying to figure out if ppl say these things and don't actually realize that they are damaging or if they have some sort of need to to fill and insulting others is the way they choose to do it? Whatever. Not for me to judge.
    But literally after a few years of running things and many unkind comments, we felt a shift on our priorities and did not feel called to do much outside the home anymore Oh there were many who were awesome, helpful and appreciative of all we did...and believe me, I really am not some magnanimous person...but the reality is, SOMEONE has to run the sports program/ the church picnic/the VBS / etc or they crumple...
    So....I am actually just returning to feel comfortable in my life and not feel defensive for "only having two kids" or because I no longer volunteer when the pleas are sent out..yeah, little things, sure. But not to chair a committee or administer a program.
    So from my POV your post helped heal and inspire. Bc, honestly, I am still carrying around a bit of annoyance/bitterness toward the busy Mommies and the Mommies of many kids who were pretty open with their POVs, which were not too kindly stated.
    Thank you for the wisdom, so beautifully stated.

    xoxoxoxoxo

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  17. This is an "old" post, but I loved it so much I had to comment. I'm not Catholic (yet, the jury's still out on that one), but it does seem that in such a big church there's room for everyone. Also, the problem of "stay at home mom versus working mom" is a privileged one frankly (though a frustrating one); poorer families just do what they have to do. I don't have kids yet and am longing for that time, but we all have to accept where we are, and what God is calling us to do. And knowing that our "vocation" may change over time....

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  18. Hi I am new to your blog and reading through old entries, but I saw this and just had to comment! Thank you so much for this post. My mum was very open to children and desperately wanted several - after over 10 years I was her natural "miracle baby." When she got pregnant with me they found out she should not have been able to have children without medical assistance - but God gave her a baby anyway!

    Now my husband and I are facing a similar situation - my having inherited the family's low fertility and my husband having his own medical concerns so that it will be difficult for us to conceive too. We knew about these things before marriage so it doesn't worry us and we are looking at adoptions. However we face constant comments and assumption that we use birth control.

    Honestly I think that God meant for us to not have children yet - if we had been fertile and had a baby right away we never would have been able to take in my grandmother as newlyweds. I wouldn't have financially been able to stop working and become a full-time caregiver up until her passing - which was an amazing, challenging, but beautiful life-changing experience for both of us (it caused my husband to become Catholic).

    However explaining all of that to every random Catholic we meet... especially in the Catholic school systems where both of us work right now... is not feasible. So thank you for helping to remind people about vocations - right now mine is to care for other people's children, but maybe someday we will be called to be parents. That's for God to decide!

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  19. I know that this is almost three years old, but it seriously hit home.

    (I recently stumbled across your blog and am getting all caught up!)

    I'm one of those who has to work for the time being, because my husband's vocation (teaching) is not hiring a lot of people permanently in our area. So I pick up the slack.

    That being said, I still do feel like the work I do has value (I work for the Canadian government, and my last two jobs have been in programs aiding Veterans access programs and assistance to improve their quality of life). Even if I could stay home, I don't know that I would want to.

    After years of hearing my in-laws go on and on about the evils of working mothers - which I obviously take to heart, because I think I'm doing a good job of supporting their son/brother in pursuing his dreams, AND taking care of the kids and the house - it also hurts because it's attacking my mom, who had the vocation to teach and she was damn good at it. Maybe it would have been better for us (I'm not convinced that it would have been, because perhaps she would have felt unfulfilled and that would have come out in her parenting) but that means all of those lives that I know she touched teaching would not have had her presence and guidance.

    Thanks for the kind wods.

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