“Mothers are all insane.” ~J.D. Salinger (May 2013 Readers Digest)
I have absolutely no maternal instincts.
My first daughter was born during my last year of college. It never occurred to me to do anything but finish my degree and graduate with a English/Religion major and a dream of going to seminary.
We found out we were expecting our second daughter mere weeks before I started seminary. She was born a week before mid-terms in that first spring semester. It never occurred to me to take time off…I just lugged her to class, nursed her during lectures and handed her over to my roommate (or whomever I could beg to take her) when I absolutely could not take her to class with me.
18 months later her little sister joined our family and the seminary campus.
It never occurred to me to do anything less. I thought only of this profound, important, all consuming call that God had invaded my life with when I was 14 years old.
I plowed on imperfectly, starting as the pastor of a two point charge when number two was three months old. I stayed there as the pastor through two and a half more years of seminary, one more baby and most of the fifth one (who was born three weeks after we moved).
I have gotten a lot of guilt piled on me who were either called to a different life or who chose to follow their call differently.
I have cried tears, not because I have missed things my children are doing, but because other people make me feel terrible about choosing to live out my call over living for my children.
I have been told I can’t do everything.
I have been told that my family has to come first or my children will end up hating the church.
I have been told that I need to wait to take on more responsibilities in the life of our denomination…wait until they grow up and move out and move on. (Which by the way means I will have served the church for 25 years while waiting…)
I have watched other women, strong, beautiful called women, wonder and worry and stress over family planning and how to balance the guilt with our call. I have seen them sacrifice having a family AND/OR sacrifice the kingdom work God has called them to because of some outdated notion that women are not capable of having a healthy whole family and fully live into the calling Christ has placed in us.
I have five daughters and very little maternal instinct. I confess that I am baffled when other women talk about missing their children after a few days apart. I don’t feel a burden in my soul to rush home to help with homework or particularly guilty when I am not there to kiss them good night.
- I love my daughters. They are intelligent, fun, delightful little girls. They are engaged in the world around them. They are curious. They love to be with me and with each other. They are storytellers and adventure bringers. They are wonderful friends to others. They provide an abundance of sermon illustrations. When I spend time with them, my heart is refreshed and my soul sings praises.
BUT they are not my whole life. They do not define me and I certainly do not want to define them. I want them to become fully the people that God desires them to be. The only way to do this is, I think, to fully be the woman God has called me to be. Yes, mother is part of that. But there is also wife, friend, pastor, preacher, lover of God’s people, prophet, dreamer, visionary, and much, much more.
I will not win the super mom story battle. I don’t have the instincts or honestly the will to win that prize. But if I have daughters who become women that love God, love others fully and are able to be confident in who God has created them to be then I will take comfort in the fact that I have done my best with God’s gift of five precious lives.