“You have four kids?” “You homeschool them?” “Ohh, you must be so patient, I could neeevver do that.”
This line of questioning, punctuated with the certain conclusion of my undoubted gifts as a mother has become a refrain in my life. I know the women who express their incredulity at my selfless nature in this manner are well-meaning, but I detest it.
I am selfish. I fight it hard every day, every hour, I want to tell them. Rather than build me up and make me feel like the superwoman they believe me to be, their compliments send me into a psycho-philosophical tailspin. Do these onlookers believe our family’s lifestyle is all the result of some master plan to fulfill my yearnings to be an elementary educator within the comforts of my own home? Have I been secretly watching the Duggars and am now eagerly taking a page from Michelle’s book? Hardly. No. Not at all.
To be honest with you, I find the concept of parenthood as my God-given vocation to be unsettling. If it were my vocation to have a large family, to teach my children, why wasn’t I smart enough to prepare for this better? Where is my insatiable maternal itch and desire to decorate nurseries? It ain’t there. Each pregnancy hits me like a sledgehammer of obedience – even number one. Life plays out slowly before me, amidst a sea of dishes and diapers, and we simply try to make the decisions that are in the best interest of the humans we have produced out of love. I think that my choices – to have babies and to educate them myself – are based more on obligation than on a particular vocation. Is fulfilling an obligation enough? If I do it convincingly and (mostly) joyfully? After all, vocation is defined as, “a strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation”. Do I feel that I am highly suitable to mother lots of children and to educate them as well? Uh, only sort of, but I do think it is my obligation to train and hone the souls we have co-created to the best of my God-given abilities.
I don’t mean to sound cold here, but I may not have the vocation to be a mother! Yet, God blessing us with these kids must mean that I do, but if I don’t, can’t I still do well by them out of a deep sense of obligation? No, that is too cold of a term as well – I love these people. I stare at them, I sniff their scalps and scoozle them while I should be doing laundry, I pour over third grade reading lists and I am looking forward to building a salt dough aqueduct this weekend – that must mean something, right? See what I mean: psycho-philosophical tailspin.
I recently attended a local Catholic homeschoolers panel discussion and at the end of the evening I went up to one of the presenters whose style I admired and I asked her, point-blank, “Do I have to homeschool my kids if I hate it, but I believe it is the best education I can provide them?” She just smiled and answered, “we all hate it once a day.” So, please, if you see me around – don’t tell me that you lack the superhuman call to do what I do. If you ask me why I do it, I will tell you, “Well, I do it this way because it is my vocligation.”