May 5, 2021

On Motherhood and Vocation.


Growing up, I never considered how becoming a mother would change my career plans.

I didn’t think that far ahead. For those mothers who want a career, how do we balance the goals that we worked so hard to attain before our children came into the world with our current motherhood reality? I believe we have to look to the meaning of vocation and calling.

From Wikipedia: A vocation (Latin: vocātiō “a call, summons”) is an occupation to which a person is specially drawn or for which he is suited, trained, or qualified. Though now often used in non-religious contexts, the meanings of the term originated in Christianity.

Originally, the word “vocation” applied to the calling of God on a man’s life to join professional clergy. Over the years, vocation has come to apply to every person’s work life, and their specific talents, skills, and purpose in the world. For some wonderful books on vocation in general, I recommend the following:

Finding value in the vocation of motherhood alone is a daunting task in a culture that downplays the inherent value in the important work of caregiving and raising children. It can be tempting for many women to feel as though they need to have “something else” to identify themselves with, so that others can still find them valuable in a market economy.

And what about women who want to (or have to) pursue another vocation as well? Not to simply get a “break” from their kids, but because they feel a deep calling to it- something that becoming a mother has not changed in them. Becoming a mother has changed them, no doubt, but their vocational desires remains strong, outside of motherhood. How do we honor both of these flames burning inside of us without neglecting them?

In the end, motherhood defines me in a huge way, and has changed me completely, for the better- but it has not caused me to want to give up my other calling. It honestly made me want to pursue it with even more passion and conviction. When I saw my daughter’s face for the first time, I knew I wanted to fight even harder for my passions and show her what that looks like as she grows.

I believe that whatever our vocations and callings are, we cannot neglect them.

But how do we make sense of it? How do we find some level of “balance” in a season of life that demands so much of our time, our physical abilities, our mindfulness, our presence? I believe there are so many women out there who are wrestling with these questions every single day, just like me.

I believe there are women out there who simply will not be painted into a cultural box of “SAHM” “WAHM”, or anything else. We are all working. If a woman is fulfilled completely in her calling as a mother, I honor that, affirm that, celebrate that, and respect that totally.

But so many women choose a double vocation- and this is a unique gift and burden to bear. For many, it may be that she must work to provide for her household- sociologically this is called the “double burden”, and has become a more prevalent phenomenon in the past ten years, in developing countries as well as first world nations. How are we addressing the needs of these women?

For some women, it is simply an inability to ignore the “holy nudge” that she feels to engage in other endeavors outside of motherhood. The motivation may not be economic, but it is no less powerful.

What is that nudge for you?

Writing? Designing? Dancing? Coaching? Making music? Teaching? Nursing? Leading a company?  What do you do, that when you do it, time goes by so quickly that you don’t even realize where it went? That you get so caught up in the moment you forget where you are? That you have “aha” moments, one after another?

Let’s pretend something for a minute. Pretend the bills are all paid, the kids are happily playing by themselves, the dishes are done, the laundry is done, dinner is simmering in the crock pot, there are no emails to be returned, no calls to make, no appointments to schedule, no one needs you. Not one single person. And, magically you aren’t tired. You have energy. You feel alert, your outlook is good. You feel hopeful, like things matter right now. You don’t feel pressured to better yourself in this moment. Any choice you make is perfectly okay, in this sacred moment. Nothing is expected, everything is good.

What is it that you instinctively choose to do in that moment?

What do you turn to? What brings you life? Do you make something? Do you sing a song? Do you dance around the room, or make a cup of tea and sit down with a book? Does your mind immediately flood with ideas for businesses and products, websites and blog posts? Do you think of all the people you love, and wonder how they are doing? Do you go outside and plant something? Or do you simply flop down on the couch and be still. Do you do yoga or workout? Do you write in your journal?

What happens to your mind in those in between spaces, those moments where you are allowed to wander, to be, to remember that little girl inside you? What does she say to you? What would she whisper if you were quiet enough to listen? Would she show you the mirror you used to dance in front of, or maybe the tree you used to climb? Or maybe the friend who you loved, or the story you wrote in school, or maybe the instrument you played?

Remember what it was like to feel so caught up in the moment that nothing else mattered? (outside of staring at a sleeping newborn). It’s not something that only kids can attain. Grown-ups just forget that those moments are even accessible anymore.

So we turn to things that we know are reliable and available- Netflix, merlot, whiskey, coffee, Prozac. Whatever makes it all feel okay. Because growing up is the hardest thing we ever have to do. It isn’t for the faint of heart, and if we survive it, it’s usually with very little light left to give. But let’s fight for the light. Let’s hold on to it with all we have, and make sure it doesn’t die. Because it is worth it.

There is a larger story at work, and we are just a part.

It's time to thrive, mama.

Enter Your Email Address for A PDF Download of the first three chapters of The New Mystique: Reimagining Motherhood and Work by Hilary Barnett

About The Author

Hilary Barnett

Hilary Barnett is the founder of The New Mystique where she believes every mother is extraordinary, and typically writes the words that she most needs to hear.

See More of Her Stories