I started out my married life working and living a fun and easy lifestyle. The idea of vocation never entered my head until after our first child was born. God doesn´t demand, but waits, oh so patiently, on me. This is my story.
by Debbie Mack | Source:
I am a thirty-something mother who left the career of Senior Industrial Engineer to become what my father calls a Domestic Engineer-a stay-at-home mom, working 24 hours a day with no paycheck, but the long term investment is already reaping great dividends.
I´d like to start with my definition of work: my work is really my vocation. \"Vocation\" is perhaps considered an old-fashioned word reserved mostly to members of religious life, but in its purest form it elevates all work, so long as it is performed in a spirit of service to God. We are each called by God to one of three choices: single, married, or consecrated life. My particular state in life is married. So all my activity is ordered to a married vocation.
And what might a married vocation be? Well, for me, it has come to mean more and more as the years pass and children have come along. I see my life as a gift from God so that I might know Him, love Him, and serve Him in this life and enjoy heaven some day. For myself, this means I desire to order all my work toward that one goal, heaven. But it didn´t start out that way.
I started out my married life working and living a fun and easy lifestyle. Faith was not an issue of high importance. My husband and I were of different faiths. It wasn´t until after we married I felt an interest in conversion to his faith-Catholicism.
Then as children came along, maturity in parenting, values, and faith began to grow. I am not the same woman I was when I married. I am grateful for the faith and wisdom, the pain and sorrows, and the joy of these married years. I am blessed with a wonderful man for my husband, one who grows and suffers with me. When one is weak, the other is strong. It is a beautiful complementarity.
As a newly married woman, educated with a degree in economics, I had a career previously established as a senior industrial engineer. The idea of vocation never entered my head until after our first child was born. Up to that point, I did my best work possible, got my promotions, and collected a nice paycheck. But I never felt fulfilled.
That´s not to say it wasn´t possible, but for me, true fulfillment only exists when I truly offer my work for a higher purpose than promotions and paychecks. God can use every act of an Industrial Engineer or a mother at home to turn souls to Him and away from the alluring yet passing rewards of \"successful living.\" This offering of work raises it to a noble work with eternity as its focus. This was quite a revelation to me, and is one that really gave purpose to my life.
Ten years ago, with the birth of our first child, I left a $35,000 career and I daresay had I continued, we´d be doing very well financially. My husband was just beginning his career and we most likely could´ve moved into a larger home, purchased new rather than used cars, gone on some high priced vacations, etc. However, I would most probably not have all four of my precious sons. My husband supported my desire to come home, despite the many sacrifices this meant financially.
That first year of motherhood, I continued to work until our finances could get rearranged. Luckily-no, providentially-we had purchased our home based on only one income. That year of working was a very painful time to me. The childcare was expensive and I felt the separation keenly. I did not wish to ever repeat it. Women bear a very heavy cross when their hearts are at home but they must work outside the home. I have never regretted leaving work to come home.
We now have four wonderful boys: Robby, Chase, Joseph, and John Paul and as the time to educate them came, we chose homeschooling. We began when our firstborn was 4 and truly have enjoyed watching their different abilities and talents grow. As a mother, this is like a wonderful extension of fulfillment in motherhood, not stopping with teaching them to speak, but to read as well. In fact, I enjoy the schooling hours of our day more than the chores! So if you ever come to visit, we´d love to read a story with you, if you don´t mind the cars, trucks, legos, art supplies, and more-all over the floor!
At the end of the day, we can see our failings (like the mess that didn´t get picked up) but we also see the fruits of self-giving in extra hugs, sharing toys, or cooperation in chores. We´re far from the mastery level and you only have to ask our children how kind and gentle mom is at the 5:00 hour, but this vocation stuff is a perpetual labor of love, give and take, sacrifices and smiles.
I have heard some comments about women contributing to society by the work they do outside the home. It seems to me that if every woman who was able could stay at home with her children could, little by little, they would make a much larger contribution to a more stable society by providing citizens who have grown up attending with mom her rounds of volunteer visits to soup kitchens, shut-ins, the elderly and sick, etc. This gives so much meaning to the expression, \"the hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world.\" This is my experience thus far, and I have read many supporting reports that always seem to point back to a nurturing mother at home, nursing her baby, teaching him, loving him, molding him into an emotionally, physically, psychologically, and spiritually well-rounded adult.
And now as I´ve given the experience and facts of my married vocation thus far, I want to share the interior motivation behind this story. Not all at once, but gradually, I have begun to realize that my vocation is based on my willingness or unwillingness to submit my will to God´s will. God doesn´t demand, but waits, oh so patiently, on me. I have gained so much consolation and peace in knowing I answer His call. The degree of peace depends upon the degree of my submission.
I know \"submission\" is not a popular work with regards to the role of women in the world, but then, I am not speaking of this world, but the supernatural world. I truly believe living in this world is temporary. You only have to attend the funeral of a loved one to realize the swiftness of this life. So then the struggles of my day are the means to perfecting my faith and hope in heaven. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a professional at handling my vocation as wife and mother at home. This can be quite disconcerting to my image of myself that was formed after ten years as an industrial engineer. (In fact it is interesting to me that I went by society´s standard that my image of myself was formed from my professional years as opposed to my years of growing up. We women truly need to re-assess from whence comes our image and sense of dignity.)
I´ve made my share of big mistakes and will make more I am sure. For instance, we start the day with a daily prayer, especially needing the virtue of kindness, and we have grand work schedules. However, by 9-am I can feel like I´ve blown every good intention. But then we pick ourselves up, encourage one another, and start over.
I even feel as if my working years hardened my heart, made me less patient with the \"incompetence\" of my children. Children are not incompetent, as co-workers may be, and a loving and tender heart, firm yet uncriticizing, is sometimes hard for me to muster. There were definite adjustments for me after leaving the work force and entering the home.
This hardness of heart is a real concern of mine and of other professional women who leave the work force. When available, support groups are a wonderful encouragement. There are so many varieties and they all meet a real need.
My personal experience of motherhood leads me to believe firmly that it is in childbearing and family life that all of us mature in selfless giving and grow deeper in faith. There has been such a depth and richness that has been a great blessing to each family member in our home through the big and small trials and joys in these married years.
Over the years, I try more and more to see my vocation as every minute of my day, helping my husband and my children, along with myself, to realize that growing in faith is our ultimate work in life. So staying at home, guiding, disciplining, and teaching our children is a responsibility and a privilege I am unwilling to hand over to anyone else. We have our children for such a short time and their adult lives are affected by the faith, love, stability, and sacrifices we give them. It has been well worth the sacrifice of my paycheck to come home.
At times it has been suggested that I am overprotective in my insistence on being home full time. I do not deny being protective, and as for the \"over,\" that is all relative to one´s perception on the need to protect our children. I like the greenhouse analogy, whereby a young seedling is protected in the safe, nurturing environment of a greenhouse until it can be transplanted in the great outdoors. The winds and storms, heat and frozen ground can all be withstood if given a good beginning. And how much more important is the life of my child that that of a tree?
Who my sons become as men is determined by the experiences and influences of the people and values they meet in their formative years. It is my role to help form the mind and spirit of each. And I will be held accountable for his formation. There is a phrase I want to hear at the end of my life, when I meet my Lord and God, \"Well done, good and faithful servant.\"
So what is our work worth? How successful is our work? How do we measure the success of our work? Mother Teresa was known for saying words to this effect: our life´s work doesn´t need to be successful, but faithful. And I would ask, faithful to what? As for me, I answer that we must each be faithful to our vocation, our calling. For each of us this is a personal commitment that changes with time. God Bless us all as we live out our lives´ work-our vocations.
Mrs. Mack and her family live in Charlotte, North Carolina.