Gazing into my newborn son’s eyes told me in an instant what I’d suspected for years: intellectual stimulation is not a prerequisite for contentment.
What more could any woman want for than to be the recipient of this precious soul’s love and the provider of his care? The argument that to be “whole” a woman must also have a career lost me forever in the same moment my son found me.
Of course, the story I tell is mine alone. God calls us all to unique adventures and leads us down different paths. While I feel blessed that God has given me the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mother, I have the utmost respect for mothers who—out of necessity or in answer to a call from God—work outside the home.
Having said that, my young years as a mother found me arguing vigorously against the popular belief that a stay-at-home mother should want for anything other than the honor of caring for her family. Surely the individuals who would argue that woman must be freed from the confines of their homes to be “complete” had fallen victim to modern day society’s bias against stay-at-home mothers. How could any intellectual pursuit possibly hold a candle to the joy I experienced at home?
I was right, and I was wrong. I maintain to this day that there exists no more important or fulfilling job a woman can hold than to be a mother. My error, of course, was in failing to see that this life of mine—spent largely at home—was rich in challenges to the intellect.
I’d been had by modern society’s assertion that motherhood, while possibly of some limited value, does nothing to strengthen the mind of a woman. While I firmly believed there to be no greater honor than to hear the word “mother” and to know that you’re the one being addressed, I didn’t, in all honesty, view such a vocation as particularly formidable.
I’d assumed I was coasting along on instinct, and to some degree that’s true, but was it not my mind that researched the safety of various vaccines? Was it not my mind that taught a child to speak his first word, to read his first book? This mind — that for so long had resided in the body of a single woman — was suddenly called to stretch itself to nurture a child, and then many; to nourish a man and a marriage. No mindless woman could accomplish such tasks.
Over time, though, my mastery over these skills increased and the learning curve sloped downward leaving an unexpected void.
How was I to resolve those warring camps I stood between? On one side the world was firmly entrenched in its position that this downward slope was a signal to return to the workforce and to “contribute to society.” On the other was my motherly instinct to stay put, gather my young under my wings, and remain in the business of haven-building.
But what of this need I had to continue to grow intellectually? Did that fall under the umbrella of “motherly sacrifice” or was there a way to marry the two?
At first I struggled with the fear that these desires I had for further stimulation betrayed my young idealistic self. Had I become jaded; lost that selflessness that new mothers are so rich in; or been mistaken in my belief that a woman can be perpetually fulfilled by keeping the home fires burning?
Not at all — I was simply a woman who’d gained greater mastery over her vocation and was left with more time and mental energy to devote to other interests. I was entering a new, strange phase of life — one I’d not anticipated.
God began to open doors I’d not even known to knock on; fulfilling dreams I’d long since abandoned. I won’t lie — at first those doors looked forbidding and those dreams seemed no longer to fit but over time my heart opened up to these new paths and I was able to see them for the gifts they were.
What did I learn from this? I learned not to put limitations on a God who is not bound by such mortal constructs and to not speak of that which I do not intimately know. I discovered that our God is a God of wondrous surprises. The dream I’d long since forgotten — that daring dream of being a writer — had been kept safe for me. God had quietly tucked it away so that when the time was right He could pull it out of His pocket and present it to delight me as a gift of love.
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