What is the number one reason staying home is good for moms?
The short answer is that staying home is good for moms because it allows us to focus on our vocation (married life) and get really good at what God has called us to do (be the best wife and mother we can be), so we can grow in virtue and holiness and spend eternity with him (in heaven). That was kind of a long short answer, wasn’t it? If you want the even longer answer, keep reading.
First – did you cringe when I said that married life is our vocation?
Are you wondering…what about my career? My degree(s)? My life’s mission?
Isn’t married life a vocation only if you don’t have a job that pays actual money?
Let me explain.
What is a vocation?
Until long after I was married and started having children, I thought that “vocation” was just a fancy word for “job.” But not just a job; it was like the job you were always meant to have; the one that defined you as a person. I avoided thinking about my vocation, because I didn’t have a job that I was especially in love with or that I felt could give me an identity (or a cool identity that I wanted, anyway). I had heard of people “missing their vocation,” and I assumed that I was one of those. My real job/vocation was out there somewhere, and I had screwed it up by getting a degree that didn’t actually lead to a real job (English Literature) and by getting married and having kids too soon to be able to establish myself as anything important in the world.
I felt guilty about my lack of vocation. I thought that God had given me a mission, and that it was something in the workforce, and that I was disappointing him by not doing it. Since then, I’ve learned that my ideas about “vocation” were all wrong. I was right about not living up to my vocation, but in a very different way than what I had thought.
Ok, so really…what is a vocation?
I know I’m not the only one who has been misinformed about vocations, because I just looked up “vocation” in an online dictionary, and the three definitions listed there are all about jobs. Vocation is described as a career, trade, profession, or a strong feeling for a particular occupation. Only the section at the end of the online entry that gives the root of the word hints at the real definition. The word “vocation” comes from the Latin word “vocare,” which means “to call.” Aha.
A vocation is a calling, and it is much bigger and much more important than the job you have. Even if you’re a brain surgeon or a non-profit lawyer or the President of the United States. According to the Catholic Church, there are three vocations: single life, married life, and religious life. Three of them. Simple as that. God calls each of us to one of these vocations, and when we choose the right one, we are best able to become the person we were meant to be – the best possible version of ourselves. If you’re a working mom, you have a vocation AND a job, not a vocation that IS your job. If you’re a stay-at-home mom, you have a vocation too, with the added bonus of being able to focus on it full-time (more on that later). If you’re a single person, you have a vocation too, and it’s STILL not your job. All three vocations are about loving people: they are the special way in which God designed you and me to love our fellow man. Some of us are called to love others through marriage (with or without children), some as single people, and some as religious (priests or nuns). Our highest calling is not about what we do to earn money, although earning money is good and necessary. Our highest calling is given to us by Jesus in Matthew 22: 37-40:
And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
How do I know which vocation I’m supposed to choose?
By the time I knew what a vocation really was, I had already chosen one without thinking for a single moment about what God might be calling me to do. It never occurred to me that God did that kind of thing. I really and truly thought that choosing a job (what I thought of as a vocation) was more important than choosing my actual vocation. So, if you’re reading this, and you haven’t made the decision to get married or be single or enter a religious order, STOP! Listen. Pray. Talk to smart people that you trust. Open yourself to the possibility that the life you always imagined you’d have is not the one God wants for you. This is not about you figuring out what you want. This is about you figuring out what God wants. Do not assume that you can do both at the same time. If you ask God to make your calling clear to you (and you’re patient), he will.
The vocation of married life
We spend a lot of time and words on this blog talking about why being a stay-at-home mom is good for kids, and even for husbands. But what is the number one reason why staying home is good for moms?
Simple: Because it’s your best, easiest, most direct path to heaven.
When you step back and look at the big picture, isn’t that the only thing that really matters? I don’t think any of us wants to be on the path to hell, or even on the difficult, winding, thorn-ridden path to heaven. I want to be on the smooth, straight, hard-to-get-sidetracked-or-lost-on, express path to God. The fewer distractions and temptations, the better.
When you have a job, you have to split your time and energy between your work life and home life; when you’re a stay-at-home mom, you can focus your time and energy on your vocation. Our vocation as wife and mother is the number one tool that God uses to help us get to know and love him, and to grow in virtue. It’s our path to holiness, which is the whole point of our life on earth. The more time we can devote to our vocation, the closer we can get to fulfilling our life’s true purpose. I think we make the mistake today of thinking that being a”good” mom or wife is easy, requiring little in the way of thought or effort. It’s something that we can be successful at in our downtime, once our real work is finished. After all, it doesn’t take any special education or skills to get married, or have kids. We save our emotional and intellectual energy for other relationships – our bosses, our co-workers, our friends – because we assume that running a household and cultivating a family will just happen naturally. If you agree with the idea that the more difficult and important a job is, the more it pays – which I think most of us do – you can’t help but look at staying home to raise a family as a poor excuse for a “calling.” Why spend all day doing something that most modern women can get done on evenings and weekends? Get a cleaning lady, throw in a frozen pizza, hire a babysitter, and as long as you get some “quality time” in on Saturday afternoon, you’ve got the wife/mom thing in the bag.
I believed all of that. For years. (And then, I got divorced.)
Since then, I have come to realize that you can’t make your marriage your lowest priority and expect it to succeed. You can’t use up all of your energy and brainpower and the best parts of yourself at work and expect to have an easy time of it at home. Managing a home, raising children who are decent human beings, and being the kind of person your husband wants to be around is not actually easy. It’s difficult, and it’s worthy of your full-time attention. It stretches and tests you in ways that you need to be stretched and tested. When I had a full-time job, many of what I would now consider my less-desirable habits and traits were tolerated and even applauded. It wasn’t until I started spending all day, every day, with my family that I learned how to truly be patient, gentle, meek, generous, and all of those other “feminine” qualities that are devalued or even disdained in the workplace. I have also, believe it or not, grown intellectually and spiritually in ways that I never could have while I was busy with my job. I have time to read. I have time to pray. I have time to have conversations about what’s important to me.
I want to encourage everyone reading this post to think about the idea of being called to a vocation by God. Is God calling you to something bigger than your career? What would happen if you gave your home life all of the time, energy, and thought that you would give to a full-time job?