Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about passion. I’ve read several books, as well as countless articles, about the need to feed your passion. It’s been made clear to me that because I am a mother, it is paramount that I identify my passion and fight for the ability to pursue it. And I agree with that need. Most women would feel stifled if the only thing they did was raise their children and tend their home. Most women need an outlet, something else to live for. Most women need that passion in their lives. In fact, I think all women need to be passionate about something. Our passions are part of what make us who we are. We are all meant to live passionately.
I was convinced of that truth, but admitting the need for passion left me facing a very peculiar dilemma: what was I passionate about? What brought me the most joy in my life? I was more than just a wife and mother, but what was I?
To be honest, I’ve struggled with this question for a long time. I’ve always known that to a certain extent, the question, “What am I passionate about?” was related to the question, “What am I good at?” For many mothers, feeding their passion means engaging in a skill or talent at which they excel. For me, I had no idea what that might be. I distinctly remember sending a frantic text message to a close friend while in grad school demanding that he tell me what I was good at. I had a little over a year of grad school left, and I had no idea what I was going to do after I graduated. I’d been faced with the same question towards the end of my undergraduate career, but I had answered it by applying to grad school and postponing the need to find a real answer.
By the time I graduated with my Master, I was lucky enough to have found a job that I really loved, doing something that I was really passionate about. I also knew that I was good at it. Working in youth ministry brought me immense joy, and during those initial months after John was born, my job really kept me going. As I struggled to figure out who I was as a mother, I was comforted by the knowledge that one aspect of my identity remained solid as everything else around me seemed to change.
Two years later, I left behind my youth ministry job to stay at home with my children. I don’t go to work anymore. The only reasons that you might not find me with the kids is if I’m out for a run or spending the evening with my fellow Winchester area moms. Most of my day is spent entertaining a toddler and a preschooler, driving them to the playground, pool or play dates, folding laundry, cleaning the house, cooking and cleaning up after meals, and cleaning up my kids’ messes. I have an hour of free time in the afternoon while the kids nap, and another two hours in the evening after they go to bed.
I’ve struggled a lot trying to figure out exactly what needs to fill those three hours of free time. About an hour of it is usually filled with my daily work-out and post-run shower. A few times a week, some of that time is spent with Andrew watching a movie or one of our TV shows. I spend some of that time writing for this blog, doing other writing, and reading. Writing and reading are two of those passions of mine, and I’ve dedicated some of my free time to engaging in them, but I’ve often wondered if I should be doing more. Is it enough to just be a mother?
I like to read and write, but should I be writing a book, trying to get something published? I like working in youth ministry, but should I be volunteering some of my limited free time to volunteering in our local parish youth group? I like teaching, but should I be turning that passion into a small side-hustle? Am I not doing enough if I am not constantly using my gifts?
These are some of my gifts, but they are not all of them. At the end of the day, I can admit that I’m a pretty good mother. I spend my days loving my kids, and they know that they are loved. I’m not a great cook, but I manage to put semi-healthy meals on the table at least six days a week. I hate cleaning, but if I’m going to be honest, I actually enjoy folding laundry. I find it relaxing. I’m not passionate about doing laundry, but I do find pleasure in it.
I am not unused to letting people down when it seems like I’ve settled for less. I’m sure some people were disappointed when I opted to major in Theology rather than a science in college (but I made my high school Theology teachers very happy). I disappointed plenty of people when I discerned out of the Salesians. I know many of my parish parents and teens were disappointed when I left my job to become a stay-at-home mom. And of course there’s good ol’ self-guilt. I knew I could have excelled in a science, and that I would have enjoyed that life, but I chose Theology instead. I knew that I could have made a good religious sister, but I chose marriage and family life instead. I knew that I was a good youth minister and DRE, but I chose to stay at home with my children. I was passionate about youth ministry, and yet I chose to leave it behind. I am not unused to sacrificing my passions in favor of other pursuits. But in each of those situations, I abandoned one talent to pursue a different one.
I would have probably made a good scientist, but I made a better youth minister. I would have probably made a good religious sister, but I am a better wife and mother. I was a good youth minister and DRE, but I am a better homemaker and mother. Sometimes, we are given the opportunity to pursue many passions at the same time. For a while, I was a mother and a youth minister, a wife and a DRE. For a while, that worked for us. Once Andrew was hired as a full-time professor, I was posed with the choice, Do I continue working in youth ministry and find a day-care program for my children, or do I become a full-time stay-at-home mother? Obviously, I chose the latter.
Life sometimes requires that we make sacrifices. Sometimes we are asked to chose a greater good over a lesser one. When I chose to stay at home with my children, that’s what I did. I also chose a greater passion over a lesser one. I could have had other people care for my children while I worked, but no one cares for my children the way that I do. I had the luxury to make that decision, so I chose my children over my career. I also happen to believe that I am a better mother than I am youth minister, and while I am no longer using my gifts to minister to teens, I am using them to minister to my own children. Though I often don’t feel like it, I know that I am a good mother. I am also extremely talented at successfully managing a household.
Staying at home with my children and managing our home doesn’t have all the glamour of my former life as a DRE and youth minister. I don’t have to dress up for work. I could dress down every day, if I really wanted to. Most days, I opt for athletic attire, even though I won’t go running until the kids are asleep for the night. Dressing up is wearing jeans. I am not congratulated when I successfully keep my children from dying on any given day. My kids don’t tell me that I’m doing a great job (though their hugs, kisses, smiles, and “I love you”s are way better than any workplace evaluation). No one admires my shiny surfaces or folded laundry the way they used to admire my handouts and reflection questions during retreats. Being a homemaker/stay-at-home mother isn’t always a glamorous life (sometimes it’s not even pretty), but it is beautiful.
So to the person who doesn’t think that raising your children is enough, it can be. It might not be, but it can be. It is for me. My children are enough for me. My home is enough for me. In the quiet moments I find when I’m not actively caring for my children, I feed my other passions. I read, I write, and I run. When time allows, I volunteer at our parish youth group. But most of my time is spent with my children, and that’s how I like it. I am passionate about my life as a stay-at-home mom and homemaker. This life is enough for me. That might not be true for everyone, but it is true for me. And if it’s true for you, you have nothing to feel guilty about. You don’t need to feel guilty about feeding your passions. You don’t need to wonder if you’re doing enough. You are enough. Your passions are enough. The life you’ve chosen is enough. And it’s beautiful.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!