As I drove to work in my car the other day, I marveled at my life and how amazing it is! I love my opportunities and what I get to do for others. I love my family, my home, the fun we have, our friends. I feel encouraged and excited about what’s next. The possibilities are endless! But then, shortly after thinking this, I was sitting at a traffic light and I saw a woman in a car ahead of me. She looked like she was dressed for the gym. She was turned around, facing the back seat, laughing and doing hand motions with whom I assume was her child. I could see his little legs kicking and his hands sticking out from the car seat. They were singing! It was only for a second but as I watched, first I felt happy because she was being such a good mom. Whether that is what was happening or not, a sudden sense of sadness then came over me because it was a picture of something I never got to have.
That being said, I have had these moments with my children, over and over again, but never on a work day or casually in the morning as if I had only the gym to go to. I’m not trying to belittle stay-at-home moms. I think it’s an amazing calling and I admire those who are able to do this. If I had been given the ability to, I would have chosen this path. In fact, when I was little I would tell people that when I grew up, I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. I wanted to be just like my mom and all the other moms I knew at church. I don’t think they intended it but what it meant to be a “good mom” within church culture on the whole, seemed to also be synonymous with being a “godly woman.” It’s great if you get to be one, but what about all those who don’t, or who never even have children. Are they not godly women, do they have to wait until they have children to be what God intended?
Initially I worked out of necessity. I was a a single parent and my mother took care of my kids for me while I was at work. I remember those early years and how I spent more time saying goodbye to by children, than hello. I would get home just in time to snuggle before bed and then run out the door again the next day. I hated that part of their little years. I remember thinking, “If I can just keep going, things will eventually get better.” I thought that maybe I would meet someone, get married and “then” I would get to be a good mother and a godly woman. In the meantime, I felt guilty and I struggled with my identity on a daily basis.
Part of me thought my circumstances were simply consequences. I married badly and my life was now my punishment. “I don’t get to be a godly woman or a good mother now.” Then, God placed a calling on my life to do something different. Going to seminary and pursuing a career was not what I thought I was supposed to do. It was one thing to “have to” work, but now I would be choosing to also go to school in hopes of working even harder in the future? Was this pride causing me to want this? Would my family laugh at me? Would my friends not understand? What if my church told me that my priorities were out of order?
I went to a book discussion the day before where a young woman there made a good point. She said, “The reason some women in the church can, at times, insist that we do things the way they did them was because of how hurt they are. They have already died to these things and in order for it to be okay to sacrifice their careers, not going to school, take a back seat to their husband’s success, take on leadership roles limited to women’s ministry and children’s ministry, we should have to as well.” On the other hand, I believe it’s because people desire purpose. When we put everything of ourselves into something like we do as mothers, it becomes our reason for being and our source for hope. I believe that purpose and hope are linked together like the fibers of a carpet. They depend on each other. As such, mothers feel passionately about their purpose and can’t help but tell people what they are doing. It isn’t from anger or spite that they place these pressures on others, but it’s actually out of their love and value for life.
So, what does this have to do with regret? From time to time, what I regret, is the loss of that picture of who I was told I should have been, instead of who I got to be. It’s twisted when I think hard enough about it. God’s vision for me has been very different than the one I created for myself. I’m happy and I love what I do. Like these women who have to die to what they missed out on, I’m dying to what I missed out on. The one big take-away I have gathered from all of this is a sense of caution to demonstrate only one kind of “godly woman” to our girls. God made us each specific for a cause and people group that He deems, not us. We are all made differently: different background, family dynamics, likes and interests, talents, struggles and weaknesses, skills, spiritual gifts, circumstances, traumas and grief.
1 Corinthians 12:14-20 says, “For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” We are all used for His glory. Let’s stop putting our girls, in a position to have to fit a mold of any kind.
Let’s let them be who God intended and stop putting pressures on them that will cause the cycle to continue. Let’s let them be brave, original, unique and let’s see what God has in mind instead of what we have in mind.
By Vanessa Jackson, MABC, LPC-Intern
Lake Travis Counseling Connection
Supervised by Jan Shope, LPC-S