“God’s design provides a completeness to the circle of life…the mission of motherhood is strategic in providing the next generation with whole-hearted, emotionally healthy, and spiritually alive adults. It is not simply a lifestyle choice. It is a divine calling that will indeed affect eternity.”
-Sally Clarkson, The Mission of Motherhood, p. 16
The conversation over at Elizabeth’s has been great- I encourage you to go check in over there. Her post yesterday really focused on the tension inherent in a life that sees motherhood as a mission, a vocation, that doesn’t punch out when the kids fly the nest, when the thorny problems of teenage-hood rear their heads. As she notes, it’s an even deeper digging down, holding fast to the roots wrapped around the Rock of Ages, and giving it all you’ve got kind of journey. There is a beauty in this, as a mama, and yet—a burden. Our whole lives long, will we lean hard on Him and pursue the mission He gave us, or will we face it with a nine-to-five mentality?
It’s this tension that strikes me the most in the intervening five years between reads of this book. I think I took Sally’s gentle advice on a surface level more than anything else as far as the quote above goes- almost a checklist mentality. Make sure you check the to-do lists in the proper order and you’ll probably get decent kids. Make sure you’re all there when the kids are awake. Check, ditto, gotcha. I read on to the next chapter, chomping at the bit. What a disservice to myself…Sally takes a very dedicated path in the first chapter to make this distinction clear- the title is the Mission of Motherhood, after all.
Reading it through now, though, the mission mindset is what is really hitting home to me. I’m a military brat. I know missions. I know what they mean- for the soldier. For the family. It’s serious business. I want to break it down into two parts here…
First, by the time a soldier is handed orders for a mission, an immense amount of planning and strategizing has already occurred. It would be totally foolish for the military to send the soldier in without advance planning- a total waste of resources and time. Particularly when they send soldiers out in special operations, they make sure that those soldiers have every possible advantage on their side…language training, fake documents, proper contacts. The whole aim of the mission is success.
The take-away for moms? Don’t go into this without planning for success. The military takes its missions very seriously. You should too. No matter what else you are called to in your life, as a mama, we need to prayerfully consider what this mission means to us. We need to take regular refueling times, planning times, goal-setting and dreaming times to see how we are carrying out our mission. This is essential. Don’t guilt yourself into thinking that you’re being a bad mom because you need these ‘check-points’ throughout the days and years. No military general would, and you shouldn’t either. It’s part of his job to accomplish the goal. How can he determine if he’s hitting the marks if he never stops moving long enough to look at the map? Make sure you are providing yourself with the tools to rejoice and strive well in your mission.
Second, a soldier upon receiving orders knows that this mission is his life’s work. He will accomplish the goals set out by the military, or he will die in the attempt. It’s a matter of personal honor to see this thing through and report back to Headquarters that it has been accomplished. No soldier thinks about his orders with a disinterested air- well maybe if I feel like it- NO. They are under orders, and they go.
In similar vein, we have been given this calling by God. He didn’t ask us if we felt like checking in for hard work. He blessed and gave us children, and in so doing, gave us this calling and vocation in life. It’s a job that is never over. We will die in the attempt. In hope and prayer, we will go to our final rest with a legacy of love that will speak of us long after we’re gone. Our job as mamas doesn’t end when the blessed babes fall asleep for a few hours, or when they’ve left the nest, or when they’ve pulled anchor and shoved us far away. We still have to be on our knees before God, praying them through. Listening, cultivating, tending wisely, attuned to what the Master Gardener wants for our children’s lives.
I’ve very much failed to understand this distinction in the past. When I rewind back to my younger mothering years, I read a ton of books on mothering- and one of the ‘big things’ of the moment was ‘professionalizing motherhood’. I think there are tremendously good takeaways from that approach, don’t get me wrong. But my toxic legalism and perfectionism turned that into an idea that meant that I could ‘punch out’ when mothering hours were over. When I thought of goals and the like, I thought very much in accomplishable, identifiable things- so many load of laundry washed meant I was doing bad/good, etc. It all became quantifiable. It wasn’t about engaging with my kids in relationship. My internal monitoring went something along the lines of, if I read xx amount of books with my kids today, I’m doing good. I’ve ‘done’ relationship. At the end of the day, I ‘punched out’, loathe to think of anything mothering related until the little minions awoke the next day. I would be very angry and very ‘put upon’ when a wee one would come crawling out of bed in tears from a bad dream- while putting on outward face of loving calm- inside I was seething that I had to put that mama hat back on. Needless to say, it made me and my children (and my husband, most likely) absolutely miserable.
This thought process was one of the first things that was stripped away from me in the winds of the storm. When everything fell down, some things became brutally clear to me. I may have looked like an amazing mom from the outside, but inside our home, it was a total mess. I didn’t know my children. I didn’t know their needs…so what if I made them amazing lunches and they were always perfectly dressed and coifed when we left the house? That means nothing if it’s a mess underneath, when the children don’t know their mama and their mama doesn’t know them. I wasn’t taking the time to tie our hearts together in relationship, and that became apparent when the waves started crashing.
It is one of those things that seem so much clearer in hindsight. I struggled so much when the storms came crashing in- a lot of doubt, a lot of anger. But had those storms not come, that shaky foundation I had begun to lay my mothering down on would not have been washed away and replaced with a much stronger Rock to tether me to God and His will for our family and our life.
This is what I remind myself of now: when we punch the clock, we punch out of the mission He is calling us to.
I am delighted that my dear friend Elizabeth is joining the Nester for her annual ’31 days…’ blogging challenge– speaking about something that is very near to my heart- Sally Clarkson’s The Mission of Motherhood. This book changed my whole paradigm a few years ago, and I find that I already need a refresher course. I will be joining Elizabeth this month as she chats and journals through what the mission of motherhood means to her.