Kathleen Littleton: Motherhood – Am I Wasting my Talents?
Q: I am married with three kids and want a large family. I gave up my career to be a mother and I wouldn’t trade what I have for the world. However, I feel this yearning to use my gifts still and keep being told, “keep your foot in the door professionally”. Can anyone talk to this balance? If I know there is a real chance for many more babies in the future, how do I go about discerning this for my family? Am I wasting my gifts? Will I damage my family if I work in the professional world or will it be a good example? How do I know what is right?
A: God’s plan for marriage and the family is what is right and true. “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Matthew 6:33). As a Catholic wife and mother, your first responsibility is to your husband and children, and to be open to the life that God plans to entrust to you alone in the few and swiftly passing years you have been given the incredible gift of cooperating with Him in the creation of an eternal soul. God bless your inspiration and desire to have a large family! To be a mother and wife is your God-given grace filled and glorious vocation. What a blessing fertility is…to have the love between husband and wife bear fruit in the life of a child brought into the world and into eternity.
All real love entails joy and suffering, risk and sacrifice. God sees and will bless mothers for the time, care, energy, hopes and dreams mothers give their children while they seem to put all their own on hold. As He did with his own beloved son, God in His mysterious way takes your sacrifices and mystically transforms what is offered so selflessly for others into something new, something that transcends the cross. You will find that what the world views now as a waste of your professional talents while you raise your young children you will look back upon as your most precious gift ever given and time most rewardingly spent. The late, saintly Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty described a mother as “The most important person on earth. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any Cathedral – a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby’s body.”
It is a busy time for you now. You struggle just to get through the daily chores and duties of physically caring for your children, but the blessings are there abundantly as you have experienced. You feel at times the strain of getting through these days until you have more time to pursue your profession, to give of yourself intellectually to the wider world. You wonder if it is true that you are wasting your time in these tasks when you could be so much more valued out in the professional world, or if it will be so much harder to re-enter that world as time goes by. Yes, God has given you talents and charisms that are meant to be shared for His glory and to bring souls to Him. Yes, this too is your calling as a baptized Catholic, but in God’s time and with delicate balance. Trust in Him, that He knows what is best and will work everything out. “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Put God first, and the rest will fall into place though God’s grace. Build up a strong and deep sacramental and prayer life including daily Mass if possible for your whole family, frequent confession, spiritual reading, spiritual direction, family prayer. By staying close to God in this way you will always be able to discern His will for you. You will be at peace in all that you do. You will be able to give of yourself one hundred percent to the duty or pleasure at hand. You will find yourself doing this joyfully, knowing it is God’s will for you in this moment without distraction or a restless heart. God’s will is where He has placed you, in this time and place. God alone knows what will make his children happy – eternally happy that is – as well as happy here on earth. He will not give us what is not good for us. We should pray and desire what God wants, asking that His will be done as in the Our Father, the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray. This is the prayer of faith, uniting our will to God’s will (CCC, 2570). The best way to pray, as St. Alphonsus de Liguori instructs is to pray in uniformity with God’s will; that is if this is expedient for my salvation, I will it.
In doing so, you will find that God will not only take what you offer Him, but will give you opportunities to exercise gifts and talents that you never knew you had in ways you never dreamed of doing. He will help you grow into the extraordinary person He plans for you to become, to shine the light of His love for all to see for His greater glory. “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a bushel, but on a stand, that those who enter may see the light” (Matthew 5:15). So God intends to do with you! Recall the saintly example of St. Therese of Lisieux who had a heart so full of love for God she wanted to show him how much by travelling the world as a missionary, but God had other plans for her, to literally become love while in a cloister cell (Story of a Soul). Surely He has plans just as rewarding for you, the child of His heart! Don’t limit what He intends to do with your life, but surrender completely to His will and watch your life unfold beautifully, blessedly, and surprisingly most of all to yourself, if you will only let it!
Kathleen Littleton, J.D., M.T.S., wife, mother of twelve daughters and two sons, attorney, educator, author, spiritual director, co-founder Forming Faithful Families