I have really been grappling with this lately. You know the people who do what they do because “it’s a calling,” right? The ones who work tough, heart-wrenching jobs, that seem to pay themselves in emotional dollars or spiritual goodwill. I know tons of these people. My beautiful sister leads a tremendous collegiate ministry in prayer and spiritual education. My brother and his family live overseas sharing their faith in an almost entirely irreligious nation. My gorgeous cousin opened a hugely successful business to teach and share the arts with children in our small hometown. My daughter is taught and supported by a group of teachers and therapists who genuinely belong in the field of special education and early intervention. A calling is a powerful thing.
I listed just a few people above, but seriously- think for a sec. How many of your friends and mine do what they do because of a special calling? My first estimation was that everyone has a calling. A vocation. That thing they’re meant to do. I started rattling off people I know who are “called” to do that very thing they get paid to do. And I wondered, “why the heck don’t I have that???”
Total transparency here, people: the transition from working mom to stay at home mom has kinda sucked. I told you my story a post or two ago- you know I’ve done hard things. But you guys, this transition is up there with the hardest things I’ve ever done. And I was definitely that mom thinking what I now recognize to be incredibly judgmental and insensitive statements about how women (or people in general) who don’t work must somehow be less tired, less stressed, and have less responsibilities than me. Why the hell do we do that to each other??? Please friends, if you hear me being judgmental of how someone else is living their life, or trivializing their challenges in comparison to mine, can you please just smack some sense into me? Or maybe just remind me politely that we ought not to minimize one another’s battles, because I can’t really speak to how I’ll react to someone literally smacking sense into me. If that’s even a thing.
I can for sure say that I have never had a pivotal moment where I realized “Dang. This is it. This is what I’m supposed to do.” I was not driven by a higher task to find great success at my career in HR. I treated people with respect and fairness, because that’s part of being a good steward of humanity. That’s part of who I am, but it’s not a calling on my life. I was ambitious, and a ladder-climber, because I like achievement. But it wasn’t my calling. I studied finance and economics in college because I knew those would help me get a high-paying job. Again. Not a calling. Even at the deeper, more significant stuff in my life- getting married for a second time, having children, staying home, homeschooling. All decisions I can vehemently stand behind. None of them a calling. I can honestly say that the first 8 months of being a stay-at-home mom have been spent feeling, more often than not, that I’m missing out on something else that I should be doing. More meaningful work. Somewhere out there is my calling, and I’m too wrapped up in all this minutiae to find it!
Thankfully, I have my husband, who is a great reminder to me that the real world is a little more complex than I usually would like it to be. In thinking about the vast majority of our friends and former coworkers, I realized that those working in their callings are actually the great minority. Instead, I see in others what I ultimately see in myself. Purpose. I may not be called to be the greatest housewife on the planet, but I can find tremendous purpose in my new responsibilities nonetheless. When I thought deeper about it, I see that in virtually everyone I know. My very best friend does little things- like arranging the flowers at our church each week so there’s something beautiful on Sunday, or coming to my house and reading to my kids so I can make dinner. Giving a bit of peace and support to others is an amazing purpose. I have several beautiful friends whose passion is fitness, and who lead others in yoga and fitness classes. Those women empower other moms to make time for themselves, to overcome personal obstacles, and to find inner value. What an incredible purpose to serve. I have other friends who volunteer for every possible act of service for those in need, by taking meals to new moms, holding hands with sick friends, and corralling kids (including some of mine) from one activity to another. There is such purpose in being present and available for the little needs of others. In my years of working in retail HR, I remember telling my team “the schedule, the staffing, the disciplinary action- none of that is the most important work of your life. Spend your energy on what will define you.” And my team always did that- I don’t think any of them saw themselves called to be discount retail managers, but in those moments, helping their staff make tough decisions- like quitting their job, or giving up on a promotion, or transferring away from friends and family- I know they found purpose.
What I loved about working in business was the vision. I like to think I found success because I could unify a team around a universal vision- our organization’s purpose. So that’s my starting point in finding success in my new gig. I’m looking at where I find purpose now, and asking myself where I see the vision for this, my little organization. I don’t know what keeps you feeling motivated or accomplished, but for me, it’s little goals- crossing things off the list- all while approaching one overarching vision or mission. I don’t know yet what that is, save for growing little humans who contribute to a better world.
Here’s my first step in the process: Where do I feel that purpose the most? I think I find it in the little things. It’s teaching my two-year-old son to have nice manners, and hearing him say “thank you, Cora” when she gives him a snack. It’s watching Cora take our reading of Harry Potter and use it to ask questions like, “Mom, can we do something nice for kids whose families don’t love them the way you and daddy love us?” It’s answering the text from my friend, who’s fighting to have the natural birth she’s always wanted, and encouraging her to believe in herself, even if she’s the only one who does. I can tell you without much uncertainty that I don’t wake up every day feeling like I’m about to change the world. But I can also tell you that my days of thinking that I’m working any harder than anyone else- mom or not- are over. We all have little battles. We all have an albatross. Some of us have incredible callings, and many, many more of us have little purposes, interspersed in our everyday lives. I hope you are reminded of yours.