Thursday, November 4, 2010
Feminism, motherhood, and ministry
I used to think that as a woman, I could do anything. I was as smart as, or smarter than any man. I was strong. I was equal. I could be an ordained minister if I wanted, which I eventually decided I didn’t want. I could run a summer camp, a children’s fitness franchise, or the world. I could excel in anything I so chose and in everything I did. I figured I’d get married, have kids, and maybe bring about world peace in my spare time. I was, of course, a feminist (which I clearly had no idea what that meant or the ramifications of such thinking). I thought women were strong. I thought women deserved equality and I would fight for and embody that equality. I could hang out with the good ol’ boys, hold my own and be respected. And then I became a mother.
When I married my husband, just one week after his ordination, I joyfully moved with him to where his first call in a congregation was located. I found a job. I embraced the move, the challenge, and the opportunity to support my husband in his call to ministry and begin our marriage. I knew that he, too, would support me in my call to ministry when it caused us to move elsewhere someday. We were partners. I wasn’t out for my own success and personal fulfillment in the way I had been prior to marriage. Some days, I struggled with my call to outdoor ministry and my inability to be in that, but I took advantage of the opportunities before me and tried to support my husband in his ministry.
And then I became a mother. In motherhood, I turned over my life, power, and my entire being to my children. I finished my degree knowing that someday, I would finally put it to use. I embraced being a full-time mother, doing everything I could to meet my child’s needs, embracing attachment parenting philosophy. I birthed, nursed, and cared for my children with the constant support of my amazing husband. I began to identify as a woman still equal to men, but also uniquely gifted and uniquely called. I drew strength from my ability to give birth, provide the ultimate nourishment to my children from birth, and to make and keep a home for my family. I am not the same as a man. As a woman, I have a unique ability to nourish my children and family, and I felt a responsibility to use that. I began to identify with and value the role of Susie Homemaker if you will. My husband and I have made significant sacrifices so that I could stay home with our boys. We have gotten creative in order to survive on one income. I barter volunteer-hours with my son’s preschool and with our chiropractor in order for reductions of fees. I spend time couponing and cooking from scratch. I am what my twitter handle suggests, a hippypastorwife.
Now, I find myself torn between two worlds, motherhood/homemaking and professional ministry. My children are still small, at 1 ½ years and 3 ½ years. I volunteer my time and gifts in youth and outdoor ministries as well as natural parenting groups. My husband, bless his heart, manages to work his schedule around assisting with the kids so I can serve, even if it means going back to the office at 8:30pm and not coming home until 11:30pm on a night when he has no meetings. We are ships passing in the day or night, depending on the week.
I have come to an understanding that I cannot do anything I want. I cannot be anything I choose. I cannot go anywhere to conquer the world the way I once imagined. I cannot be a supportive pastor’s wife, an attached and loving mother, an outdoor ministry professional, and a healthy and balanced human being. I feel a great resentment towards the fact that, growing up, I was led to believe that I could do it all. I feel angry that I was raised to believe that as a woman I could be a super-mom, a supercareer-woman, a super-wife, and a super-me. I cannot be superwoman. I cannot do it all. It all suffers as a result of the very idea that I want to do it all.
Disclaimer: This is about me. Right here, right now. I’m sure some of you can do It all. Good for you. I can’t. I know kids grow up, needs change, and opportunities arise. I’m talking right here, right now, because right here, right now matters. We all sacrifice things for our children and our families. I think what we teach young girls these days is that no, you can do it all, and not sacrifice anything! That’s just not true.
So here I sit trapped between a call to ministry that has burned in my heart for more than 13 years, a call to motherhood that I never knew would consume me in the way it does, and a call to be a faithful wife to a pastor who pours his heart into congregational ministry.
Disclaimer 2nd edition: I know motherhood IS ministry. I know what I do is important. If I didn’t, I’d not spend so much time figuring out how to make sure I’m doing it the best to my ability. I know my kids will grow up, but that doesn’t change my passions, my needs, and my call at this time.
What about you? Are you a mother? A father? A single feminist? How do you find balance? What were you taught about who you could and could not be and do you find it to be true?