I've been reading a lot of Catholic writing recently, from Catholic bloggers to the Pope. And one idea that I've come across quite consistently is that of vocation as answering the question, "who will I serve?" This has been an enormously helpful consideration for me. After all, for me the primary answer to that question is made obvious by my situation in life: I am a spouse, and I am a parent. This is my vocation, to serve my family. When I look at any given day, and make my lists of what needs to go in it, the summation of my priorities is:
Serve Landon. Serve Christopher.
And this has made several other things abundantly clear. I knew right away that this was about more than housework and baby playtime; this was about my life having priorities so that there was a hook to hang everything on, and so that I would know when I was out of hooks. So, because serving Christopher is a priority, and because Christopher and an open laptop do not happily co-exist, I've suddenly found the motivation to close my computer and find other things to do when Christopher is awake. Christopher knows when I'm distracted, not just from direct attention to him, but from being engaged with him and his needs; he knows that when I'm on the computer, he has to work three times as hard to get my attention for something as basic as a diaper change. This should not be, of course, and I knew that my computer and I had issues, but I've never been able to quite get a handle on it. I think that this is because I was still thinking of it terms of how I would benefit from being off the computer - how much less guilty I would feel, how much more I would get done. It wasn't until I thought in terms of serving Christopher that I was able to see how much of a no-brainer it is to just close the laptop while Christopher is awake, and I'm the only one at home. I'm able to be much more in tune with Christopher's needs, and as a bonus I get some of the other things thrown in - less guilt about my computer use, and more productivity on the home front. I still get on my computer at least twice almost every day, but I've found a hook to hang it on - it doesn't belong in the same time as my son.
These hooks, however, are not all full with housework and baby play time. It's a dirty little secret in my stay-at-home-mom-of-one life that, honestly, I have time. It might be somewhat unpredictable time, but it's still there. And the thing about thinking of life in terms of vocation, the thing that differentiates it for me from some other notions of service to a husband or children is that I am not asking them to define my self by my service to them, but I am serving them by giving them my Self. In order for this to be meaningful, there has to be a Self to give. And in order for me to have a Self to give them, I need to be doing things that renew, refresh, and build-up that Self. I know that in years to come, when there are two or three or more little ones running around, and they're making more work for me, and demanding more in terms of interaction, I might not have much time for this - it'll be manna in the wilderness time for me then. But that time is not now, and right now I have time to do one very concrete thing to build-up this Self that I give in service to my family - I have time to go back to school. Not a lot of time, granted, but a little. And suddenly, I've found the willpower to spend a little bit of time, every day, working on going back to school. So far, I've finished filling out one application and started in on another one. These are things that I've been meaning to do, talking about doing, for a very long time. My guilt, railings, and feelings of un-fulfillment weren't enough to overcome the inertia. Seeing it in terms of serving Landon and Christopher was. There are still lots of questions to be answered, like "how do you think you're going to pay for this?", but faithfulness doesn't require that I know the answers ahead of time. If it doesn't work out to go back to school because of issues other than time, at least I'll have explored that avenue to its end, and I'll know that it's time to turn to other option.
In the end, here, I'm a little frightened at the sheer gift of this all. As I look back at the past several days, and see the ways that I've found willpower where inertia seemed invincible, calm and persistence where anxiety seemed unstoppable, and an attitude of service where resentment seemed inevitable I am overwhelmed with the sheer grace of it. These things are not natural to me, and since they are a gift, I both marvel at their presence, and hold my breath for their absence. If the lives of those who have walked this path before me are any indication, the road will be much harder up ahead. Knowing my weakness, God has lavished me with so much help here at the beginning; He doesn't owe this to me, and He can withhold it in the future. But can I refuse to fully accept the gifts that He gives, because I want to protect myself against the pain of their surcease? I could, and that's a whole 'nother blog post, but for now, I find that I am also give the gift of gratitude.