More than once in the past few weeks I have had conversations with moms who were feeling frustrated with their situations. They had “put their career on hold” and they had to wait for the busy-ness of motherhood to slow down so they could “get back to what God had for them.”
Folks. We have to shift our thinking about this. Let me start by giving you a bit of my story.
Before I had children, I had a pretty fun job. I worked at Walt Disney World. I was a marine biologist with the responsibility of collection, transport, and care of over 100 different ocean species living in a 6-million-gallon aquarium. I regularly swam with dolphins. I published scientific research on shark behavior. They sent me to the Florida Keys each summer to fish and dive at their satellite facility.
Yeah, it was fun. My career was starting to expand as I wrote for scientific journals and magazines.
But then I had our first child. Both my husband and I really believed that God was calling me to stay home and be there full time as our family grew. So to the amazement of several of my co-workers, family, and friends, I quit my job and came home full time to be with our son (and in the next few years, more children).
I considered it a promotion to motherhood.
But I had to keep reminding myself of that. After all, it definitely was not as glamorous or mentally exciting as what I did before. Some days I felt like my “job responsibility” mainly consisted of cleaning up bodily fluids coming out of tiny humans.
I have to be honest. Those days weren’t very “fulfilling,” at least on the surface of my thoughts. With four children ages 6 and under, I was in full-on Mom mode: messy hair, sleep-deprived, and fueled by peanut butter and jelly crusts.
Yet, when I really thought about it, I knew it was the best thing I could be doing and was ultimately the most fulfilling occupation for me. Today I cherish those sweet reading times on the couch with all the children snuggled around me. *I* wanted to be the one who bandaged their scraped knees or scolded and encouraged them when they were learning to share.
And THEN… if we weren’t weird enough in this culture…we really felt God directing us to homeschool our children.
So my “career” changed a bit more. I added curriculum to my days. I had to learn how to teach proper writing and grammar skills. I studied all I could about learning styles, scope & sequences, and transcripts.
Today, after 21 years of homeschooling, all of our kids have graduated and are out of the home.
You might say, then, that I can finally get back to my career.
But I would answer you by saying that I never left it.
What do I mean? Well, granted, I didn’t remain working as a marine biologist once we had kids, but I continued in my skills and career-building as I faithfully (sometimes not-so-faithfully) did what God had before me.
During those days of homeschooling, I actually gained an education in areas that I had been lacking. Although my grammar skills had been OK before, let me tell you that after teaching elementary- and middle-school-level grammar four times through, I can now hold my own with the grammar-Nazis!
Looking back from the vantage point I have today, I can see how God placed me in various positions and gave me certain skills in order to prepare me for what He had for me right now.
You see, working at Disney put me in front of hundreds of people at a time, so I had to learn rather quickly how to speak to large groups. That job also gave me career experience and exposure. Coming home gave me an education on how children learn and grow. Each of my four children has different learning styles and unique needs. When I began homeschooling, there was little available curriculum so we often had to create our own (I can pretty much write a unit study on anything…I mean anything… Yep, even dirt…I can do it…).
I gained more skills in my academic field, too. Because of my science background, I offered to teach science to other homeschooled students as well as my own. In these little informal co-ops, I gained more skills as I began to understand the best ways to explain scientific principles, using examples and hands-on demonstrations.
And I loved it!
So what am I doing today? Well, I am speaking at homeschool conferences, science camps, and ladies’ retreats to encourage families. I am also writing curriculum for middle school and high school. And I am filming instructional DVDs to accompany science courses, enabling me to use hands-on examples to explain scientific concepts.
But I could NOT be doing this if I hadn’t gone through the skill-building pathway God had for me. In those early days of being home with my children, I had no idea what was ahead. The technology to do what I am doing today had not even been invented yet!
However, God knew.
He knew what would be the best “career path” for me. And as I have the blessing to look back with today’s perspective, I am grateful to be able to see that what I did was not a side-track or putting my career on hold. Indeed, it was EXACTLY what I needed to do and experience so that I could build the skills necessary to do what I am doing right now (even the grammar!).
So if you are wondering about the spot God has you in right now, know that it is not a Plan B for your life. Raising and training children in itself is one of the BEST things we can do with the ministry of our lives. It is the MOST fulfilling. In the long run, it is more fulfilling than ANY other career.
And know that your external career is not being put on hold. We all have to think of it as another step in God’s plan for our individual journeys. Each journey will look a little different, because we each play a different role in the body of Christ.
But EACH ONE is a vital role. EACH ONE is worthwhile. And EACH ONE is made up of a pathway that God will use for His good.