What if Motherhood isn’t Your Calling?

I wish motherhood was the thing that lit me up and left me fulfilled at the end of the day. But it isn’t.

When I was pregnant with my daughter Rocketship, I was terrified of losing myself — of becoming what my then-as-yet childless friends scorned — someone whose only interest was her children. Would I still be Kate if I no longer had time to write fiction? Would I still be Kate if I no longer could make the world a better place because I was busy parenting? Would I become a woman who could turn every conversation to my child’s latest achievement, and forget about her other interests? I was afraid of becoming a person without passion or purpose. Because even if I couldn’t articulate what my purpose was at that moment, I knew I had one.

I can tell that motherhood isn’t my purpose in this life because when my daughter asks me to sit down and play with her, I do so — but my attention is elsewhere, and I’m looking for an opportunity to discretely depart as soon as she seems ready to launch into independent play. I can’t lose myself in the creation the way that she is, I can’t seem to conjure my flow state and enter into the play with my whole self.

Motherhood isn’t my calling because when my daughter stays up past her bedtime, resisting sleep, I take it extremely personally, like the way that you take it extremely personally that a bank teller closes their window when you’re at the front of the line. Even though I know intellectually that her resistance to sleep isn’t at all about me, I can’t seem to reframe the extra time I’m spending with her as intimate, loving time. It seems like time that’s being stolen from me.

I can tell that motherhood isn’t why I was put on this earth, because I delight in quiet time alone, where I do not miss my child in the silence. I do not feel that she needs to be with me constantly, or that I’m even the best person to be with her some of the time.

To be honest, I can’t articulate exactly what my purpose is, beyond that right now it’s offering coaching to women who have experienced traumatic births, a calling I would have never have heard if I didn’t have my daughter.

And so, let me suggest this: even if motherhood isn’t our ultimate purpose, maybe motherhood is a tool to hone our purpose.

When we have children, motherhood usually isn’t what we spent our girlhoods planning and preparing for. My childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood weren’t centered around building skills for being a good mother — I planned a future around being a good citizen, about creating positive social change.

But when we have children, we need to step out of our own journey for a moment. We go on a side road, and we go to launch our child’s journey. We learn skills we didn’t know we needed, we learn lessons we didn’t know existed, we grow in ways that the planned journey would never allow for. I have learned lessons about patience, about control, about shame and judgement and freeing myself from those.

So, when my daughter asks me to play, I know I can be the best mother possible by practicing mindfulness, by being present, by following her lead. And when I relax enough to do that, I not only thrill my daughter with love in the form of attention, I am able to build a skill that will serve me as an entrepreneur and a coach.

When my daughter resists sleep, I know that success and failure of parenting ultimately falls on me — even if the decision to sleep is hers. So I examine my performance, reviewing my choices — and take responsibility for outcomes. Which is the only way to get things done in any role.

And when my time alone is cut short, I have a choice: I could moan and groan and sulk while parenting, or (assuming that I have had enough self-care to have capacity), I can move forward. I can make the best of a less than ideal situation. I can dig deep and still show love to my family. Just like an entrepreneur makes the best of a bad situation.

My purpose burns within me, and sometimes I have to fight to take that ember of purpose from the depths of my belly to the top of my priority list. When I’m not living my journey, I know I’m sadder, meaner, and less myself. But at the same time, I know that motherhood isn’t in the way of my path in life unless I let it be.

Motherhood isn’t in the way of your calling — it’s a challenge to hone your skills so you can be an even more amazing force of nature. Motherhood can be a tool to help you reach your purpose in life.

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