I am currently pregnant with our third child and I have always found navigating pregnancy and career to be stressful. I changed jobs mid-pregnancy with Ava. I was still in the early stage of my business with Pearl, and now I find myself pretty well established in business and feeling the most “stable” of any of my pregnancies, but each one has brought its own set of challenges, fears and concerns. I think what has been most obvious this pregnancy is that a third child isn’t “expected” of a couple. The average mom has 2.4 children and since .4 of a child isn’t real I’d say normal is to have 2 kids and then stop. I cannot say anyone has been rude but I’ve definitely gotten a lot more “Oh wow“s and “You are going to be so busy” or “You’re hands are gonna be so full” this go around. I’ve also heard a lot of “I just couldn’t handle more than two kids.” Everyone should discern what God is calling their family life to be; however, it cannot be assumed that more children is some horrible fate and you have to be slightly crazy to take on more children or that you should reconsider your family planning methods. I don’t know anyone who regrets having a child and I have more frequently heard women I know say they wish they’d had more.
I’ve been chewing on all this as the pregnancy progresses and then I started listening to Jennifer Fulwiler’s One Beautiful Dream. God really knows how to put things in our lap when we need it. I think all her ideas in this book pose some incredible questions about challenging the status quo of our culture on family life, pregnancy, children and most of all, living for God and not for ourselves. Jen recounts her story of 6 pregnancies in 8 years, her feeling of a call to a large family while still finding room for what she calls her “blue flame” – the thing that lights up your soul, gives you energy and makes you feel fulfilled. You can imagine the comments that Jen gets from complete strangers and her own family about their family planning decisions. I see a huge parallel in her life and mine right now, and I’m sure a multitude of other mothers, that life is so precious and we can love our kids desperately and unconditionally and still find a calling from God that actually fuels us and fills us up and doesn’t detract from motherhood. The challenge can often be what modern society calls the “balance” of these two things.
It is so comforting to hear her share her constant struggle to allow God to work in her life and truly hear his call, not her wishes and dreams. She talks about letting others in to help her when she needs it. Self reliance isn’t always the best trait to carry and I continually struggle with this issue. In learning to trust in God, she also turns down some opportunities that aren’t good for her family and cause undue stress. When she does listen, the true opportunities that God wanted for her surface and are better than she ever imagined. I need to take a huge cue from this lesson! She learns about the value of the ebb and flow of work, life and family all together – it’s not so much balance of individualistic goals but rather a cohesive life of a multi generational family vision, and sometimes work takes a back seat to family to achieve the family’s vision – such as the birth of a new child or the sickness of an elderly parent! This is real life, it’s not a waiting period on the way back to “normal” life where everything is perfect, because it never will be. The imperfect times are when we most grow and develop in our relationship with God if we let him in.
The role of mothers in children’s upbringing has been on my mind a lot lately as a working mom who has let an amazing “family” of daycare into our circle of child rearing, and Jen speaks to this. In our modern society we have put such emphasis on perfect families in suburbia spending perfect amounts of time with our children and making perfect parties and play dates, but the fact of the matter is that this is a complete change from prior years when multi-generational families lived and worked closely together or had large properties to let their children roam free, so mothers could tend to what was necessary. Children used to play unattended with their friends for hours, but now we are stuck in smaller living quarters with less family nearby to help so of course mother’s feel like they are going crazy with two kids in their homes! Jen and her husband Joe decide to take on child care costs even though she stays at home and view it as a necessary expense just like groceries are a monthly bill you didn’t once pay when you could be self sufficient on a farm. Jen learns to let family and friends help with household chores or cooking meals for her. It makes sense to hire help and rely on friends and family so children and parents are sane. I love this idea of a more cohesive family vision that allows for friends and extended family to become part of the mix! Blessed Mother Theresa said “The problem with the world is that we draw the circle of our family too small.” I’m starting to see this to be incredibly true.
If we could possibly switch our world view to a wider vision of life and family and the end goal being heaven’s attainment, how would that change our communities and our world? I think one of the most intriguing comments Jen has made is about the attack on women in the world. She makes the comment that it could be possible that an outside force (that Judeo-Christians would call the devil and evil and the author she reads about calls “resistance”) might be attacking women in all sorts of ways depending on our lives and personalities to keep them from finding their “blue flame.” She quotes Fulton Sheen as he once stated, “The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.” Men are amazing, this is not a slam on them by any means, but the fact is that we women are usually most intertwined in the upbringing of the next generation and to Sheen’s point, men rise to the level of the woman they want to be with to in order to earn a place next to us. Women are the only ones that can conceive and have children – this is an immense and beautiful and incredible task that we take up.
I have to agree. I think there are attacks on women on multiple fronts by this force not only in the area of pushing us from achieving our life’s work, but also (and these are my thoughts, not Jen’s) I find myself pondering the new attacks on unborn children, especially as I carry a new baby girl inside of me, and even now the attack of those born alive that could have no one to save them if they were unwanted before birth. How can this not be viewed as an evil force at work in our world to attack women at their most incredible state, pregnancy, and their most vulnerable state, in the womb or just outside of it? Attacking such a basic right of life makes me realize that are culture is becoming less, not more hospitable to life in all its stages and viewing children as a burden not a blessing. I cannot help, but feel a deep sense of sadness for a culture that sees having children as an inconvenience when its outside of our perfect expectations.
Pregnancy is certainly a time of waiting and listening and pondering while everything slowly changes (whether I’m ready or like it or not) and this book has clearly struck a cord with me on many levels that I wanted to share. I want to challenge anyone reading this to take a look at your family vision, do you have one? What is your world view and how do you view the entire sum of your life? Have I drawn my family line to small? Do I view children as a blessing or am I feeling like I’m suffering through until I get “my life back”? Do I actively seek out my “blue flame” in order to do God’s will? Is resistance pushing me from achieving my “blue flame”? Do I view each day and this life as a way to reach Heaven? I’m working to find my answers to all these questions in the coming weeks and throughout this Lenten journey.