By: Rebekah Hargraves
When I was a little girl, all I ever wanted to be when I grew up was a mommy (well, and a “cooker”, as I apparently said one time!). I always dreamed of having little ones of my own, wanted to be a stay-at-home mom just as my own mom was, babysat all throughout my teen years, and even was a nanny up until the day before I went into labor with my first baby. I guess you could say I’ve always been passionate about motherhood. Now as a mama to my own two little ones ages 2 1/2 and 10 months and the author of a book on motherhood, I am still passionate about this calling of mom, but in a slightly different way.
What may come as a surprise to some is that I began Lies Moms Believe (And How the Gospel Refutes Them) with a chapter entitled “Lie #1: Motherhood is a Woman’s Highest Calling”. Considering my background, that doesn’t quite sound like something I would write, does it? Though I am just as passionate as I have ever been about the beauty and importance of motherhood and the truth that it is a high and holy calling, I nevertheless no longer hold to the idea that motherhood is a woman’s *highest* calling. In fact, I believe there are actually some adverse ramifications which stem from this idea.
The passion of my heart is to draw women back to the Word of God, to help them see just how very relevant and applicable it truly is to each and every struggle, question, or lie they could ever face in life. We need to be looking solely to the Word of God for the basis of our every belief, the forming of every aspect of our worldview, and the truth we need for our daily lives. This is certainly true in the case of the idea that “motherhood is a woman’s highest calling”. What began with very good intentions (i.e. an effort to counter the culture’s lies that about mothering not being a worthwhile endeavor and motherhood being unimportant and not something to be pursued) has inadvertently produced some unfortunate results in the process.
At this point you may be wondering, “What’s the big deal?” In a culture which disdains children and motherhood, what’s so wrong with proclaiming motherhood to be a woman’s highest calling? Well besides that being a painful and unfair sentiment for a single or barren woman to hear, that idea also leads to problems for women who are mothers.
How “Motherhood is a Woman’s Highest Calling” Actually Harms Moms
At face value, there may appear to be nothing wrong with the concept of motherhood as being a woman’s highest calling. There are, however, several issues with this idea:
- When we believe motherhood to be a woman’s highest calling, we begin to think mothering should crowd out everything else (and allow it to do so!).
We all know firsthand just how pervasive mommy guilt can be – we experience it whenever we attempt to have some “me-time”, we feel it anytime we pursue our own hobbies or interests, we get weighed down by it when we drop the kiddos off at their grandparents’ house so we can go out with our husbands. This is because we have bought into the mistaken idea that all our time and attention should always be focused on our children. Now, don’t get me wrong – if you are a mother, I firmly believe that apart from the Lord and your relationship with your husband which should come first, your children are to be your #1 priority. You should be putting intentional time and attention into mothering them well. It is wrong, however, to believe that you have only been given time for those things which strictly pertain to motherhood. This is what we begin to believe, however, when we believe motherhood to be a woman’s ultimate highest calling – our relationship with the Lord gets put on the back burner, our kids replace our husbands in our order of priorities, and everything suffers as a result.
- When we believe motherhood is a woman’s highest calling, our identity gets wrapped up in motherhood.
When moms believe motherhood is to take up all their time and attention, they end up forgetting who they are and who God created them to be. We hear so many times moms say something to the effect of, “I can’t remember that girl I was in high school.” or “I feel like the woman I was before I had kids is gone.” or “I can’t even remember the interests or passions I had before the kids came.” This is what happens when we allow our identity to be wrapped up solely in who we are as moms. This does nothing but lead to our burning the candle at both ends and becoming chronically stressed out and depleted.
When we instead remember that our identity is to be found in the reality of our being image bearers of God and redeemed saints through Christ, everything changes. We begin to remember again the woman God originally created us to be, the woman with unique and specific passions, gifts, talents, and interests. The woman who has God-given permission to pursue those things, even in the midst of motherhood (see Proverbs 31:10-31 and 1 Corinthians 12). When we are careful to, yes, prioritize our children and to delight in the sacred calling of motherhood, but to also live life as the multi-faceted, whole woman we were designed to be, we flourish – and so do our families!
- When we believe motherhood is a woman’s highest calling, motherhood actually loses its very importance and purpose.
The ironic thing is that, in a valiant effort to restore to motherhood its importance and worth, we have actually deprived it of both. We want the culture to understand that it is a beautiful thing (and a worthwhile endeavor!) to be a mother, but when we separate motherhood from its God-given role, instead placing it on a higher plane than God does, it becomes stripped of its high purpose. Here is what I mean: As I touched on above, our identity as Christian women is to be found in our being image-bearers of God and ambassadors of Christ. In reality, this is not only our identity, but our true highest calling, as well. A woman’s highest calling is to bear the image of God to the world and to represent Christ well. Motherhood, then, becomes an outworking of this, one important and impactful way in which a woman is able to spread God’s truth to future generations. Our Savior came to earth through the avenue of motherhood and childbearing (Genesis 3:15, 1 Timothy 2:15), and the spread of His truth today continues throughout the generations as women have children and more image-bearers are born.
Therefore, it is when we understand motherhood in its proper context, as one beautiful way in which the truth of God is able to be spread and our ambassadorship for Christ is able to be lived out, that motherhood then receives great importance and purpose. When we instead make the mistake of taking motherhood off by itself, raising it above the level of importance God gave it, and having it stand alone as the highest calling for women, then what is it all for? What then is the purpose of motherhood? Why is it believed to be the “highest” calling? There is no answer for this. It is only when we understand motherhood in light of the Gospel that the work of mothering becomes a vastly important work.
Look to Christ, Mama!
So, sweet mama, as you go about the daily work of mothering, working day in and day out to care for the needs of your children, to raise them up in the way that they should go, and to impart God’s truth to them, remember – what you are doing is important. It is beautiful. It is impacting countless future generations. It is not, however, your ultimate highest calling. The whole of your identity is not to be wrapped up in it. If you think it is, there will come a day in which your children are all grown and gone, and you will be left wondering what your purpose is in life. If you allow the sum total of your identity to be wrapped up in motherhood, you will feel like a failure when your children make mistakes, thinking yourself wholly responsible for how they turn out. If you place your identity in motherhood as your highest calling, it will lose some of its importance.
Instead, look to Christ. Daily look to Christ and find your mission, your identity, your calling, and your purpose in Him. When you do, your motherhood will be drastically changed for the better, and you will truly be working towards the advancement of the Lord’s Kingdom.
God bless you, mamas!
Bio: Rebekah Hargraves is a wife, mama of two littles, home business owner, podcaster, and blogger residing in TN. Her passion is to bless fellow Christian women through her writings on her website, Hargraves Home and Hearth, which exists to “edify, equip, and encourage women in their journey of Biblical womanhood”. Rebekah’s first book, “Lies Moms Believe (And How the Gospel Refutes Them)”, releases in November.
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Website: Hargraves Home and Hearth