Last week I had a conversation with a woman who was bemoaning how men and women do not do an equal amount of child care. I remember worrying about that when I was in my twenties. But in practice, men and women end up depending on each other in varied and asymmetrical ways.
I always recommend to young women, as well as to young men, to get a running start on their careers. As a woman, it is an excellent thing to search for and pursue a mission in life, and to train your hands for wholesome and productive work well before marriage. The skills you gain will continue to serve you later in life. I think of these as the “hope chest years”. Girls used to sew their own linens and build up a store of them for a future marriage. In your case, you might be storing up an ability to code websites, install a dishwasher, or speak Latin. Or you might actually buy a small house or get an MBA. If you are cut out for the celibate life, you will have plenty of opportunity to use these gifts for others. I wish that I had sought out better mentoring, so that I could have had a more practical career plan during this period of my life. Furthermore, I had a Yale degree, which made me think that I knew things when I did not.
But what I really want to tell my younger self is that parenthood slows or interrupts your career, and that is OK. The more I entered into motherhood, the more I felt in my bones that building people is far more important than building a body of work. This is not to say that you can’t continue art and career in some form. Getting a running start helps with this. However, serving God and raising up people in the image of God is what all the moneymaking, doctoring, story-writing, house-flipping, soldiering, guitar playing, church planting, bus driving, teaching, etc. is for.
So when you are given a few little humans to especially focus on, you may feel as if you are being sidelined, In fact, younger woman self, you are at the white hot center of the universe. Life is short. Art is long. People are eternal. Furthermore, worlds are being built in those first years. Babies derive the ability to love and be loved from those early years of focused attachment on the mother and then the father. Mother and father are both called to sacrifice time and life-choices to support this crucial effort. Mothering is a particularly intense subset of the disciple-making that Jesus commanded us all to do, and it has been my most treasured job. As I enter the empty nest years, I wish my young self had had a coherent Christian life and had gotten a better running start, but I regret nothing about lavishing time on my children.
Wonderful advice, Mary K. Thank you! I wish I had known more of these things, too.
And what wonderful children you have. Your lavishing has reaped a harvest. Thank you for sharing your thoughtful insight, Mary K.
This is an excellent post. The concept of “hope chest years” i.e., collecting skills for later life was thought-provoking and reminded me that skills are useful for women whether they are married or single – also – that skill development (skill stacking) should start early. The comparison of acquiring and collecting skills – to the linens and dishes collected in classic wooden hope chests was an interesting insight.