Vocation: a call from God to a distinctive state of life, in which the person can reach holiness (Modern Catholic Dictionary, Fr. John Hardon, S.J.).
One of the best things that happened during Vatican II was the declaration of the Universal vocation: holiness.
…all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; …They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. They must devote themselves with all their being to the glory of God and the service of their neighbor (Lumen Gentium, Ch 5.).
But that definition up there at the top isn’t referring to this universal call to holiness. It is referring to what is called more specifically, our “primary vocation“. This is either to 1) the priesthood, 2) religious life, 3) marriage, or 4) the single life. Every person is meant to discern carefully which one of these permanent states they are called to for their sanctification and for doing the work of God.
Generally, people also have a secondary vocation. This would be your job or profession, your civic involvement, various apostolates or ministries you are a part of. “It’s how you use your gifts and talents in service of God and others while living out your universal and primary vocations (The Catholic Thing).”
Each Vocation brings with it unique struggles, and right now there’s one particular struggle in marrige I want to talk about:
Marriage is a primary vocation. Motherhood is a secondary vocation.
When you get married, you take a vow to love, honor, and respect your spouse and you enter into your primary vocation.
When you become a mom, you enter into a secondary vocation. You gain so much responsibility, and you have a grave duty to fulfill those responsibilities, but that is not the same as your duty towards your spouse you took on when you made that vow.
Over and over again, I keep seeing people become parents and then figure their spouse can take care of themselves. Sometimes it is conscious, sometimes it is not. Then the kids grow up, and parents are left feeling like they are living with a stranger, not with the person that twenty-five years ago, they were so excited to grow old with.
I had a fellow mom in a Catholic facebook group tell me that my desire for monthly date nights was a horribly misguided and “Protestant” (*gasp*, the horror!) idea. “Dare, I say a lie from the evil one.” I kid you not. I tried to get her to clarify but she just doubled down. If I can’t connect enough with my husband in the day to day raising of our children, she prophesized that my marriage was doomed to fail anyway.
Well, first off, my favorite way to connect with my husband is something the kids most certainly can’t participate in. That aside, someday, we won’t be raising kids (at least, that’s what they tell me). Someday, it’s just going to be me and my broad-shouldered grease monkey, every-day-all-day.
“Yeah, what do you know, you’ve been married, what, a minute?” That’s a fair point, I suppose.
But I got eyes, and I think that we all can and should learn from history.
How many middle-aged parents do you know who spent the last twenty-five years hauling their kids from one band practice to another soccer practice to yet another youth group to more activities, and now that their kids are up and grown, they have time for themselves and don’t know what to do with it? How many couples have you seen that let little resentments pile up, until they don’t want to bother with each other anymore at all, and instead turn to their children for emotional support? I’ve seen so many couples fall apart when they don’t have their kids to hold them together. Some recover, some don’t.
I do plan on giving my kids the best childhood I can, and I hope it will include music, sports, youth groups, and parties. But if any activity causes friction between my husband and myself, it’s gotta go. If we aren’t able to eek out even just a little couple time, then something in the family schedule has got to change.
Being a mommy is more than a full-time job. Since my first son was conceived, I don’t think I’ve gone five minutes without thinking about what my babies are doing, what they need… yet this role for me is just a season of my life. Of course, I will always be a mom, but not in the same capacity that I am now.
Aggravations and annoyances crop up in a marriage. Men can be so weird and annoying. (so can women) It’s easy to settle into complacency about them when I’m constantly thinking about how long I have until the baby wakes up again, and if I remembered to buy milk yesterday. But I’m so much happier and calmer when we address issues and resolve them, putting us back on the same team. It’s work, but it is worth it to keep my marriage healthy.
There is a right order to our vocations, and in that order, our marriages come first.
Maybe date night isn’t your thing. Maybe Netflix isn’t your thing. Maybe gun ranges aren’t your thing (But they should be. Talk about a stress reliever!). But please, find a thing. Something that you and your spouse really truly enjoy together, then do it as often as you can. And don’t put your marriage on slow cooker mode. Keep working at it every day.
Cuz someday, you aren’t going to be parenting 24-7. Make that someday something you and your spouse look forward to.
How do you manage to make time for your spouse while parenting?
This post is part of the CWBN Blog Hop. Go over to Reconciled to You and see what my blogging compatriots have to say on the topic of Vocations.