Motherhood isn't a primary vocation
Catholic, Culture, Marriage

Motherhood isn’t a Primary Vocation

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.

the most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their motherHow 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.


Motherhood isn't a Primary Vocation




14 thoughts on “Motherhood isn’t a Primary Vocation”

  1. THIS! This is so true and something so overlooked by many (and as a new mother, I can totally see how, babies rely on you for everything plus they are so dang cute!) But marriage is a sacrament, motherhood (although one of the most beautiful gifts) is not. Your relationship with your husband is the foundation on which your home is built, so the best thing you can do for your children is to make sure that relationship is healthy first. Everything else can flow from it.


  2. Aw man, this is such a tough one for me! Littles are so much louder than your spouse, but you’re so right about marriage being the primary Date nights are very difficult for us b/c of out of town family and no babysitters, but I think even just mentally prioritizing the marriage (when he comes home from work, after kids in bed, and just simply being KIND when I’m tired or distracted) is the goal for me!


    1. Agree; those are great goals. We also don’t have a lot of sitter options so have had to opt mostly for in-home dinner & movie date nights but I think the simple things of trying to always see him off to work, greet him when he comes home also carries great weight.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Those are great goals! I know I need to work on being more charitable when I’m exhausted, I majorly fail there. I’ve been so blessed with 7 sisters, so babysitters are in abundance, haha. But especially when the babies are newborns, date night just isn’t possible. That mental prioritizing is definitely more important than “date nights”, and it’s THE most important when you just can’t carve out dedicated time alone.


  3. I had a good wake up call the other day when my five year old saw me and my husband kissing and said how much he liked it. “It’s sweet. It’s like your childhood again.” (Ok, so he’s a weird kid.) But it reminded me he needs to see more of that around our house!

    Also, my mom has been retired a year or so (my dad longer), and the way they spend their days going on walks and puttering around the house and FaceTiming their grandchildren makes me so excited to be an old couple alone together!


  4. Well you know I love this! 😉 And while obviously you learn more the longer you’ve been married, I don’t discount other people’s thoughts just because they’ve been married for less time than me. (So don’t let people do that, ha!) You are wise!

    To answer your question, we used to make date night a regular thing but it doesn’t work out as often as we’d like anymore because of our schedule and budget. But we make sure to spend time together many nights after the kids are in bed (at home date nights?), and we’ve been managing to go on an overnight date once a year on the years I’m not nursing a baby. It’s hard to make the effort, but it’s worth it!


  5. Thank you for sharing!
    This was a very important distinction for me personally in my journey of discerning my vocation.
    I am a contemplative by nature, but I happen to be #3 of 6 kids…the experience of growing up in a noisy house made me aversive to having kids of my own. But in my discernment process 20 years ago, I had to get honest with the fact that the convent is not a place to hide from the noise of the world, and that marriage was the vocation God desired for me.

    It was a significant shift for me in my conversations with my mentor when I knew I had to stop saying “marriage and motherhood or religious life,” (sometimes I would actually say “motherhood or religious life”) and start speaking the truth: “marriage or religious life.” Those were the real vocations on the table, and I had to start thinking about them in that reality. (Consecrated Single Life never really called to me, even though it’s a beautiful vocation.)

    Hubby and I just celebrated our 16th anniversary this month. I’m grateful that my parents taught me and his parents taught him:
    God first, Spouse second, kids third.
    Knowing exactly where we all stand has been a blessing for all four of us, it gives a sense of stability, security, and unconditional love because there’s never, ever any guessing or fear that you’ll lose your standing in where you belong.


    Liked by 1 person

  6. I wrote about this last February!

    In the words of my spiritual director, “every secondary, third, and even fourth vocation should *enhance* your primary vocation. Even motherhood should enhance your role as wife.” He opened my eyes to that, and I spend quite a great deal of time focusing on that advice.

    Great reminder!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s entitled “Vocation Versus Avocation,” and set off a bunch of marriage themed posts. Maybe one day soon I’ll write another post…

        And, our chaplain has been an amazing spiritual director! I feel blessed to have him in our family’s life!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I have to disagree somewhat. Certainly marriage, once you are married, is your primary vocation. But accepting children from the Lord is part of your marriage vows and the natural result of fulfilling your marriage vows. Being a mother or father is a vital part of fulfilling your vocation as a married person. It’s not secondary. I do agree, however, that the vital tasks of parenting cannot and should not be allowed to crowd out your relationship as spouses. In fact, the stronger your relationship with your spouse the better parent you can be. Just as physically your children come about through your marriage relationship and covenant so spiritually the life of the home flowa from the spousal relationship. The family represents the Trinity (check the Catechism). Just as the Holy Spirit is the personification of the love between the father and the son so our children are the personification of the live between spouses. You would not say that the Holy Spirit is secondary but you would say the HS flows from the Father and Son. So you cannot say that mother or father hood is secondary but rather that it flows from the marriage. I don’t disagree however, that tending to the marital relationship must not be sacrificed to the roles of motherhood or fatherhood. Rather that those roles must flow from the marriage.


    1. Hi, Patricia! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. You would probably like Annie’s article she was referencing in the comment above you. She doesn’t use the terms primary or secondary, but vocation and avocation.
      And yes! I love that description of the family! We talked about that quite a bit in college while we studied the Theology of the Body. This is total hair splitting, but I think the terms vocation and avocation apply better when viewing the family as an image of the Trinity, and the terms primary and secondary vocation would apply better when viewing marriage as an image of Christ’s Love for the Church.


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