All my life I have been ambitious. My ambitions have changed a few times, but I always have them. Being a wife and mother was always on my list of goals, but I have always avoided the thought that motherhood might be my only job. How we define ourselves as women has changed over the past 40 years, and now many women don’t derive enough satisfaction from their own lives. They need careers and ministries and awards and promotions to feel full, to feel satisfied.
I have given up my goals of becoming a professor and of being the worship arts leader at a church, but I still have dreams. I long to get a second chapbook published, as well as a full length book of poetry. In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with dreams and ambitions. But my fulfillment and satisfaction should come from my God-ordained roles as wife and mother. I am reading a book called Girl Defined. For the most part it is written for younger women, a book I will save for my daughter. But in it the authors do pose some interesting questions that have given me much to ponder.
Why do I feel so strong a need to get published, and how will I feel if I don’t get published? If my poetry is good it is good whether anyone publishes it or not. If my poetry is bad it is bad whether anyone publishes it or not. And there have been many good poets that went unpublished and there have been many bad poets published. Most importantly, I can enjoy writing poetry whether anyone publishes me or not.
Poetry is an act of communication, so it is natural to want readers. But I have my blog for that, and I value each and every visitor and comment.
But underneath a healthy desire for communication with other people, is a culturally instilled sense of inferiority. In our culture it is not enough to be a wife and mother. Rather than being purely motivated to share my art as an act of sharing beauty with the world, I am also motivated by competitiveness, and a deep-seated need for worldly approval. In someone who is not a Christian, such an attitude can lead to messed up priorities and low self esteem. Ditto for Christians, but it is also completely unacceptable. Our highest calling (with the exception of childless women or women gifted with singleness) is as wives and mothers. Being a wife is enough. Being a mother is enough.
It is fine for women to have ambitions. It is okay to have hopes and dreams outside family life. But family life should always come first, and any ambitions should be held up to careful scrutiny. Does this goal glorify God? Am I striving for this to share beauty or wisdom or knowledge with the world, or to exalt myself? Accolades are not bad, but should never be the goal.
Ultimately, what it comes down to is that it’s okay to have dreams for the future as long as those dreams for the future don’t arise from dissatisfaction with the present. In all things we are supposed to give thanks to God. My problem is that I am chasing satisfaction where I should not be. I should be wholly grateful for my life at home with my family. I should not let the world’s definition of success define me.