Mothering a large family is my calling and my vocation. As a result, I am a conundrum: a rather outmoded sort of woman, ridiculed by modern career women, vilified by the earth’s prophets of doom and sanctified by the religious right. I was the least likely candidate to have a lot of children. I had never even held a baby before my first born.You would think having nine children would have turned me into a frazzled wreck with a figure like the Pillsbury Dough Boy and a brain gone to mush, but I remain quite articulate, with a quirky sense of humour, standing at 5’1” and weighing in at 106 lbs. Not quite a rosy cheeked, robust, matronly looking mother of a large brood.
When the words The Joy of Mothering popped into my head as a sub-title for my short stories, it was like an epiphany for me, because those few words verbalize my experience living with little people. The very existence of a joyful mother of nine children seems to confound people. Embracing an outdated lifestyle on a traditional, small, family farm has been a struggle through confusion, guilt, and even public condemnation to finally reach the point where I can now shout loudly,
“This is my call, this is my vocation, this is my witness to the world!”
After the birth of our fourth child, Michael and I struggled to understand exactly how we were meant to live our lives. We were discussing an article by an author whose main premise was that letting go of control and trusting in God was not some abstract principle, but a day-to-day practical call that included the surrender of our fertility. Of course we practiced natural family planning, but I was one of those rare people who could conceive long before ovulation. God used the natural rhythm of my body as a key to my vocation, because everything does work for the good, to those who trust in God.
As my doctor said once, “Ah, I remember reading about a woman in New Zealand, two years ago, who conceived five days before ovulation.” I raised my hand and chirped, “Well, you can add me to that list!”
Although we could not imagine how large our family would become, the words of that article resonated within both my husband and me. Guilt lifted off us and a surge of excitement, a sense of purpose welled up from within. Although it took time to really believe that none of our children were simply a failure of the natural family planning method. Many small experiences kept reinforcing the truth for us that God called each of our children into being with our co-operation. We’d stumbled blindly at times and then a burst of clarity would shine light on our purpose.
For example, twenty-five years ago, I once again slipped into panic mode, worrying if I was pregnant with my fifth child. Suddenly a wave of peace enveloped me and my whole body relaxed. I heard these words within me,
All sorts of objections rushed into my head, “What on earth do you mean a vocation or a witness, a vocation to what?- stupidity? People don’t understand. They just think we are irresponsible or idiots……” Then unexpected joy bubbled within me, and I sensed these words in my spirit,
“I am with you.”
Once again a blanket of peace wrapped like a blanket around me. It was an actual physical sensation. My mind was calm and my spirit felt strong. That was it for me; I understood and I said, “Yes to mothering as a vocation.” Though I still cringed under disapproval from society, I always understood that my children were saving me by compelling me to dive deeper into my spirit, discovering the power of eternal Love at my core, a love that can stand strong against all opposition. That is my call. That is my vocation. That is my witness to the world.
Ponder: What has God called you to do, to be?
Prayer: Lord give me the courage to follow Your call, ven when it goes against the trends of our society
About the Author
Melanie Jean Juneau is a mother of nine children who blogs at joy of nine9. Her writing is humorous and heart-warming; thoughtful and thought-provoking. Part of her call and her witness is to write the truth about children, family, marriage and the sacredness of life. Melanie is the administrator of ACWB, the Editor in Chief at CatholicLane, CatholicStand, Catholic365 , CAPC & author of Echoes of the Divine.