Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the intersection of vocation – or what I feel I am called to do, drawn to – and family life. I come from a large extended and loving Midwestern Catholic family. Figuring out what I am to do with my life and how I fit into my family is one part of what I’ve been thinking about. Biology of my female body is another. And here’s why:
Five of my friends are pregnant. When my mom was my age, she was pregnant with me, her oldest. When my grandmother was my age, she already had five kids and another on the way. I’ve always wanted to have a child, but it hasn’t been something I’ve really thought much about… until recently.
I just had a birthday. I turned twenty-six. I’m still young! I’ve always thought that I would start a family in my twenties like my family members. But recently, I’ve realized how different my life is than theirs. I did what my family and the culture encouraged and attended universities. I went to school for six years longer than both my mother and my grandmother. And so I also started my adult life six years after they did.
So biologically I’m behind them in starting a family and having kids of my own. But vocationally, I’m not sure what I ought to be doing yet. I keep feeling a desire to go away again, get out of the state, explore and have adventures before I “settle down.” But that doesn’t make sense in my family’s generation before me. So I’m paving the way to what an educated search for vocation looks like.
And sometimes it’s more than just familial troubling. For example, right before the winter break I was eating lunch with a few of my college students studying nursing and health sciences (I’m their minister). Somehow we got on the topic of how they’re learning that once a woman is thirty years old the risk of pregnancy complications (and therefore different dis-abilities in these children) increases dramatically. I immediately thought of my age and current situation in life (working as a full-time minister and dating but not nearly ready to become a parent). Could I somehow get my life “in order” enough to have a baby before I’m thirty?
Now, it’s important to note that if I have a child, whatever child I have I’ll love with all my heart no matter how similar or different they may be. But this conversation brought up something more than worries about my (possible) future children’s health; it brought up curiosity about the human body and the encouragement of finding one’s life calling: Is my female body created in a way that awards pregnancy in my teens and early twenties? How do our culture, society, families and religions prepare us to become parents (or even adults!)? Is this time of exploration interrupting my body’s biological baby-making schedule?
So these questions I carry as I continue to explore. I’d like to make a family, similar to that of how I grew up. And I’d like to find my calling so I can feel like I’m using my talents and skills and passion to better the world. But I don’t want them to be two separate things that distract from the other. I know many people have done both. But how can I combine these without wasting away my biological clock?