I looked askance at the well-meaning lady in the Target checkout line beaming her possibly over-caffeinated morning smile in my direction.
Am I done? I wondered, looking down at the pile of crap winging its way down the conveyor belt to the accompanying tune of dollar signs being sucked out of my bank account. I shrugged and wondered if she was being philosophical. Is one ever truly ‘done’ shopping at Target, after all? Is one ever fully done becoming the person she was created to be? Works in progress, those.
Suddenly I realized she must be talking offspring, the two precariously balanced blondies in the cart and my burgeoning belly, specifically. Ohhhh, am I done? Thaaaat’s what she’s wondering.
“Heh, we’ll see.” Was the best I could muster. Other encounters have yielded more or less confrontational answers:
“God only knows.”
“I sure hope not, they’re kind of fun.”
And once, when I was feeling particularly socially engaging: “Nah, we’re just getting warmed up!”
I generally tend towards the vague, less-is-more answer with strangers, however, realizing that they’re just trying to make conversation and probably feeling the need to comment on my amazing and obvious ability to produce children. I try not to dwell on the reality that we’re basically discussing my sex life, these strangers and I, and that what they’re really wondering is whether and what kind of birth control I’m using, and if I realize it isn’t terribly ‘effective.’
Who knows, maybe they’re just hoping to run into the next Duggar family.
This encounter could have been any of the dozens of similar encounters I’ve had since birthing bebe number two last year and, frankly, what used to incense me in theory hardly even elevates my blood pressure in practice these days.
If only these well-intentioned (or even malevolently-intentioned) observers could see into my heart, and into the depths of my selfishness and struggle, they’d know without a doubt that I am nowhere close to being ‘done.’ Not with mothering, and not with slowly, painfully, incrementally growing in patience and experience and – please God – holiness, in the gritty pancake batter-encrusted day in and day out of it all.
I wonder if anybody realizes what a weird thing this is to ask someone, whether or not they’re ‘done’ having children. I guess if motherhood and marriage were recognized more widely as ‘vocations’ rather than current occupations, it wouldn’t be such a common mistake. Imagine how weird it would be to ask your pastor after Mass one Sunday if he were ‘done’ preaching homilies. Or asking a couple celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary whether they were ‘done’ being married.
Motherhood, at a fundamental level, is not just something you do; it’s something that you are. And just as priests preach and confer the Sacraments and married couples live their vows and pick each other’s wet towels up off the end of the bed, mothers have – and mother – children.
God, in His Divine generosity and possibly, Lord forgive me, foolishness, has seen fit to give me three beautiful babies to mother so far. Who am I to assume that He won’t give me more, or even worse, to presume that He will eventually, and try to manipulate my present circumstances in such a way that best suits my preferences and conveniences.
This is my take on the contraceptive mentality that is so prevalent in the West today: it’s about selfishness. And not obvious selfishness, either, like the grabbing and hoarding kind. Rather, it’s about a kind of creeping, meticulously over-planning and profoundly limiting selfishness, the kind that says to itself, “Hey, things are pretty good the way they are, let’s not rock the boat here…let’s not pile any more on this plate.”
And so we suffocate, quietly, slowly, and perfectly according to plan. Rather than allowing God to breathe new life into our ever-changing situations, we wrongly presume all things to be static and unchanging, and so we stubbornly insist that we know best, that we can see the future, that we are ‘done’ becoming what – and who – we are.
So no, Target shopper. I’m not done. Thank God I’m not, because I’m a hot selfish mess right now. And I have a sneaking suspicion that, thankfully, you’re not done either, no matter what you might think.
Life is full of surprises.