Are You Done?

bebeI 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.


image: shutterstock 

Jenny Uebbing


Jenny Uebbing is a freelance editor and writer for Catholic News Agency. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband Dave and their growing army of toddlers. She writes about marriage, life issues, politics, sociological trends, and traveling with kids here.

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  • Viki63

    “Life is full of surprises.” Isn’t it? And new evidences of both God’s goodness and his care for us in hard times. Nice article. We’ve a new grandchild on the way – unexpected, unplanned, yet very welcome.

  • Brett

    Thanks Jenny. I’m not a mom, obviously, but I have the greatest respect for my wife having done this for our three children when they were small. Thank you for dedicating yourself to being a great mom.

  • John

    Thanks Jenny.

  • cm

    My cousin is very liberal – but I love her because she thinks. She once said, “I couldn’t have that many children. I’m too selfish.” Perhaps the reason she finds this so obvious is that she comes from a very close family of nine children.

  • lightedlamp97

    Your article stirs up the fighter in me! It is hard to muster up a smile sometimes when your inner voice wants to say, “are you really asking about my fertility that I haven’t denounced?” Especially when you just survived a trip to the store. I am saddened that you as a mother of only three, is experiencing this already. I have had 12 pregnancies and everyone seems to have a comment to the one in your belly or the ones hanging off the cart;) I believe all the reality television we watch is gravely affecting what we ask or say in public. Everyone seems to have a comment! I have simply chosen to respond, “I’m Catholic and open to life, God’s will not my own.” It’s easier, more polite, it doesn’t conflict with how I feel at the present moment, and it gives honor and glory to my King, and a common side effect is there’s no more questions after that. Keep up the work of motherhood, it just gets better and better!! My heart will never have to feel the pain of an empty womb nor my children beg for the love of another soul to share this earth with. Is there any greater calling than to be a mother?

  • I’m With HIM

    Jenny, you are awesome! May God continue to bless you abundantly.

  • gratiaplena

    Jenny: You were much more charitable than I would have been! HOW DARE that woman judge you, and have the unmitigated GALL to attack your obvious love for children–YOUR OWN CHILDREN!

    That woman is stereotypical of the me-first, kids are a burden, contraceptive mentality! You were probable taken aback at her crude, insensitive, none-of-her-business comment, and just uttered your little comeback. I hope next time you’re prepared with a nice little barb to shut up rude people like that! Not to be mean, but to let them know that they have NO business sticking their contraceptive noses in your personal life! It would be bad enough of one of your family members or friends asked you that awful judgemental question, but a complete stranger??? AGHHHHH!

    I always wanted 10 or 15 children, coming from a family of 8 kids myself. But because of infertility problems, the Good Lord decided to only send me 2 children. So I’m even more sensitive when I hear stupid statements like this from totally clueless people!

    Whenever I see a mom with lots of kids, I always ask her the age-old question: “Are they all yours?” I know that’s a put-down question from people like the Target lady–and I always know that the mom is immediately wary (and probably sick of strangers asking it), but then I express my admiration and praise and how much God has blessed her with all those beautiful kids, and how large families are so wonderful! The grateful responses I’ve received are truly priceless!

    God bless you, Jenny, for your family, and I hope God continues to reward you with more of His children!

  • Jeni

    I always think I’ll take articles like this, make a zillion copies and get an accordion folder to file away each article according to question, then just pull out whatever suits the occasion. I mean, really. Wouldn’t that be great? And weird. And awesome?

  • momBryan

    I love this article! It’s always a toss-up for me when dealing with “these people”. On one hand, sometimes I feel the way you do- extremely aware that we are actually discussing my sex life (love that! too funny!)- and never really sure where “they” (pick any store, really) are coming from. I’ve heard some pretty terrible remarks, especially when pregnant for the sixth time with my first daughter. Not just the QUANTITY of children, but added bonus of 5 boys first. EVERYONE needed to know. They needed to know if I wanted a girl (really?), if my husband had a good job to feed all these boys (REALLY?), and, of course, if we were “done”. These same people who reduced my children to this seething mass of noise and hunger, would nearly instantly follow derogatory comments with “what well behaved and beautiful boys” (and now girl). Then I would jump on it and say “Of course, and with such amazing wonderful children, why wouldn’t I keep having them?” I like to make them realize that each is an individual person, and they are ALL special and wonderful. I also like to mention that God decides, not me. I think I am going to have a button or a t-shirt made now that I’m starting to show with baby seven… “Yes, they are all mine” “Yes, five boys and a girl” “No, I don’t know the gender” “No, I don’t care if it’s a girl or a boy” “God may not be done with our family yet…” You get the idea. Also, I wish it was polite to say “Wow, you can count! Math is really paying off for you!” Cause that would be my go-to response. Totally.

  • NVMom

    Yeah for big families! We ourselves have 10 children with us and 3 with the Lord, so I know the comments. One of the best responses that I have used to the “are they all yours?” is “Yes, we are really blessed!” This causes most inquisitors to sheepishly agree that yes, we are blessed. And if they continue with “are you done yet?” , I often have said, “I don’t know; we leave it up to God.” Definitely outside my comfort zone of privacy, but we are all called to be missionaries, after all. As I have told my husband, every time our 11 yr. old Excursion goes out onto the street bedecked with its 12 people stickers, we are doing pro-life work. 🙂 God bless you!

  • Bridgette

    You’ve said it all so nicely. I feel just this way. I am asked this question SO OFTEN by seemingly everyone. I always feel awkward because our middle child is adopted so I have a very long fertility-riddled answer to that question. I like how you assume the best about the askers. I think often people are just looking for a Light and joy in people that will wake up their own hearts. Great article.

  • Facebook User

    Kelly and I get theses comments all the time: “Are all these really yours?”–which I say, “No, I found three of them by the city sewer system the other day” “Oh my God, I would shoot myself!”–which I say, “Please don’t do that! I would never force you to take care of my children!” “Oh no, ANOTHER ONE?”–I’ve heard Kelly say, “No this is just GAS! I ate beans for lunch!” “You’ve got to be kidding me, ARE YOU PREGNANT AGAIN?”–Sometimes I’ll say, “What do mean? My wife’s pregnant? I thought she was just getting fat!” “James, you DO know what causes this don’t you?” — to which I respond, “No, I haven’t figured it out yet. I slept through that class in medical school!”. “When are you guys going to stop?” –Which I say, “Whenever God tells us too”, or sometimes when I feel like joking around, “Whenever I can figure out a way to stop my wife from attacking me in the middle of the night!”

  • Lee

    I just have to share. Having enjoyed carrying seven babies and now enjoying them as they start their own families, I recall being asked,” How are you?”The eyes would be focused on my stomach to observe me before I’d have a chance to respond.Then the remarks would start! Well, moms reap what they sow, and this mom is having a wonderful life enjoying what God willed her,one baby after the other!