This is my comment that got too long on Segullah's recent blog post.
First, I want to say that for me, those early stages of motherhood were the hardest. I'm willing to bet that even with teenagedom ahead of me, I will still say that later on in the process. Being physically exhausted, dealing with cute but completely irrational little creatures...it drained me to my core on many, many days. And I've never been a fan of bodily fluids. :)
But I am having SO MUCH FUN with my kids now (three of them, ages 6-9). This stage of mothering involves a totally different mode, a totally different level of intrinsic satisfaction. I can see and feel the difference I make in their lives, and it's not just about their physical needs anymore. (I know there is more to little ones than just their physical needs, but it's not nearly as obvious as it is when they are turning into little people, becoming accountable, and all of that.) Does that mean I do nothing else but be a mom? No, I still have some things I do on the side, but I am constantly striving to remind myself that what comes "naturally" and what gives me my biggest ego boost is usually not what is most important.
I think we need to always, always remember that the Lord's servants have encouraged us to be educated and prepared and to develop talents. The trick is not to use that counsel as an excuse to do what we shouldn't do. And the real trick is really figuring out what we should and shouldn't do. And that, imo, will change at each stage of life.
I know from personal experience that the Lord can and will open doors of opportunity for us to keep our skills current-ish. I have seen that time and time again. But by so doing, He also has tested me and my heart and motives. In the end, I have had wonderful opportunities that I totally and completely loved, and have felt I should walk away from them. Other things I have felt ok about continuing. And I'm always, always revisiting these things with God, even on a daily basis. I can think of nothing else that is more important to me as a mom than figuring out that balance thing. And I think it is something we should revisit every day, and is something about which we should seek the Lord's guidance constantly.
I'll just say it. For each woman, of course the specifics will look different. But my opinion is that if we truly have our errand from the Lord, and we feel Him guiding us in whatever our balance looks like, then guilt should be gone and so should comparing, worrying about what others think, etc. (Theory is always easier than practice, but still, I think this is true.)
I also agree wholeheartedly with Maralise. The drive for external validation is something we should seek to root out of our lives, because in the end, these decisions are so critical, and that balance is such an important one, that the key to figuring it out and doing the best we can with that balance is to have our 'eye single to the glory of God' not to what gives us our biggest sense of personal satisfaction alone. I have found that God's plan for me is always better than my plan for me anyway. I just need all the help I can get and I think the more I am seeking to really do what God wants me to do -- and not just what I want to do -- will increase my chance of really hearing the Spirit and getting it more right.
Another thought: This opinion may not be hugely popular, but my view is that one of the reasons I think motherhood is so important in the plan is because of what it does to us as mothers. It causes us to really look upward and inward and rely on our eternal sense of value and worth and purpose. I think this also applies to seeking to know the place of education and continuous personal improvement and developing our talents in our lives. I think we should always be seeking to understand and consider the eternal impact and growth potential of our decisions. Some may criticize the martyrdom syndrome of motherhood, and of course we shouldn't be reminding everyone how much we sacrifice as mothers, but isn't sacrifice fundamental to our spiritual growth and part of our test?
In our traditional roles, men get to go out and be validated, and are tested by needing to remember that that validation is not what they should seek or care about most. Women see hubbies get that validation and often ache for it, but are invited to spend most of their time and energy nurturing their eternal relationships, which doesn't always have its immediate reward. In fact, the work we do is really a work that only fully bears fruit across generations.
And then those who are single (or who ache for parenthood and don't yet have that blessing in their lives) have their faith tested by aching for something that is so eternally important (having children) and not yet realized in their lives, and by trusting in the promises of God and seeking to do eternal good in their opportunities and responsibilities and roles.
So there are some quick thoughts on that topic...one I will likely write about more when I have more time to really think about it. :)