Saturday, September 12, 2009

On Growing Up

Admittedly I have a voracious tendency to overthink things. I bog myself down in "what-ifs" until I am spinning in absolute circles and don't know which end is up.

The most pronounced of these mental morasses is my career, or lack thereof.

Almost ten years ago (!) I graduated from college with a Bachelor of Music and danced blithely off into my first half-time job as a band teacher convinced I had found my calling and determined to change the world. Instead I let a kid lose the school's electric bass at a basketball game in the Tri-Cities. I also lost a kid on a band trip. It turned out she'd gone to her aunt's house without permission and 'fessed up before I called the cops.

Needless to say I wasn't re-hired. The next year I landed a full-time position teaching music to 145 kids who didn't want to be there. I should have known better. After a year of being used as the punching bag for the administration and wrangling a Junior High pep band that sounded like they were playing candy slide whistles, I decided I'd had enough of teaching band.

I took a nice, safe secretarial position in the Special Ed department at the university where I managed the library and was paid to read every book in it, the better to recommend them to the teachers I supported. I also got pregnant with my first child.

That fall I failed to find a day care that met my rather high standards and also found after a summer off that I could not stomach leaving my 8-month-old daughter for full days any more. We decided to take the pay cut and I began the adventure that is a Stay-At-Home-Mom.

To supplement our income, I've babysat, I've done graphic design, I've worked for university professors and I've even volunteered in return for barters. I briefly contemplated getting a second degree and even took a calculus class, mostly to prove to myself that I still had what it took to do it (I do, I got a 102% overall) and that giving birth twice had not sapped whatever brain power I might have once possessed.

But I cannot figure out what to do in the future. I don't know what I want to be when I grow up. The other day Hubby and I were talking about wanting lots of kids. He casually mentioned the words "housewife" and "next 20 years" in the same sentence. I just about choked on my tongue. "I am NOT a housewife," I snapped. Anger rose in me like bile. I am just between jobs, I told myself. Extended maternity leave. I recently had someone tell me I am "unemployed". I wanted to smack him.

Yet, I adore my kids. I adore spending every day with them. I love the close relationship we have and the way I can give them healthy lunches. I tell myself that my sacrifice is for them; it is because living my life in the equivalent of mental oatmeal is not my ideal of earthly bliss. Now I'm homeschooling which brings an entirely new set of challenges and rewards. Is this what I am actually supposed to be doing and like Mr. Holland I will discover that despite my kicking and screaming I will someday realize this is the only gig I could ever love?

So many women aspire to be stay-at-home mothers. Many of my peers never wanted anything more than to marry and raise kids. I never understood or sympathized with them. Yet here I am, the traditional housewife, wandering around in my slippers with a half-drunk cup of coffee at my elbow, planning my days around loads of laundry. If God intended this to be my lot, why did He put inside me such a drive to do something more, the ambition to have a career, the constant need for mental challenge? Sitting at home supervising naptime day after day I feel trapped, more caged than our fluttering parakeet, yet the direction toward freedom seems obscured by the fog of future children, the children of my heart who need my nurturing, loving care, the giving of myself beyond what I have to give until my tired body succumbs to crippling age and I am no longer able to do anything I once dreamed.

Perhaps my discontent is just that, a last shred of selfishness that must be wrenched from my heart before I can be truly happy pouring my life out for others. Is this how I am really called to change the world? Through the intimate, daily touching of tiny lives entrusted to me as a mother? It is possible that it is what I may spend my life doing. It seems right now the only path that does not crush those tender lives under my care, yet to wholly relinquish all my former hopes and ambitions, to embrace this path forever seems as unattainable a goal as changing the color of my eyes. To say this is my dream life is to insert a false veneer of a colored contact lens and try to be someone that is not really me. Yet to give up my own life for the sake of serving others is the highest attainment of the Christian life, or so it has been taught me from the earliest memory. I think I never realized before just how difficult that really is, how deep of a sacrifice life can really demand from us if we're willing to give it. Yet the alternative, one of sacrificing my children's ultimate best in order to fulfill my own dreams is not one I am willing to contemplate. Why is there no middle ground? Why must it be either me or them?

I have no answer.


  1. I often contemplate what I'm supposed to be on this earth to do. I know that I'd like nothing more than to be with my kids all the time. I feel bad because I think there's an expectation that I should be out helping to support my family, but there's nothing that tugs at my heart. I could go back to finish school, but I don't know what I would even go back to. I don't want to teach in the school system. I also don't want a dead end job.

    Life's choices are really hard sometimes, aren't they?

  2. I think any homemaker can sympathize with your sentiments at times. I really look at it as a heart issue. The more God transforms us, the less "we" are recognizable in our former state.

    I believe our desire to pursue ventures outside our homes and families are born not of a God gift, but as a reflection of the world in which we live. Our talents are a gift of God, and best utilized for His glory. From a very young age we are bombarded with personal achievement being paramount to a life of servant hood.

    To completely surrender to Christ is to take on the life of a servant. Is it always fulfilling and rewarding here? Obviously not. However, we are working to raise Christ's army in a world of those working for the prizes of this life. We are storing up out treasures in heaven..what greater satisfaction should we strive for than the peace of knowing we have done what was right and not was always "fulfilling".

    When I'm feeling this way, I try to remember Paul in prison and witnessing to the guards. For never was a less fulfilling position than that..or Jesus washing the feet of His disciples..riding in on a donkey..etc.

    Those who think we should be "contributing" to our families are missing the mark. We do not measure our contributions by the world's standards, but by the standards of the Lord God.

    Have a Blessed Day!