I have had some time to reflect on my family's changes these last few months, and I thought I would share some of the things I am learning as I continue to adjust to our new normal.
When I was working fulltime teaching high schoolers, I always battled between loving what I did--analyzing literature, helping students craft sentences, having rich, thought-provoking class discussions--and, once I became a mother, the guilt on missing out on precious, fleeting time with my girls. I could never reconcile this battle.
Each summer as a new school year approached, I dreaded the time away from my girls at such tender young ages. I feared for Ansley's health with her severe milk allergies; I worried that Addison's spirit would be crushed too early in this tough world. I tried to talk myself into quitting, tried to make it all work in my head, tried to dream up perfect part-time situations, but each year I went back. It was always hard those first few weeks adjusting to the stress of the schedule, getting dressed, eating breakfast, and transporting all of our stuff into our cars by 6:40 to fight school traffic and travel 5.5 miles in 20 minutes. Usually, though, once we transitioned, by mid-September, we were into our routine. I was stressed with the demands of my job, but I loved the teaching part, and that kept me going. When I was home, and I was determined to be home by 3:15, I was wholly focused on my girls. We talked, went on walks, played, cooked, and enjoyed our precious time together. That time was fiercely protected and cherished. Sure, things suffered... things like laundry and housework; Patrick and I were often like ships in the night, passing each other just doing things to prepare for the next day, but we still managed to flourish. Even though I loved what I did, and I felt like my family was doing just fine, I still couldn't shake the feeling that I wasn't quite where I should be, doing what my heart longed--even more than teaching--to be doing.
Now I am two months into my new normal. I don't know what end is up. I am so unbelievably grateful for the opportunity to do something different, so empowered by Patrick encouraging and even urging me to pursue this new venture, but I still don't quite know what to do with myself. I still haven't quite figured out what "my thing" is. Now, I am so thankful that my girls get more rest. I am thankful that when they are sick, I don't have to jump through 23 hoops to figure out how to best take care of them. I am so thankful that we are able to focus--and allow Patrick to focus--on Patrick's career. I am so thankful that we share every mealtime, that I am able to prepare a healthier variety of meal choices. I have loved our weekday trips to the zoo, the Discovery Center, having neighbor friends over for coffee and muffins and play set time outside. I love that I don't cry with anxiety over grocery store runs. I am thankful that I found a meaningful job two days a week for 5.5 hours each day that I get to go to and take my girls to for their growth, development, and stimulation. I love pajama Mondays when we get to have them.
I am still not comfortable in my own skin.
When I was teaching at Indy, my girls were my outlet from all of the outside stressors at work. I felt-- truly felt--patience, grace, and love with them. I knew that they were exhausted from long school days themselves, so if they were "off" or extra whiney or tired, I gave them "passes" and embraced them with motherly love. I felt like each precious hour I spent with them was intentional. In many ways, I felt like I "got good" at being a working mom.
I am not good at being a stay-at-home, preschool-teaching mom yet. Now, with Addison in my class at school, my girls are not my outlet any more. Now, much of my stress comes from running our household. Even though I have been doing that for years, I no longer am able to blame laundry piles and messy kitchens on the demands of my work. I feel like all of the patience and grace I used to pour into my children is below empty, and my temper is shorter and hotter. I am learning many things about myself that are hard to deal with.
Patrick reminds me that it is so easy to look back on the past and glorify the good/easy parts while we bury the bad/hard parts. I went back to Indy for Homecoming, and I missed the classroom, my students, and the validation I got from doing what I loved. It was easy to forget all of the things that made me crazy, but I was thankful for dear friends who reminded me right away what those things were... and I was thankful that after a couple of hours of fun that I got to go home and rock my girls to sleep.
Everyone I talk to says that I will "never regret" taking this time off to spend more of it with my girls. I believe them.
I am thankful every.single.day. that I made--and was able to make--this decision this year. I just want to find my place. I just want to "get good" at this. I want to lovingly correct instead of exasperatingly chide. I want to fold and put away laundry, establish and keep a housekeeping schedule. I want to be as intentional with my girls as I used to be. I want them to enjoy our time together. I want to still figure out what my thing can be so I don't lose myself in the process.
Thankfully the Lord reminds me that His mercies are new every morning. Thankfully, He reminds me that His grace covers me. Thankfully, He reminds me to remain in Him for everything I need, to embrace His Spirit for the good fruits. Thankfully, He reminds me that our roads aren't supposed to be easy, that we have to put on our armor every day for every station in life. Thankfully, He reminds me that we aren't living for this life anyway, and that our goal and focus should be on His Kingdom.
Thank you, Lord, for your goodness.