Our Sunday School teacher asked each of us to answer the question out loud. My husband and I had been attending this Young Marrieds' Class for a semester (sorry, since I am school teacher and he is a college recruiter, we measure each year in 3 parts - Fall Semester, Spring Semester, and Summer). The class is full of 20-30 somethings with marriages ranging from a few months to about 5 years long.
"If you could pursue any dream, knowing that you couldn't fail and money wasn't an issue, what would it be?" our leader asked.
Everyone had an answer! Of course we did! We are young, and we are Americans. We are trained to live for the next big thing!
I said that I would want to be a back up singer. Now, I know that may sound silly, but I have thought about this kind of thing before. Back up singers get to sing, record albums, travel, sing in front of thousands of people, do live concerts on TV, etc... they don't have to do autographs, be chased by paparazzi, watch their weight, pose for magazines, go through publicity stunts, or deal with insane psycho fans! See, it is the perfect dream for someone who loves to sing, and often does, at the top of her lungs while harmonizing with Josh Groban in the car... it was the first dream I thought of when asked that question in class, so that is the answer I gave!
The question was just a fun ice breaker that led us to discussion on allowing our spouse to fail... to love them even when they have failed. To trust each other even if we have disappointed the other one before.
And if I were going to be truly honest, a dream I have had for a long time that I have not tried is being a stay-at-home mom. Sure, I've talked about it. Prayed about it, even. But in the pursuit of it, I considered myself and my husband a failure, and I carried a bitterness toward my spouse and my life because I never obtained this dream...
When my husband and I got married a little over 4 years ago, we both said that when we had kids, we wanted me to stay home with them. He worked part-time and attended seminary when we were first married, so my teaching salary was our main income. But we had a plan to pay off debt and transition into a reverse situation by the time our first child came along. It didn't happen. We tried selling our house and moved into a mobile home (that was the same size as our house), so we could get rid of our mortgage. He started looking for a full-time job. It never bothered me to work full-time while he went to school. We knew why he was going to school, and we both believed in sacrificing to make it happen. And I have always loved teaching. Even when I am angry or frustrated, it is a fulfilling job to say the least. I was happy with our present circumstances, and I was pleased with our plans...
Then we had our daughter, Emersyn. I only had 5 weeks of maternity leave, and leaving her with a babysitter to drive 45 minutes away to teach other people's children seemed like I was being robbed! I felt anxious. I started to resent my job. I started to resent my husband's part-time job and seminary classes, because I felt I deserved the right to spend more time with my little girl! I complained A LOT - even on Facebook! I mean, the oversharing kind of complaining and pining for a life that couldn't be mine. I blamed my administration, my husband, and God. I spent several months acting this way, even if I wasn't complaining out loud or on-screen, I was harboring bitterness in my heart. Deep down I appreciated the fact my husband spent a whole day once a week at home with Em, and that he got off work earlier than I did so he spent about an hour with her each day before I walked through the door... but I was also jealous and heartbroken by it all. When I was home with her, I didn't go anywhere or do anything but hold her and play with her. I felt justified ignoring friends, family, and a lot of household obligations. I had earned the right to spend time with my baby!
The new plans were for my husband to get a full-time job, take a break from seminary, and I would stay home at the end of that school year. God did provide a full-time job for him, but as life always goes, we had major financial difficulties pop up. Our house never sold, a vehicle died and would cost more to fix than to replace, our heater died... and many other things I am thankful that I don't remember exact details. So as a consolation prize, I found a job closer to home! So then we were both working full-time, paying a babysitter, and redefining our household tasks. For the most part it worked, but probably only because I have a husband who understands that at times I was so selfish out of pain, not just because I wanted to be selfish. He knew I was having a hard time being away from Em during the day, so he did a lot in the evenings so I would have free time with her. I will never forget all his generosity that was greatly undeserved. In fact, sometimes I wish he had yelled at me and put me in my place. He showed to me what it means to trust the Lord with your spouse; He let God correct me, and he was faithful in the waiting.
Thankfully by this time, I had also met enough moms that did get to stay home with their babies full-time, and I heard their stories. I realized how I had built staying at home up in my mind as some kind of dream-life, one I couldn't have, which had only made it more desirable. Once I learned a lot of their reality, I realized that motherhood is just hard no matter how much time you get to spend with your kids. I also realized that I had made my daughter and spending time with her a huge idol in my life. I chased after it in my mind constantly, which was unhealthy and had started to show in how I took care of myself, my home, and my other relationships.
I learned in that first year of motherhood that even though my children are a gift from the Lord, so are many other things in my life. My health, my marriage, my friendships, my service in our church, my job, my home, and my other family members... but they were all being neglected because of my bitterness from not getting my way. I had turned into a mother that was obsessed with motherhood in an unhealthy way. Getting to stay home with Emersyn wouldn't have cured me, either, because it was a heart issue. It was me telling my God and my husband and the world that I deserved what I wanted. And when I started to ask myself why I wanted it in the first place, I honestly couldn't answer in a way that honored the Lord at all. It was all based on guilt, feeling like a bad mom, trying to fill myself up in my heart with motherhood instead of God... I knew that I needed to let go of the dream because it was no longer a dream... it was a poison to me and those around me.
I am thrilled to say that these past 2 years of teaching 5 minutes away from home has given me back some of the time I was missing out on with Emersyn, but has restored to me A LOT of the joy of motherhood that I always hoped for! So much of that has been learning a lot too, not about other's opinions of what a mom should be, but being a mom that God wants me to be. He knows my situation. He obviously approved for me to face this time of stretching and learning and growing - all while not getting my way! Not getting my way has been an enriching lesson learned, and I wouldn't have had it any other way! These past 2 years of working and being a mom have been fun and guilt-free. I have learned how to make quality time with my daughter without demanding quantity.
So now my husband and I once again face a major transition headed our way - we are expecting a son in late April!!! We couldn't be happier, but things will have to change in some way to accommodate another baby. Childcare is expensive, no matter how you work it out. Staying home is a sacrifice. Either way, we are not only going to go through emotional change of parenting 2 kids, but we will face financial changes as well. So we are revisiting the idea of me staying home. I praise the Lord knowing I am in such a different place spiritually, emotionally, and financially than I was when I first became a mother. We have paid off a lot of our debt, but we are still not the best-disciplined spenders/savers. There are so many questions that come up in our minds that truly can't be answered 4 months ahead of time.
Do I quit teaching completely? How do I pay for insurance then? Do I work part-time? What kinds of part-time jobs are there where I wouldn't just be paying for the childcare I needed to go to work? If i do stay home or work part-time, how would I feel about myself knowing I am no longer a teacher? It has been so much of who I am for a decade!
The moment we opened ourselves up to the possibilities, it seemed the Lord started to calm us. This may be the first time in my life that I have no idea what my life will look like in 6 months, and I am completely okay with that. I know that the Lord takes care of us, even when things don't add up on paper.
The fact of life is that there is NEVER a time when you KNOW you won't fail. But we have something better than assurance of success, we have assurance of salvation, provision, and grace to get through anything! And this is probably the topic I will be blogging about the most - transitioning into being a working mother of one into a mother of 2... doing who knows what on the financial front. I know I am going to learn a lot, and I am hoping to share a lot of what I learn.
No matter what happens: staying home, working part-time, continuing to work full-time... the Lord is good. He will help me. He made me, saved me, brought my husband and I together, created 2 children for us to raise, and has done so many other incredible things - dreams that came true because of His goodness and grace. Who am I that He would be so good to me? How could I ever repay Him for what He has already done?!
Trust Him. Obey Him. Enjoy Him forever. For there is no other way to be truly happy, no matter what.