(about Coming Home series here)
My husband and I were born and raised in the town in which we are currently living with our children. We were high school classsmates (but not sweethearts!) and kept in touch off and on through college. I spent those years at Loyola University Chicago, where I played softball and earned a degree in Elementary Education. A few years after graduating, we married and began living in the real world of jobs, bills, and homeownership!
By the time our first child was born, I had been a teacher for four years. I taught 5th grade at a local Catholic school and 9th grade theology at my alma mater. I also spent a few of those years coaching softball at the high school level. I enjoyed those endeavors very much, but I knew all along that they were temporary.
I do not recall a conversation with my husband about not returning to work. It was always my desire, always part of my plan. It always just felt like the natural thing to do. Our first child was due in October. I finished the previous school year in May, and returned for a (very little) bit of substitute teaching until our son’s birth.
I never considered continuing my job. I did not wish to spend my days with the children of others while someone else took care of my baby. As is the experience of many new parents, my husband and I found that the transition into parenthood was exhausting and frightening and so overwhelming for a very long time!
Clearly though, we made the necessary adjustments to our new reality…..Our son was 4-years-old by the time his third sister was born!
There is a saying about the days being long but the years flying by. How true it is! I spent so many days wondering “How in the world is it only 9A.M.?” My husband’s job requires him to work 24-hour shifts, so those days were particularly challenging. I will never forget the kind words of a stranger as I walked with my babes through the neighborhood park one evening, killing time before bedtime (with one on foot, two in a stroller and one in a backpack!) This kind woman probably sensed that I was ready to crumble at any minute. She told me that when her daughter was small, her goal each day for them was to take a walk and read together. If they accomplished those things, it was a good day. I think that was her way of saying, “Honey, you look like you might fall apart before you make it back home, but you are doing a fine job!” It was often the complimentary words or sincere encouragement of strangers that kept me going in the those early years of motherhood (and still today!)
I was sitting in the dentist’s chair shortly after the birth of our son when the dental assistant asked me how much longer I was off work, assuming I was on maternity leave. When I told her that I was not returning to my teaching job, she asked me if my dad was mad at me. I did not immediately understand her question, and before I could respond, she added, “Because I’d be really upset with my daughter if I had just put her through college and she chose to just stay at home.” I left the dentist’s office with tears in my eyes, a lump in my throat, and feeling very sorry for that woman’s daughter.
This year, our youngest child started Kindergarten, joining her 1st, 4th, and 5th grade siblings. It has been a bittersweet transition for us…. It’s always hard to accept that your babies aren’t babies any longer, but at the same time, we have reason to celebrate….YAY!! We made it this far! I could easily spend my days sadly longing for those early years- our days were simple and very routine, our calendar was practically empty, and our children were safely sheltered in our home. But by God’s design, we all must grow and change and face new seasons as they come…..
I am wrapping up my first year as the librarian at my kids’ school. When our youngest began Kindergarten in the fall, I returned to the (wage-earning) working world. I have a really great job! I work just three days a week and enjoy the same days off and breaks as my kids. When my kids are at home, so am I! In truth, my heart is still at home, and I predict it will always be. But, in order to carry out our plans for our children, my (extremely modest!) income serves a very specific purpose.
If you are a young mother or mother-to-be struggling with the decision to stay home with your children, let me be an example of at least one thing: You CAN have it all!!!!....... JUST NOT ALL AT THE SAME TIME!!!! I kicked off my adulthood with a job I enjoyed and left it to pursue my calling of motherhood. I am a teacher by trade, but a mother forever. The years I spent (eleven in all) at home with little ones were gone in the blink of an eye. Never will I look back and think, “I wish I would have worked more” or “I wish I would have had a nicer car, vacation, wardrobe, television, etc.” None of that matters! Chances are good though, that if I’d made the opposite choice and continued to work, I most likely would have regretted it.
I believe that God shares these children with us. They are not OURS. They are HIS! He handpicked these four to be called ours on this earth, and I believe God wants us to be the ones to spend our days and nights with them, loving and protecting and nurturing them, and leading them to HIM!
“There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for every affair under the heavens.”