Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Julie's Story

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Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

The goal of attending law school and becoming a criminal prosecutor was firmly implanted in my mind by the sixth grade. I never wavered from this path. I secured a scholarship at the end of high school which enabled me to attend a prestigious womens’ college in Massachusetts. Moving onto a very enjoyable law school career in the great city of Chicago, I developed an affinity for legal research, writing, and editing; criminal law; and Moot Court. The highlight of my life at that point came when I was sworn in as an attorney. I then immersed myself in criminal appellate work, during which time I was introduced to a tall, handsome, attorney at an engagement party for a law school classmate. Nearly one year later, he and I were married. Ten days after we celebrated our first wedding anniversary, we welcomed our first born son. I had worked up until my due date at my position in a litigation division of the criminal prosecutor’s office. Suddenly, the young, aspiring attorney found herself on maternity leave.
My uncomplicated pregnancy that extended 5 days past my due date led to a labor and delivery time that spanned about 28 hours. The doctor eventually resorted to forceps to avoid a c-section and encourage the impressive head of my son to make its debut in the world. The pure joy of our baby’s presence was overshadowed within twenty-four hours. He became fussy, refused to nurse, and began to run a fever.  The hospital conducted repeated lab tests and even performed a spinal tap.  Sepsis was suspected.  In the middle of the night, a new resident physician even told us that our baby had meningitis. Thankfully, that was not the case; however, for the next several days in the neo-natal intensive care unit, he received around the clock administrations of antibiotics to combat the infection.
It was nearly impossible for me to leave him late each night when the nursing shift changed. The seriousness of the situation forever changed me. I experienced a defining moment in the NICU one day where, had it been audible, would have sounded like a gear switching. An unmistakable “click.” I knew, beyond a shadow of doubt, with the greatest conviction a person could have, that nothing in the world was more important than taking care of this precious life. Nothing. No case. No brief. No oral argument in federal court. Anything related to practicing law could be quite competently performed by another lawyer. No one else, however, could mother my son and love him as much as I could.

Despite these life changing events, however, the temptation later arose to take a part-time position in another litigation division. The weekend arrived when I would agonize over whether to take the position and embark on a path to try to balance work and family life or remain home with our son.  My husband quietly slipped into the background, praying all the while, but pledging his support for whatever decision I made.  We had one car (I stubbornly learned to drive as it was a stick shift), lived in a rented 2-bedroom apartment, and owed a fairly impressive amount of combined school debt. We had agreed, however, from the onset of our marriage, to make financial decisions that would allow us to live solely on my husband’s income so that I would always have the option to stay home should this exact situation arise.
While I did not realize it at the time, my husband was fairly convinced that I would not be able to leave our son. Nevertheless, he expressed great relief when I communicated that I would turn down the part-time offer. He confessed that it would have caused him stress to think that someone other than me was caring for our son. He also absolved me from the guilt I felt at the fact that he was now paying back my loans. We both knew that little financial incentive to work existed, for child care expenses would consume my modest government salary. I felt exceedingly grateful to know that I had his unconditional support. Truly, though, the best evidence I offered for my decision was love. Love and a new found belief that although law was my chosen profession, being a wife and mother represented my true and God-given vocation.
My first three children are separated by 16 months so that by the time my oldest was not yet 3, he had a younger sister and brother.  I always felt that this close succession of babies was God’s way of assuring me that I had made the right decision and that there was no looking back. That is not to say that other, well-intentioned persons along the way have not expressed surprise or even disappointment that I do not currently practice law. The education I have received can never be taken away from me. I am an attorney whether or not I choose to practice law. I would even argue that many more persons, once learning of my status, have treated me with greater respect than they otherwise may have. The lady with half-a-dozen children has a brain! Yes, indeed, though we all know that it certainly does not take having such an advanced degree to be considered smart or to be a great mother.

When I talk to my oldest daughter and other young women, I encourage them to finish their education and pursue a career with flexibility and work-from-home options. Marrying the right person is also key.  It is never too soon to pray for a future spouse. At some point, marriage is a great leap of faith, but finding a man who will be a wonderful husband and father is critical. I would also recommend, once married, living on one income as well as within your means so that the option to stay at home always exists. Remember always that no one will ever care for your child and love her as you will.  Also, joyfully welcome each child that God sends. He makes no mistakes.
I turn 45 in May. We now have 2 cars (both have automatic transmissions) and a minivan, a home in which we more than comfortably fit, and no debt other than our mortgage. I have repeatedly witnessed how God always provides. Most importantly, we have 3 high schoolers, a 3rd and 2nd grader, and a 3-year-old. This year my first born will begin college. Next year, his sister will leave us and begin to chart her own course. I can tell young mothers with the greatest conviction that I have no regrets about staying home to raise my children. It is the most important “work” which comes with a weighty responsibility.  The entrustment of forming 6 souls is not a light undertaking. Children have needs at every turn of the corner, and I am profoundly grateful to be present for it all. The sacrifices we have made to live on one income and send them all to reasonably priced private schools have not gone unappreciated by the children either. Our school-aged children are conscientious, thoughtful, high achieving students with good moral formation. They value their education and express how grateful they are to attend their particular schools.
Alone I can do nothing, but with God, everything is possible. His plans for my family far surpassed any I could have imagined. And the road we have taken has made all the difference in our lives.

(A special acknowledgement to my first born son who partially contributed to this entry, and to my husband and children, who are my treasures, my “jules,” as my license plate reads!)

29 comments :

  1. So very impressive. Beautiful family!!

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  2. These posts are the highlight of my week, Sarah. Really love this series so much!

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  3. I so enjoyed reading this post...what a beautiful family and such a special journey they are sharing together. Thank you Julie (and Sarah) for sharing your story.

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  4. Love this series! I was a longtime journalist and Pulitzer Prize nominee when I "trashed" my career because I wouldn't leave my two little children for a weeklong training program in D.C. (I asked the managing editor if I was committing career suicide; he claimed I wasn't but...). Do I regret it? No - but I do frequently feel awkward when people ask me what I do for a living. This series is very affirming to moms like me - Thank You!

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    1. Katie, You are raising the next generation! No small task! Sometimes finding a humorous answer can help with responses to what you "do." You do everything as a mother and beyond! You are the most important person in the life of your children. And I promise you that you will never regret being available for your children. There will always be time to work. Our days with our children are shorter than we realize. I can see this more clearly now that my son is going to college in the fall ... seems like I just wrote that resignation letter. You have chosen the better path.

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  5. Beautiful story. Lovely family, Julie. They are treasures.

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  6. Powerful message---loved reading it! Beautiful family!

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  7. Thank you for sharing your story, Julie. I have two babies right now, and I left my law career shortly after my first baby was born. I am in constant conflict right now, wondering if I'm messing everything up by not working. I am often criticized by family and friends for not working, and their voices are slowly getting to me. Should I be working? Should I go back to work once my babies are a bit older? Should I stop having babies now so I can work? Just because I can be successful at a career outside the home, does that mean I should do it? These questions plague me, and I lose sleep thinking about them. So thank you for saying that it's okay to stay home, even if I can have a successful career and large earning potential.

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    1. Mel, I realize that you are not alone feeling conflicted, but the world can never offer you what motherhood and the love of your family will. You can always be proud of your personal achievements. They were well earned and you will always have them. You may very well find yourself working again down the road; however, your children will truly reach their potential with you available for them. I truly believe that my presence has made all the difference in my children's lives. I would love to support you further, and if you contact Sarah, I can offer for her to give you my e-mail. I hope you will be at peace with your decision because it sounds like it's best for YOUR family, and that is what matters.

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    2. Hi Julie- I would love to talk further. I'll email Sarah now!

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  8. Beautiful family, beautiful story! Thank you!

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  9. I also love this series! Thank you for your beautiful story Julie, and thanks Sarah for sharing all of the stories here on your blog.

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  10. Thank you Julie, I really appreciate this post, more so than others, only because you're path up to my current stage (no children, not married) is oh so similar. At this stage I'm not sure if I will work or stay at home, but I do relate to your story. Such lovely beautiful children too.

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    1. Sarah, Thank you for reading! I am so grateful to Sarah for publishing my story. I was not sure what I would do either until my first son was in the NICU. It sounds like you have time; however, I think it is wise for us to leave options open because one never knows what joyful journey may lie ahead! My very best wishes to you, and thank you again! -julie

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    2. Thanks Julie, I'm mindful of leaving option open, as I do think my heart and mind might change when the time comes. So for now, that means saving what i can, and being frugal - both things that will stand me in good stead no matter which path I choose to take in the future.

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  11. Thank you so much for this series, Sarah!

    And thanks so much for sharing, Julie! You are a beautiful mother... indeed you have 6 "jules" [7 including your hubby ;)]. I'm blessed to call you friend! :)

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    1. You're a pretty remarkable mother yourself! Wishing you a most blessed mother's day a little early! :)

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  12. How long will you be doing this series?

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  14. Thank you again Sarah, and beautiful post Julie! I love this series so much!

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  15. I loved this Julie. I am almost 44 years old and am raising 5 children. Sarah your blog is so encouraging. I have read your blog for years. We love homeschooling and the books I love are: "For the Childrens' Sake", "Educating the Wholehearted Child" and "Real Learning". Mary Brooke

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    1. Mary, Thank you for reading this. I love Sarah's blog and it has inspired me beyond words over the years! I, too, have home schooled (but not consistently), and that is also something that clearly was not on my radar many years ago. Happy Mother's Day! -julie

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  16. Thank you so much for this series. I really needed to read this tonight. My husband and I are due with our second child, I stay at home and he is about to change jobs soon. Its a scary thought and sometimes I am saddened by what we don't have or the bills we are slowly paying off, but this series reassures me that being home with my son is a blessing and I wouldn't want anything more. Also its great to have reminders that God is in control. Thank you

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    1. Congratulations! Yes, God is in control, and knows what's best for us. We all need reminders of that, I assure you!!! Have a most blessed Mother's Day, Heather!

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  17. All of these stories have been amazing, and it's so different how we are all unique in our own way when it comes to deciding on begin a stay at home. Sarah, you continue to amaze with these wonderful stories, and to Julie...being stay at home mom is the best! Good choice, and such a beautiful family you are raising. Our stories are similar, yet extremely different! Sarah is awesome for sharing our stories. Hope all the commenters, and those who share their stories have a beautiful mothers day weekend!

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  18. Wonderful series! Thank you so much!

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  19. I came back to reread this series today on Mother's Day. I am so grateful for this series which seems to confirm that not only did I make the right decision, but I'm not as alone as I sometimes feel. Thanks for sharing!

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  20. I miss your writing and your regular posts, your blog is my very favorite one out there. I have been so inspired by you so many times. Just a ransom bloggy friend who wanted to let you know you've made a difference

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