I have an annoying, almost-daily ritual with my contacts. Usually they are a bear to put in, and my eye doctor always tells me I should probably switch brands. But I don’t. At least one contact always flips inside out in my case overnight (I swear) or collects unidentified debris. I’m not sure what it does, really. All I know is that it just doesn’t go comfortably onto my eye right away.
When I put it in my eye, it feels uncomfortable, so I take it out. Then I clean it. Then I flip it around and try to put it in my eye again. I know this way of flipping it isn’t the right way, but I need to say I tried it this way to rule out all potential contact issues. So I clean it again and flip it around the correct way (the first way), and usually at that point, the contact adheres to my eye with ease.
The point of this seemingly pointless (and maybe a little weird) story is. . . well, as I was going through this process yesterday, taking the unnecessary step to flip the contact around, though I know that the flipping is probably not the problem, I saw it as a microcosm of a process in my life, as an analogy for the way I have lived my life in the past year. Try it because you want to quiet the nagging. Just to say you’ve tried it. Just to rule it out.
I remember sitting at my desk in March 2014. Hints of spring were in the air, and the winter-imposed ban on being outdoors was finally lifted. I was in the midst of teaching some really cool high school students some really cool stuff, like writing MLA-style research papers, basic and advanced grammar rules, and the like. (OK, maybe not really cool to everyone…) I was on my prep period, so I decided scroll through Facebook since it was a rare day that I was caught up on grading. I mindlessly scrolled through until I saw the picture. Then the scrolling suddenly wasn’t mindless. My heart stopped. It was a picture of my son on a slide. He was wearing a red hooded sweatshirt and the biggest smile on his face. And he wasn’t with me. He was at daycare. I looked down at my burgeoning pregnant belly. In one month, I would give birth to my daughter, and there would be even fewer smiles on the slide that I would see, if only for a temporary period as I welcomed an infant into our world.
I think in that instant, I made up my mind to stay at home with my kids. It was a laughable plan at the time, as we relied on my teaching salary. But circumstances find a way of changing when God has a plan, and soon my husband landed a job that would cover both of our salaries. The drawback? It was over five hours away in Iowa and meant we would be leaving all of our people in the only geographical area we had ever known. Spoiler alert: we did it. I trusted my husband and my nagging heart. Just do it. Just try it.
Very soon I found myself in an unfamiliar place with an unfamiliar job title: stay-at-home mom. My husband began meeting people at work and really enjoying his job. I began (and probably awkwardly so) striking up conversations with strangers pretty much everywhere I went with the kids. I had dreams of teaching my very bright (but stubborn) son to read (P.S. he’s three) and an idyllic vision of our days full of fun and laughter. Boy. That was pretty unrealistic and pretty hilarious to think about now! In the course of several months, I met some pretty awesome moms and realized my struggles were their struggles. It was comforting, but I couldn’t quiet the nagging. I thought I did. I thought staying at home would.
Long story short, I realize perhaps that nagging was/is indeed the opposite. It may be the gentle guidance of the Lord. Perhaps He wanted me to learn about myself, that staying at home was indeed not my calling. Sometimes you have to walk in the unfamiliar for a minute to realize the familiar is where you are supposed to be. Maybe the desires of my heart weren’t to stay at home, but the lesson to be learned was that I was needed elsewhere, that my calling is to teach. Staying at home for the past year has quieted my mind and provided me the direction I needed to seek out teaching once again. And maybe if we revisit this blog post a year from now, I will find I was to learn an entirely different lesson. That’s OK, too.
In August, I will be back in the classroom. A year off, though I did not realize it as I was living it out, reinvigorated me to live out my calling. I have read many blog posts directed at working moms. Many of these posts paint them as women who cry tears of anguish every single day they leave their children and who struggle through every day pining to stay at home. These skewed views bother me. Sure, on some days, it is really hard to leave those babies. And some working moms do feel this way. But not all. Where is the blog post celebrating a working mom for feeling professionally fulfilled AND spiritually fulfilled AND emotionally fulfilled due to all of the hats she wears, the hats she confidently knows she is supposed to wear? (Maybe it’s out there. I just haven’t read it yet.)
Don’t get me wrong. I know there are moms who desire to stay at home who can’t due to finances. Duh! I was one of those moms for a time. But I am very much for celebrating the differences in moms. No pigeon-holing. I have met and befriended some really great stay-at-home moms who are fulfilling their calling at home just as I will again fulfill my calling in a classroom. Their job is hard. My job is hard. They feel Mom guilt. I feel Mom guilt. While we may not agree on every single parenting technique, we are simply trying our best to fulfill our calling and raise happy, healthy kids. How she goes about it is different, but it’s not wrong.
Though it felt like the toughest year of my life, I’m glad to have gone through it. Most of the time. I can’t say it has all been pleasant. Isn’t it funny how you learn who you really are when you endure the really ugly?
In my heart, I think I always knew trying to be a stay-at-home mom was like trying to flip my contact around. I knew deep down that it wouldn’t quiet all guilt in my mind but that I should just try it to rule out the conflicted feelings in my heart. There are parts I would have liked to have fast forwarded…like the time I drove around my new town bawling because I could not find a park for my kids to play in, or the time when I walked into my first MOPS meeting shaking, or the many days I spent feeling the depths of loneliness in my heart, like those deep emotions that feel like physical pain. I needed that year to re-center my heart and rediscover my passions.
In July 2014, I carried the crates and boxes of books, file folders, labeled binders, and papers out of my former classroom with a pretty broken spirit, for many reasons I will not fully divulge. But time away from teaching helped me refocus on the good that happened in my classroom. Now the good was probably highlighted by my shortcomings as a stay-at-home mom…but…that’s for another time! In August 2015, I hope to carry those same crates and boxes into a new classroom with a renewed fire for teaching.
Moms, thank you for what you do. My prayer for you is that you confidently wear your hats, whatever the hats you are called to wear may be. My stay-at-home mom hat just didn’t fit quite right. But maybe yours will.