In My Element

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As you grow up, people ask a lot, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” As Halloween approaches, I look at the children’s costumes and the idealism that surrounds. Super heroes, scary bad guys in control of their destinies, princesses: all show children dreaming of the perfect place and perfect task for them. Different children have different dreams, because God made us all differently and we all have our individual gifts and talents.

I dreamed of the same old things as other little girls: being a princess (Kate, I shall forever stand in your shadow, you wonderful live-r of every girl’s dream), making a ton of money (until I found out how much blood doctors deal with), making a difference in the world (hello, teaching career!), and, of course, motherhood. I would, of course, get married and have babies and be a total soccer mom.

As little girls, I think a lot of us dreamed that. We looked to our parents for their guidance, and we saw in society and in media that getting married and having babies was what life was all about.  Lately, as a late-20-something, I’ve seen many different kinds of posts, like single girls who are sick of being asked about when they are going to settle down, and married people who are sick of people asking when they are going to have kids, and they are begging to just let them live their lives in the timing that they have chosen.  In my early 20s, I wanted a career and everything, but there was one dream that seemed to get smaller in other girls that just got more full in my heart: parenthood.

I wanted to be a mom. I wanted to cook delicious meals in pretty dresses and heels and aprons like June Cleaver and Donna Reed. I wanted to greet my husband at the door looking fancy and serve him a delicious roast with homemade non-boxed mashed potatoes. More realistically, but still in my dream, I wanted to run around like a crazy person trying to get my four-or-five children to their various sports and musical activities, still home-cooking every meal and cutting their lunches into beautiful works of art. I wanted to sew our curtains and make costumes for school plays and volunteer in my kids’ classrooms. I wanted to endure the yelling of my 13-year-old daughter because I wouldn’t let her (insert some kind of inappropriate thing that all 13-year-old girls want to participate in during the 2020s). I wanted to cry as they got their driver’s licenses and pray for God’s protection over them like a crazy person and send them off to college and see them grow up and get married and give me grandbabies to spoil.

This was literally the biggest dream of my life.  It was the biggest passion.  My heart was there, and I was convinced that I should do exactly those things, and that I wouldn’t just do them: I would be amazing at them.

Many, many dreams in my life have changed, but that one remains. The moment my baby was put into my arms, I knew that I was going to rock at this. This was what I was supposed to do. This was how I was going to be a superhero and a princess and make a difference in the world. Holding that baby and looking into his sweet face was the beginning of my life. It was like that movie moment where the superhero gets his or her superpowers and he or she starts to glow all weird and nobody notices even though it’s totally obvious? I glow when I’m taking care of him. I flipping glow. When he was like two weeks old, I held him and looked around the room. I hadn’t slept in three weeks (because I was in labor for like a week) and I had never been more exhausted in my life. My help had returned to their lives, and I was alone. Husband was back at work. And I just sat there and glowed. I can do this. This is what I’m meant for. This is what I’m supposed to do. This is it. I thought at the time that it was probably just the hormones, especially since I cried my eyes out about five minutes later because he spit up epically and I was certain that he was dying, but it’s been a year, one week, and three days, and I’m still glowing.

And the hardest part of this, I think, is that you kind of get this idea in your head that when your dream comes true, your dream is all you’ll have to be doing.

Now don’t get me wrong: I really enjoy teaching. I love my students with all of my heart unconditionally. I feel like I do pretty well at what I do. I feel skilled and talented and patient, and I’ve learned more from hanging out with K-6th graders within the last 6 years than I ever knew I could. But, in all the joy I get from teaching, I am splitting my soul in half. And as we all know from Harry Potter, splitting your soul is a very bad idea.  By doing both things, I feel like I don’t do anything as well as I could. I feel like other people are raising my child so that I can raise other people’s children, which basically makes no sense to me. I feel like I can never get anything done, ever, ever, ever. My house is always a mess because who can find the time to clean when you’ve worked for 8 hours and still have 3 more hours of planning to do for the next day? I am the kind of person that believes that whatever I do, my whole heart should be involved, but it just feels like there isn’t enough of my heart to give it all to all the things I have to do. And that’s just what I have to do. What about the things I want to do, like serving the Lord and spending time with friends and making music?

I feel utterly selfish and gross for wanting my dream to be all I do. I feel like for us, me staying home is irresponsible and a waste of my very, very expensive and paid-off education. We are still in some debt because we had to get a new roof and new AC/Furnace and we’re going to have to get Husband a new car here really soon.  Why did we work so hard to pay off student loan debt and go to grad school out of pocket for me to put it all away staying home? Why would I stop doing the debt snowball when it is working so well (and has worked so well in the past) so that I can do what I want? Why would I trade a pretty great salary and a great job so that I can get what I want? If there’s anything I’ve learned from teaching and being a parent so far, it’s that selfishness is almost always not the way to go. I feel bad even writing this post because I have several friends who would really like to have children and don’t know if they will ever get to. I feel like I’m sitting here griping about how I have to get to have everything: a great job and a wonderful family, and yet I’m wishing for something else.

I wonder if that’s how it always is supposed to be. Nothing on earth is perfect and complete and fulfilling because that’s what heaven is for? Or doesn’t God call us to find contentment here? How I am to know whether I’m supposed to seek contentment in what is happening now or if I’m supposed to chase what I want?  I’ve seen “grow where you’re planted” and I’ve seen “go anywhere for your dreams.” Which one is it?

So, as a parent, I feel in my element. I am good at it. I don’t question my baby-related decisions. Of course, I have a very easy and wonderful baby, so that helps. As a cook and homemaker, I am in my element. The food I cook tastes good. I know how to find a deal. I can sew (ish) to repair stuff. I have ideas and ways to do things ourselves that would cost a lot more to hire someone. I ache for time during the day to grocery shop. (I bow to all the Wednesday morning Aldi women out there – you go Wednesday morning Aldi women!) I like grating my own cheese. I like home making my laundry detergent. I’m just saying that if there every was any dork who would just totally rock out the high-top sneakers and jeans up to the boobs, it would be me. I do realize that isn’t what soccer moms are like anymore.

I think this comes down to two things. Number one: it is very hard to make a decision about what is the right thing. Just because I feel really, really, really, ridiculously good at something, it doesn’t mean that’s all I should do. And just because doing that thing makes me insanely happy beyond all measure, it doesn’t mean that’s where I’m called. Number two: the grass is always greener. Everybody always wants what she can’t have, so maybe I just ache to stay home because I work now, and as soon as I stay home, I’ll ache to work again. Doesn’t that mean the point should be to find contentment in whatever I’m doing? My concern is that if I find contentment in whatever I’m doing, what if I become complacent, and it’s actually NOT what I’m supposed to be doing? And what if all of this speculation about what I’m supposed to be doing or not supposed to be doing is just a ridiculous waste of time and a way to show God that I’m going to worry no matter what?

I suppose the conclusion of all of this is that regardless of how comfortable I feel making decisions about how to raise my kid, there are always really hard decisions to make, and I’m just really scared that I’ll make the wrong ones.  And that’s silly, because my mom worked my whole life and I turned out just fine (regardless of the excessive number of parentheticals I use in my writing) and my husband’s mom stayed home his whole life and he turned out just fine (regardless of his excessive love of iPad and iPod and XBox games). The best I can do now is to look to the Lord and thank Him from the depths of my soul that He has gifted me enough that I’m confused about what He wants me to do. I can pray to find joy in every moment, even if the diapers I get to change (yes, I do actually enjoy changing diapers, I’m seriously a freak) are only after 4:30 pm. And my baby is my baby, but I did have about 575 school-babies before he was even mine, and I’m thankful for them, too, and all the incredible parenting lessons they taught me (like patience; I mean seriously, I am ridiculously patient, except of course when it comes to knowing God’s will for my life). The truth is, my life is not my own, and I was bought with a price, and I want to go wherever He leads, whether it is staying home or working full time or a combination of both. And I find comfort in the truth that if I go wherever He leads, I will be in my element.

About Mely Goodman

A wife of a handsome heartthrob and mommy of two tiny treasures, I'm striving to live for Christ and learn to speak His grace and truth in spite of my tendency toward attempting side-splitting self-deprecation. And alliteration, apparently.

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