This post is brought to you by Sara Harless! We met in college working at the Writin’ Desk and I genuinely look forward to all Facebook updates about her work mothering Anne, aka “The Scarlet Tornado!”
“So what do you do for a living?”
Such an innocuous, friendly question that caused me to cringe every time it was asked.
For three years, I would proudly reply, “I teach preschool for Head Start” and tell funny anecdotes about my students. I loved teaching; I was passionate about my students and the care and education I provided for them. I prayed for my students. I cried for them (and myself after particularly trying days!). Much of my identity (more deeply,my pride) was wrapped up in my chosen career.
Then I saw the heartbeat flickering on the ultrasound screen. I had never had any intention of returning to work after my daughter was born. Primarily, I didn’t make enough money teaching to make paying for childcare feasible or worth it. Who wants to work more than 40 hours a week for what amounts to $2 an hour? More importantly, I wanted to stay home with my little one. I felt strongly that this was best for our family (with no judgement or condemnation for families that work differently). My husband agreed and so I put in my notice after the school year ended (I was due in July). I was nervous, but excited and ready to start my new career.
I didn’t think about teaching the first couple of weeks home from the hospital. It was a bleary-eyed time of nursing, rocking, napping, diapering, washing various bodily fluids from my clothes, nursing, nursing, nursing. I had no idea how many hours per day would be devoted to quietly rocking and feeding my Annie (and how few would be devoted to sleeping!). Then September rolled around, and I was getting groceries (considerably more difficult with an infant) when I saw Elmer’s glue was on sale for 10 cents a bottle. In my sleep-deprived state, I started putting several bottles in my cart for the classroom before I remembered that I no longer had a classroom. I was so unexpectedly sad. I didn’t realize how much I would miss the crazybusy schedule of school, miss helping kids compromise and use words instead of fists, miss leading a less-than-straight line of 16 three, four, and five year olds down the street to the park, miss finding random marbles/crayons/sorting bears in my pockets that I had confiscated from mouths.
The more I went places and met other moms, the more I dreaded the question, “So what do you do?” I felt strangely ashamed to admit that “all” I did was stay home with the baby. A baby whom I loved with an intensity that I didn’t know was possible. I never anticipated needing to mourn my life before her. That life was over and I grieved for all the wonderful parts of it. Then God gently showed me I was also grieving for my pride. I was clinging to a sense of self-worth derived from that pride of “Look what I have done with my college education! I am making a difference in the world!” Key words–“I, my, I” God called me to a new job with crappy hours, no pay, and no puffed-up pride in myself. It’s hard to feel proud when you’re the one in the restaurant with the screaming baby that everyone is staring at. It’s hard to feel proud when your baby managed to smear poop on her ear and you only notice it several hours (and a trip through the grocery store) later. Losing that source of pride, of sin, was a hard thing, but a good thing. I embrace this time with my daughter, and smile with (somewhat) good grace when another mom melodramatically tells me, “I don’t know how you do it! I would be so bored all day alone with a baby!”
“Humble yourself before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” James 4:10