Friday, May 3, 2013

Career Girl or Stay-at-Home Mom?

Career Girl or Stay-at-Home Mom:

They're both harsh boxes to get inside of if you ask me. Yes, I had thought about it before the boys came home. Before we had kids, I'd been in separate conversations that favored each side. (Gotta love the strong sentiments that get raised in the debate: "Who works and pays for a college degree, just to not use it?" "Who has kids just to let someone else raise them?") Since preparing for Zeke and Gabe to come home, I'd thought about it, and muddled feelings and thoughts usually ended up pushed to the box in the back of my head labeled, "Annoying Things I'll Deal With Later."

Here's the thing: I support and respect women who have chosen to stay home, and women who have chosen to go to work. I'm allowed to do that. Every woman, every family, every situation is different. I don't believe there's a right/wrong here, and my decision doesn't affect the way I see any other woman or her decision. So please believe me when I say, there's no condemnation here. -Not even for myself, anymore. I made my decision. I am free. Hallelujah.

I was born a teacher. (Ask my little sister. Bless her.) If I learn something exciting, the first thing I want to do is enlighten someone else. I have a clear call to teach music, a thirst for excellence in the education of young musicians, and I feel fulfilled when I'm doing it. I've taught middle school band at CMS for four years, this last one being my first year as a full time employee, and my favorite. I LOVE my students. I have also imagined since I was a teenager that I would stay home with my kids (probably because that's what my mom did with me, and I want to be just like her). The thing is, our adoption happened 2 years before we thought it would. My band program was just getting cranked up to where I wanted it. I was JUST getting established. And I was LOVING it. Not to mention the whole out of college for four years and we-have-no-money factor. Things looked different at this stage of life than I'd imagined. Not to mention, my role-model is now raising two young kids in her home, and working, and rocking it. All factors considered, the thought of walking away from my band director position at this point created these fears for me: I'd lose respect from my colleagues. My hard work would be wasted. I'd let my students down. Without the continued accomplishments I was making every day, I'd feel unfilled. And, in a land where music teaching positions are harder and harder to secure, I sensed the vultures circling, which also made me more reluctant to consider walking away. So, when I thought of Ezekiel and Gabriel being home, I imagined myself home with them. And when I thought of the future of the band students at CMS, I imagined myself with them. And I left it to someone else to work out the kinks.

When the time came for us to go get the boys, I felt no qualms about taking maternity leave. Even my students were all about me going to get and be with my boys. And I'm not kidding when I say, I didn't think past that. I didn't want to.

Which brings us to now. Last week I got a letter from HR. It said that the deadline for exercising my choice to take "Extended Parental Leave" for one year, was this week. Oi. (Extended Parental Leave means you don't get paid or benefits, but your position is safe should you want it after that year is up.) It was time to do the hard thinking... but lo and behold, I was ready.

While I wasn't really thinking about it, the decision had been becoming clearer and clearer to me. For starters, I'm a "Type A." I'm happy when I'm pouring all my energy into something, feeling I'm giving it my best. Since my personality doesn't lend itself to divvy-ing things up, my reality is, I don't cut off teacher mode well at a given time, or if I do, I don't feel good about it. My teacher-self used to stay at work late, because I wanted to. I liked having all lesson plans done, room clean and prepped every day so I could just walk in and be about teaching and my students during the day. That requires way more time than a school day allows. There's no mixing family life with that schedule, and who wants to? Meanwhile, I've discovered the schedule that works best for my boys at home, and how to make it flex when they need it to. My favorite times are when they wake up smiley and sweet in the morning or from naps, the games we play while they're eating in their high chairs, thinking of new games that will bring fresh giggles, and those moments they play with each other and don't know I'm watching, ready to explode with enjoyment. They're becoming more of who they were created to be every day. I just can't miss these moments. I'm sure.

So today we went to CMS to visit the kids and introduce the boys to my teacher friends (many of whom I didn't get to see, but we tried), and to tell my principal about my decision. As I anticipated, I was flooded with emotion - especially for the precious kids I've built relationships with. They had so much to tell me, (new haircuts and dating relationships and the invention of hallway swimming, which is pretty impressive), and I melted when a 7th grade boy dubbed himself my children's Godfather. (Then his sidekick, also a boy, volunteered to be the Godmother.) But the tug to jump back on the podium and do music together wasn't as scary as I'd feared, even when the kids asked sweetly for me to stay and do their warm-ups. Not gonna lie - lots of tears over the sweet faces I SO enjoyed interacting with again today. I do care about them, and love having a little place in their lives, but my past fears were more than I realized about proving how much I could teach them, what a respectable program I could build... Lots of that was about myself, and tears of joy today as I let go.

As we drove away from school, Z and G falling asleep in the back of the car, I laughed about how some of my teacher friends only got to see the twins' tranquil, this-is-not-my-scene, (#whyarewesurroundedbyloudkids) posture. I thought about their different qualities or reactions that different people get to see depending on the circumstance, the time of day... and I KNEW as I heard the sound of a just-about-to-fall-asleep Zeke chucking the toy he was ready to relinquish for dreamland, I want to be the one who knows all of those personality sides and behaviors. More than I want to interact with chirpy sweet middle schoolers every day, more than I want to be a constant in their lives and pass on a love for good music, I want to enjoy every bit of and be all of those things for my boys. That's what feels right.

I can't believe how much changed the day these boys entered our lives. (And I get the feeling it will never be the same.) They are only mine for a moment. This is where I want to be.

1 comment:

  1. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Philippians 4:6 You will not regret your decision. Kids will always need to be taught, but your boys will only be this age once. When it is time for you to re-enter the workforce, the Lord will open doors for you! And maybe you could volunteer with your students a couple times a week? Besides, a break from mommy-hood is always welcome every now and again!