Thursday, April 8, 2010

What am I doing?

A few weeks ago, during a conversation with some friends in which we were hypothesizing about our possible future plans, Greg mused aloud that he had no idea what I was going to "do" with my life.

And neither do I.  I have no idea what I will be doing in 10 years.  How unsettling.

I have a bachelor's degree in education and three years of teaching experience.  The natural course for my life is to further my education with professional development and/or a master's degree and make my way up the public school pay scale.  Lots of wonderful people follow this very path, and lead blessed, happy lives doing it.  Indeed, everyone around me seems to expect me to follow it, too, and resist granting approval to my arguements to the contrary.

Three years ago, at the end of my third year, facing a cross-country  move and a long-awaited pregnancy, I chose to leave teaching.  I deeply disliked it, for one thing, because it relies heavily on one's ability to plan and execute with the "big picture" in mind, and that is very, very difficult for me.  (I can't even follow a brownie recipe without some spur-of-the-moment improvisation.) 

Another, larger, reason is that teaching exhausted me.  For whatever reason, I don't think I have a lot of emotional reserves or energy or whatever, at least partly because I experience everything with my heart, so everything is emotional for me.  Social, vocational, and familial interactions exact a heavy toll, and I am frequently just overwhelmed with the everyday events of my life.  Teaching made this much, much worse.  I have never been so unhappy, and I know I was difficult to live with during that time.

Because of  that, I was afraid I would not be able to be a good mother.  I wanted to be able to focus completely on building a healthy, loving family, and I didn't feel that would be possible while I was so miserable in my job.  Also, I would have had to put my child in daycare almost immediately, where she would spend the majority of her time in someone else's care.  The idea of doing this felt so very wrong to me, and thoughts of it kept me from sleeping at night. 

(An aside: I don't mean to judge or condemn working parents whose children are cared for outside the home.  Not at all!  I understand that many families must do this and others choose to do it, and they make it work wonderfully.  I just felt that it was the wrong direction for me.)

So, what will I do?  I don't know.  I do know what I am doing now, and it is very, very good.  I focus on my family, sincerely.  We are home nearly every night.  We eat our meals together.  I spend every minute that I can muster with my daughter near me.  When Greg travels for work, we frequently travel with him to spend more time together.  And the result of all of this is that we have time just to be together, to think and talk and grow together, and we are better than we have ever been.  And I pray that Sophie (and her future siblings, God willing) will benefit from that togetherness.

I often wonder if I'm being lazy, choosing underemployment as a teachers' aide because I just don't want to work that hard.  Maybe this is all wrong.  Wouldn't our lives be easier if I made more money?  Shouldn't I be doing what it seems everyone else is doing, and what everyone else thinks I ought to be doing?  Guilt, anxiety, fear, shame.

And then sometimes, I feel a gust of hope: Maybe instead of laziness, I am choosing to live my life according to my own priorities instead of my culture's, choosing to live counter to the culture instead of going with the flow, choosing to stand out instead of blending in. 

Maybe this is how I am living out my faith.

Maybe that thought is just too good.