Nannying

To Be (or Not To Be) a Mom: The Continuing Saga

Back in October I wrote this guest post for my friend Brett over at his site, Irresistibly Fish. I had every intention of posting it over here as well, but somehow it slipped through the cracks. I’m posting it here today because I never had the opportunity to share it here and it’s something I’m still really wrestling with in my life right now. Brett has an entire series on his blog called “To Be a Mom” that you should check out if you want to hear some great perspectives on motherhood. (I was the only guest blogger who is not actually a mom).

I do want to be sensitive to any of you who may be struggling with infertility or grieving miscarriages.  I understand that it may be hurtful to hear someone else questioning if they even want children if you have lost deeply-wanted children or are struggling with infertility. It is so not my intention to cause you more pain so I wanted to post this “trigger warning” for those of you who may not want to read this one. 

Also, to be clear, this is not a criticism of people who choose to have children. I believe there are many people who are meant to be parents. This is just an exploration of my own sense of purpose and calling.

***

To be a mom used to be something I dreamed of. As early as elementary school l I told people I  was telling people that I planned to have six kids (mostly girls with one or two boys thrown in). I regularly made and updated lists of my favorite baby names.

I grew up in a home where motherhood was valued and praised. I have a wonderful, selfless, self-sacrificing mother and my dad adores her. Since I have two sisters who are significantly younger than me, I started practicing my mothering skills at a young age.

To be clear, there was never any pressure or expectation placed on me by my family that my calling in life was to be a wife and mother. I simply had a natural bent towards domesticity and nurture. I like cooking and baking and I love small children. I think I “get” them better than I get adults. Maybe this is because there are parts of childhood I’ve never outgrown – for example, the urge to stomp my feet when I am frustrated or to sing tuneless songs narrating what I’m doing or to be scared of things like balloons that might pop at any moment – so I understand where they’re coming from a lot of the time.

I started babysitting when I was twelve didn’t stop until I was 25. I taught 4-year old Sunday school class at my church all through college and after college I transitioned into full-time nannying, which is the closest you can get to parenting without actually having your own kids. (Of course, this varies from situation to situation, but in some of my jobs I did the grocery shopping, prepared meals, did homework and school projects, washed clothes, bought clothes, arranged play dates, bought birthday presents for parties, and attended school functions so I honestly think it’s fair to say that this was part-time parenting).

I met my husband at 18 and was married at 22. Our plan was always to wait a few years before we started our family, but I still wanted a big brood of kids and felt pressure not to wait too long. As I was nearing 25 and nothing was happening for me career-wise I started to think, “Maybe we should start having kids.” I believed that having kids would be meaningful and frankly, I believed I’d be good at it. It was something I’d always wanted to do.

And then, about two years ago, something in me changed. I can’t explain exactly how or why, but I woke up one day and I no longer felt the desire to have children. People joke that nannying is its own form of birth control. I don’t think it was that nannying made me stop wanting kids. But I do think nannying made me want to be the right kind of parent.

To be a mom, to really be a good mom, you must be willing to die to yourself and to invest the best of who you are into your children. I have a mom like that, so I know what it looks like. I have worked with different kinds of families and there is a profound difference between the parents whose priority is their children and who are willing to sacrifice their comfort, their careers, and their dreams to invest in their kids and the parents whose priority is themselves or their careers or the image they want to project. I don’t doubt that these second kinds of parents love their children. But based on my experience with those kids, I don’t think they are being the kind of parents their kids need them to be.

I started to wonder why I had wanted a family in the first place. Why do most people have children? I don’t mean that in a flippant or cynical way. It’s something I asked very seriously. One of my deeply held beliefs is that WHY we do things matters tremendously. So I started to ask. Do I want children because I’m hoping they will give me a sense of purpose? Because it’s the next thing to cross off the list? Because nothing else in life is working out and this feels like the next logical step? Because I’m afraid of missing out? Because I believe it will express a unique kind of love with my husband? Because I’m curious about what a mini-me-and-Jonathan would be like?

For many people, the desire to have kids is probably some combination of those things. And that’s not necessarily wrong. I’ve just come to believe that, for me, those reasons are not ENOUGH. For me, there has to be a deeper sense of calling and with that a commitment to sacrificing whatever is required to parent well.

Understanding what parenting really means and what it requires has convinced me that it isn’t something that should be undertaken lightly. I genuinely believe that God took the desire for children away from me for a season because it isn’t the right time. Not long after I’d had this total change of heart, the opportunity for my husband and I to move overseas came up. Our move abroad has been one of the best decisions we’ve ever made, and we wouldn’t have made it if we’d had a child or even been trying to have one.

I don’t know if this feeling will last forever or if God will bring back that desire again at the right time. I do believe that God is ultimately in control of my family and that whether or not we have children depends on him much more than on me. But as much as it depends on me, I want to make sure I pursue motherhood for the right reasons. And if I should get pregnant unintentionally, then I will embrace that as a clear sign of God’s timing and will trust that he will equip me for what he’s calling me to.

I used to long for motherhood, but now to be (or not to be) a mom is something I strive to hold with open hands. I want to keep it in proper perspective, neither looking at it as a means of personal fulfilment nor refusing it out of fear or selfishness. To be a mom is a high calling, but it isn’t everyone’s calling. I want to be sure I’m listening to mine.

 

Image from; joannagoddard.blogspot.com
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How Disney Helped Me Quit My Job

Well, I did it. I quit my job. Last Thursday I marched into the Managing Director’s office, plunked down my letter of resignation and said, “I am done with this! I cannot work in this toxic environment anymore! I am too smart and I have too much self-respect to work for the idiots who work here and think they are the most important people in the world and act like big children and go out and party all the time even though they have families and little children. You don’t pay me enough to deal with this kind of crap. So I quit!”

Alright, that’s not exactly what happened. What actually happened was I timidly sent over my letter of resignation with a lot of “I’m really sorrys” and “I really appreciate all the opportunities you’ve given me here” and then I cowered before the other girls on marketing staff and my boss and stammered out all the reasons why this was just an opportunity I had to take, etc. etc. etc. Those of you who know me well know how much I hate confrontation and never want anyone to be mad at me, even if I don’t like them. So maybe it wasn’t the most triumphant resignation of all time, but still…I did it.

And do you know what got me through it? This song which was playing in my head the whole time:

We can analyze later why my brain subconsciously believes that “I’ll Make a Man out of You” equates to “You are a brave and capable woman,” but I think the obvious takeaway is that Disney has once again pulled through and helped me in a time of crisis.

I’ve never quit a real job before. Most of the other office-type jobs I’ve had in the past were paid internships or temporary assignments that had an established ending date. I’ve never had to tell people who weren’t expecting it at all that I was just quitting. To make matters worse, the same week that I resigned, three other people in our office resigned. (Which I think says something about this office environment.) But I ripped off that Band-Aid and now it’s done and I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted. I still have to finish out my two weeks, next Friday will be my last day. But having the end in sight makes me feel ready to handle anything they throw at me (or, you know, ignore it since there aren’t really consequences at this point.)

So…here’s what I’m doing instead. For the last month or so I’ve been talking to a family on and off who are looking for a new nanny. Their old nanny had been with them for 8 years, but is having a baby in August and will be staying home afterwards. (Methinks they must be a good family to work for, or the old nanny would not have stayed with them for 8 years.) The mom of the family approached me about this job and initially, I had no interest in going back to nannying. After all, we all know how crazy that made me last time. But, after several weeks of talking and praying and the family having a hard time finding the right person, I’ve ended up with what I think is a pretty sweet deal. I’ve got two kiddos, Porter (9) and Spencer (6) who will be in school during the day for the regular school year. I will work full-time for the rest of the summer and then, beginning the last week of August, will only work in the afternoons-early evenings. I will manage the kids’ schedules, get them from school, help them with homework, take them to their activities, and make sure they have everything they need for school and activities. During the school year I will only have to work about 28 hrs/week with paid holidays and 1 week of paid vacation. And (this is the clincher) they have agreed to pay me enough that we’ll still be able to cover all of our expenses, etc.

Since I will have all of my mornings free (during school) this will give me some extra time to work on my classes that I will hopefully start taking online through Fuller Theological Seminary in September. The program I’m trying to do is an MA in Intercultural Studies with an emphasis on Children at Risk. I think I could really be good at and love ministering to at-risk kids around the world. Additionally, I will have more time to work on the small baking business I’ve started out of my home and hopefully promote that further. (More on that once I get my website up and running.)

Initially, I wasn’t attracted to the idea of nannying again. I certainly got burnt out the last time and it’s also sort of a pride issue for me. Sometimes I feel embarrassed to tell people that I’m a nanny or I feel like I’m hurting myself in the long-run by not doing a “real” job.  But some wise friends (and also my husband) pointed out to me that when you compare working another year or two doing something I hate versus doing something I enjoy more, part-time with a lot more day-to-day flexibility, it’s kind of a no-brainer. Sometimes you just can’t plan for all contingencies, as much as I’d like to, so you have to accept that all you can do is walk the path that God sets before you today, and make the best decision you can for that day.

And I’ll admit it, I may have seen Brave pretty recently. (If you haven’t seen it you, you definitely should.) So when the offer was officially made there may have been this Scottish voice playing in my head asking me: “If ya had the chance to change yer fate, would ya?” And my unquenchable sense of adventure said YES! Challenge accepted!

In gratitude to Disney* for being a constant in these tumultuous times, I have (very) tentatively decided to shoot for running the Disneyworld Marathon in January. That’s right, folks, a full 26.2 miles (please do not comment, you super-fit people who have run like three marathons and only trained for like a month. This is legitimately the most epic undertaking of my life.) I did my first training run yesterday – and immediately regretted even waking up that morning. So, we’ll see how that goes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                               

*Don’t worry, guys. I know it wasn’t really Disney who provided this opportunity for me and gave me courage to quit and gave me peace when I felt anxious. That was Jesus and I am so thankful to Him. But I do think he maybe used the familiar comfort of Disney to help me just a little. Probably.

The Problem With Kids These Days

I don’t know what’s gotten into me lately, but for the past two weeks or so I’ve suddenly become completely baby crazy. I’m delighted by the thought of tiny people calling me Mommy, by holding someone who has my eyes and Jonathan’s red hair and something entirely and amazingly their own. I find my mind wandering at work to figuring out how we could convert our office into a nursery.  And suddenly, although for the last year I’ve thought nothing of it except that I’d like to have children in the distant future, I wish I could have them tomorrow. While I was nannying, there were days that I wasn’t sure I even wanted to have kids anymore. But the last two weeks it’s been like a switch suddenly flipped and I feel totally differently. This hasn’t really changed anything. I am NOT and am NOT planning to get pregnant for several more years.  (Just to make that abundantly clear to those of you who are just skimming this. I don’t want to start getting awkward congratulatory messages.)

What this baby-craze has made me think about is, well, children. And parenting. While I don’t have any kids of my own I have done a LOT of babysitting and nannying over the past ten years. During my time last year as a nanny I was “parenting” 40-45 hrs/week. I have worked with about 15 families at different points and in different places and have witnessed a lot of parenting styles and techniques. I have worked with well-behaved kids and with little monsters. I’ve come home saying, “I will never let my kids do that,” or “That’s a good idea, I’ll have to try to remember that when I have kids.” It’s easier when you are not the parent to stand outside of the situation and see how different parenting styles affect the kids’ behavior. Unfortunately, more and more I’ve seen some really disturbing attitudes towards parenting in both Christian and secular homes. Talking to other friends who work as nannies only confirms what I already felt was true. Kids these days are a different breed than when we were growing up.

To some extent, every generation finds ways to reject things about the generation before theirs. In this case I think a lot of today’s parents felt constrained by their own parents and felt that they had to meet certain expectations of who they would be/what they would do, etc. The tendency these days is to really allow children to develop their individuality and to try out all kinds of things so they can “figure out what they like,” to encourage them to be anything they want to be. This sounds great, in theory, but the reality is that children are not adults. They do not naturally appreciate the sacrifices of others or understand how to be considerate of one another. They are not naturally respectful of or submissive to authority. They have to be taught to obey, to be considerate, to appreciate the things they have. Hence we have some of the most privileged, over-stimulated, ungrateful, self-centered, out of control children the world has ever known. As a seasoned childcare provider, here are some particular things I’ve encountered (generally with kids 12 and under) that drive me crazy. If you’re a parent and you’re easily offended by parenting critiques you might not want to read this:

Food: Two year old children do not have a sophisticated enough palette to truly have likes and dislikes when it comes to food. “My child is a picky eater.” Your child is a picky eater because you allowed them to be a picky eater. If you only feed your child chicken nuggets and pizza then of course all they will like is chicken nuggets and pizza. If you feed your child green beans and carrots from an early age, they will learn to like or at least tolerate green beans and carrots. If you allow your child to have ice cream as a snack every afternoon, you can’t expect them to be happy when you offer them an apple. Eventually kids do develop preferences that are legitimate just as adults who are not “picky eaters” may have two or three foods they just really don’t care for. But there is nothing in the world as frustrating for a babysitter as trying to feed a two year old and having them scream at everything you put on their plate until you figure out what it is they feel like having at that particular moment.

Bribes: While it makes a child temporarily happy to give them something to quiet down a temper tantrum or ward off hysterics, it ultimately encourages bad behavior. The answer to a temper tantrum is never “What can I give you/promise you to make you calm down.” This is lazy. This is caring more about not having to deal with the tantrum and enforce consequences than shaping your child’s character. We excuse things in children because they are children. We say, “They’ll grow out of it,” but spoiled kids who get their way when they pitch fits become spoiled adults who pitch different, but even less attractive, fits when they don’t get their way. Teaching your child that they will always get what they want if they make enough fuss is setting them up for failure.

Parents who use their children as a security blanket: there are so many parents these days who act as if the main reason they have children is so they themselves can feel loved and needed and important. When their kids get upset about a decision they’ve made or say something like, “You are a mean mommy!” they can’t stand the way that hurts their own sense of security so they give in to the child so that they feel better about themselves. That’s just selfish. Their kids might be happier with them in that moment, but I can guarantee you they don’t respect them and it is ultimately not the best thing for the kid. Small children are not your friends. If they cannot even use the bathroom on their own, why do parents think they can make all kinds of rational decisions? Little children are not logical. Often, they cannot be reasoned with. This doesn’t mean we don’t value kids or consider them as much people as adults. It’s like this: we would certainly agree that a man who is a plumber and a man who is a doctor are equally valuable as human beings. But if I need surgery, I’m not going to ask the plumber to do it just because he’s a valuable human being. Kids ultimately feel loved and secure when they know someone is taking care of them and their boundaries are clear, even if they don’t act that way in the moment.

Overstimulation: It is not fun to a 5 year old to go to kindergarten, play two sports, take dance lessons, be in a play group, and learn to play the cello. It is exhausting. No wonder they’re cranky!

Inconsistency: either between mom and dad or between the parents and their other caregivers/authority figures. This confuses kids because they don’t know whose expectations they have to meet when and causes them to act out. I’ve had authority figures who were inconsistent. Frankly, it is terrifying as a child to not know what is expected of you and when you’ll get in trouble. Consistency between caregivers is huge as well as consistency with one. If you have a rule and sometimes you hold hard to it, but other times you let it slide, the child doesn’t know if you are serious or not or whether you really mean it. It makes them feel out of control. The family I nannied for this past year did such a great job of consistency with each other as parents and with me. If I reported something to the parents or had to punish one of the kids they ALWAYS backed me up, even if they might have done it differently because the most important thing was that the kids knew their parents and I were on the same page.

To sum up…I think the main problem with kids these days is parents these days.  Sometimes I just want to shake them and say, “Your child is not in charge. You are an adult. Act like one.” If parents were just diligent with these things when their kids were little, parenting would get easier and easier (theoretically) as they grew up. Of course, I have a whole other shpeil about the way some excellent parents of young children have trouble parenting adolescent children. My own parents were terrific parents of small kids, but had a hard time transitioning to a lower level of supervision as I got older.   Having said all of that…I am sure I will screw up my children in my own special way, I just don’t plan on it being one of these. End of rant.

PS-In case you are interested I am posting two new pages: books I’ve read (this is a list of everything I’ve read in the past year or so. I don’t necessarily endorse or recommend them all) and blogs I follow. A list of fellow bloggers (including most recently my little sister, Anni) you might know.

Like A Little Child: Lessons on Love

It’s over. I’m no longer a nanny. Friday was my last day with the kids. We played at home and read books and made bookmarks and went to Sami’s school picnic at the park and then we came home and I put Dylan down for his nap. I hugged him and said, “I love you soooo much.” And he said, “No, I luh loo so much!” and that’s when I knew there was going to be trouble. I went downstairs and painted Sami’s teensy tiny toenails and her dad came home and took pictures as I read to her while we waited for the polish to dry. And then I said goodbye, I climbed in my car and I blew my horn and I drove away. And the second I turned the corner I burst into such hysterical sobs I had to pull over for a few minutes because I was squinching up my eyes so tightly I couldn’t see out of them.

As much as I have looked forward to this day, and as many times through the winter that I felt bored to tears and could not imagine another day spent entertaining little ones, it was still overwhelmingly sad to come to the end of it. I’m sure it’s similar to how elementary school teachers feel, growing close to a group of kids that they spend so much time with over the course of a school year only to have them move on, but nannying is also different. It is so much like being a mother and the relationship is so much closer than a teacher with an entire classroom to share her care and affection with. There were many days that I felt frustrated and tired and that I wasn’t doing anything worthwhile with my gifts and it was very, very hard. But I also lost my heart to these kids. I’m excited to move on to a new phase in my life and to hopefully move into some sort of career I find meaningful. But that doesn’t change the fact that I will miss them and the way that they love me—without expectations, whether we have a good day or a bad day, whether I’m impatient or gracious—ultimately it makes no difference to them. At the beginning of each new day when I walked in the door, anything that had happened the day before was wiped away, and they loved me.

I think that’s how Christ intends us to love each other. Without expectations and with no memory of wrongs. He says to come to him as little children, but in some ways I think it’s the other way around. I think He also comes to us as a little child. Not in the sense that we are His protector or that He puts his trust in us, but in the sense that His love for us in uninhibited like a child’s. He loves us this way, with no expectations and no record of our wrongs. His mercies are new every morning and His love for us is simply because we are ourselves.  And regardless of whether we have been faithful, whether we have trusted or have doubted, whether we have honored Him or not, whether we have made right choices, whether we have pleased Him in every way, He loves us freely and without limits.

I know I ragged on CCM music, but there is a song that’s been echoing through my mind for the past week, particularly as I’ve thought about leaving the kids and what I’ve learned about God loving me from their loving me. Most of you probably know this song, but I’ll post the video and lyrics anyway. Being from Louisiana I especially appreciate the image of “Loves like a hurricane.” A hurricane runs its course relentlessly and nothing can stand in its way.  I have seen such a picture of this in the kids’ love for me. It is also relentless and nothing, not even my own impatience, unkindness, or grumpiness, could stop them from giving it to me. And the rest of the song reminds me of how much greater and more perfect God’s love is than even these sweet kids.

Written by John Mark McMillan (and performed by him here), but probably  most famously recorded by David Crowder. “How He Loves.”

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us so,
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us all

Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.

We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
So Heaven meets earth like a sloppy, wet kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way…

He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Oh how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.

Ask, Seek, Knock: Questioning God and Explaining Circumcision to a Four-Year-Old

I’ve found myself asking a lot of questions over the last few days and weeks. As we have started looking for jobs and a new place to call home I’ve been asking God and asking myself what I should pursue and what things are important in choosing a new location. I’ve also been asking a lot of questions about God and about faith. My small group discussed hell at our last meeting (just, you know, your typical casual Friday night conversation) and it raised so many of the questions that I’ve been grappling with over the past several years about God’s goodness, his plan for creating the world, and why he allows so much of what happens here on earth. And as if it wasn’t hard enough to be trying to figure out all of my own great questions about life, a large part of my day job lately has been trying to answer other difficult questions on the level of a four-year-old. Here’s a sample of a few conversations I’ve had with Sami over the last several weeks.

Me (reading from the Illustrated Children’s Bible): And on the eighth day they took the baby to be circumcised and they gave him the name Jesus

*side note: why the heck would you feel the need to include that in the Illustrated Children’s Bible?!

Sami: What’s circum-skied?

Me: Ummm….it’s a special sign between God and his people?

Sami: Do I have it?

Me: Ummm…only boys had it (No, I am not even about to get into female circumcision)

Sami: Do they still get circumsigned?

Me: Yes….

Sami: Where?

Me: At the hospital when they are born

Sami: Does Dylan have it?

Me: Yes…

Sami (completely out of the blue): I am so glad that Abraham Lincoln helped the brown people. What did he help them do?

Sami: I would never drive my car to hell! (also out of the blue)

Me: Well, that’s good, but you know, hell’s not really somewhere you can drive to.

Sami: Well, where is it?

Me: It’s kind of like heaven because you can’t go there while you are still alive on earth. Only souls.

Sami: A long time ago they used to put people in boxes when they died and put them in the ground.

Me: Well, they still kind of do that

Sami: Will they do that to me when I die?

Me: Probably. But you won’t need your body anymore because you will be in heaven with Jesus so it won’t matter. (Talking quickly so she doesn’t freak out about being buried)

Sami: I’m just really worried about my friend Olivia

Me: Why?

Sami: Because she moved to Bloomington…what if she dies there? She won’t be able to go to heaven.

Me: I’m pretty sure people who live in Bloomington can still go to heaven.

Sami: Why did God make the bad people? (Perhaps there was a context for this one in her mind, but it was very unclear.)

Or, my personal favorite conversation:

Sami: How old are you?

Me: I am about to be 23. (This was right before my birthday a few months ago)

Sami: Maybe when you turn 23 you’ll get taller

Me: I don’t think so. I think I’m pretty much done growing taller.

Sami: That is so sad! Why would God do that?!

(Note: I am 5’3”. I’m no giant, but I’m definitely not the shortest woman she’s ever seen)

Me: I don’t know Sam. Maybe he just likes short ladies.

Most of the time, I just want to look at her and tell her honestly, “I really don’t know! Stop asking me questions!” But instead I do my best to think of an answer that is true to the best of my knowledge and is also on her comprehension level. (A challenge, believe me, because Sam is often not the quickest at connecting A to B.) It can be difficult (although admittedly hilarious) to try to answer these questions, especially since I am not her mother and I don’t want to explain anything to her in a way her parents wouldn’t agree with, but ultimately I think it’s important for her to ask questions. I think it is OK for her to want an explanation for things or to admit that she doesn’t understand something and to ask for help.

A few days ago my husband and I were discussing the failure of the evangelical church to communicate this very thing. I have never been to a church service (particularly the church I grew up in) where anyone expressed that it is ok to question scripture, doctrine, or even God himself. The general view seems to be that questioning is the opposite of faith and a very slippery slope towards losing your faith altogether. As a result the evangelical church has formulated pat answers to complex and difficult questions about faith, God and Christianity. (For example: “Why did God allow the incredible devastation of the earthquake in Japan?” “God is sovereign, so it must be a part of his bigger plan that we can’t see right now.” Technically true, but incredibly unsatisfying.) Frankly, I am of the opinion that if just asking some questions about Christianity were enough to make me lose my faith, perhaps it wasn’t worth having in the first place. On the other hand, choosing to ignore the questions does nothing except create shallow (or blind) faith.

I think asking God questions is as much a part of having a relationship with him as giving thanks and singing praise. I know that I can’t understand everything and there will never be a point at which everything makes sense to me. I am ok with that. But I am hopeful that if I keep asking the questions, God will answer me the way I try to answer Sami—giving me just enough for my comprehension level—but with infinite gentleness, patience, and compassion. “For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Mt. 7:8) But you know what happens to those who don’t ask/seek/knock? They build themselves a little lean-to beside the mansion’s doors and then spend their lives convincing themselves that the house of sticks they built is the real thing.

Burn Out

I think I have finally reached the point of total and complete burnout as far as my job is concerned. After months of struggling with a sense of purpose in what I’m doing and some frustration with the monotony of it, I’ve finally reached a point where even the weekends aren’t enough recuperation and nothing seems to encourage me. While I genuinely do love the kids I am with, I am tired all of the time and I am bored out of my mind. I am completely out of patience and feel that I cannot answer one more question. Except for naptime in the afternoon, I spend 7-8 hours a day entertaining and verbally responding to a preschooler and a toddler and half of that is correcting, cajoling, convincing, rebuking, or coming up with creative and interesting things for them to do. I’m worn out. I’m committed to this job until the end of May. Intellectually, I know that’s not forever. But right now, it feels like forever. And every morning when my alarm goes off everything in me screams, “NO!”

Jonathan and I continue to wait for good news from the schools he’s applied to, but so far there hasn’t been any. We’ve begun to discuss where we’ll go and what we’ll do if school isn’t on the table for next year. It’s somewhat exciting to think about moving somewhere new based on nothing more than an interest in the location, but it can also be overwhelming and frightening. Mostly though I am frustrated and feel defeated. I am so tremendously proud of my husband for applying to these programs that are highly selective and are evaluating your creative work which is often so deeply personal. I think he is so brave for pursuing something like this and it took a lot for him to even allow himself to pursue it simply because he felt it was impractical. I am frustrated with God because I don’t understand why he would have given him this dream and given him the courage to pursue it if it isn’t even going to work out.  And I feel completely at a loss as to how to encourage him in the midst of this. I don’t know how to make him believe that whatever the outcome, he is tremendously talented and gifted and that I respect and admire what he’s done so much. Just saying the words doesn’t seem to be enough.

I also had a tremendously selfish conversation with my husband in the midst of all of this where I whined about not being seen as a writer or taken seriously for my writing. It was juvenile and pathetic and the truth remains that I have not produced anything new creatively in almost a year. This is my own fault. No one sees me as a writer because, well, I don’t write.

So friends, this isn’t a witty, endearing, or uplifting blog post, but it is an honest post. I feel like I am failing. I am failing as a nanny. I am failing at being an encouraging, supportive wife. I am failing as a writer. I feel empty. Like I have nothing left to give. But this one promise keeps echoing through my mind. A voice that says, “My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in your weakness.”

I look marvelous!

This week is an exciting/nervewracking one for us. My husband has applied to 9 grad schools in the hopes of doing an MFA in creative writing beginning Fall 2011. After months and months of research and work, we are finally entering the season where we start to hear back from the schools he applied to. If he gets accepted at Ohio State, we expect to hear sometimes this week/weekend. From there we will hear from the other 8 schools gradually over the next 6-8 weeks. It’s exciting to finally be at this point, but my stomach (and I’m sure his even more so) has just been in knots as we get closer and closer to knowing. I think the thing that makes this so nervewracking (as I am sure anyone who has gone through any kind of application process can testify) is that we have absolutely no control over the outcome, despite my husband having put a tremendous amount of time and energy into it.

This is the point at which I will tell people/myself that I have to just trust God and know that His will will be done, but more and more lately I really wonder what it means or what it would look like to trust God and His will. In a sense I feel like it’s easy to say that you are trusting God because whatever is going to happen is going to happen and then you can just try to content yourself by saying that whatever the result was, it must have been God’s will. But what would it be like to really rest in the knowledge that God is in control of the situation instead of just using “God’s will” as a way to comfort ourselves if things don’t go as we imagined they would?

At the core of this I see the real issue being a matter of contentment in and with whatever situation we are in. This is something I admittedly lack much of the time. I find it very difficult to stop myself from constantly looking forward to the next big thing. In high school I couldn’t wait to go to college. In college I couldn’t wait to graduate and get married and not be in classes anymore. Now I can’t wait to move from this cold, cold place and find a “real” job instead of nannying. At each phase there is always something else to be looking towards. I recognize that this is a never-ending cycle and that there will never really be a point at which I’ve arrived, and yet I have not yet learned to be present in the moments that I am given every day. To be present in the job I am doing, or in the activities I’m involved in, or in my conversations with those around me. I am constantly distracted by what I would like to do later…in a new season of life, next week, or even just later that day. Yet, God sends me reminders every day of the blessings I’ve been given and the need to be fully present and content with where I am and what I am doing. Perhaps contentment with the present is as much a sign of faith as any other.

For Christmas Sami receive a pack of chapsticks that are all different soda flavors/colors. She has root beer, vanilla coke, cherry soda, grape soda, and orange soda and she insists on layering them all one over the other when she wears them. She also never seems to get the chapstick onto her lips, instead spreading it artfully in a large sticky circle all around her mouth. Yesterday morning she bounded downstairs smelling strongly of artificial grape and cherry flavor with a sticky rainbow ring around her mouth. She grinned up at me, “I put on some chapstick,” she said. “I see that,” I told her. “I look marvelous!” she stated. She didn’t even need me to affirm this.

How simple. To take such delight in putting on chaptstick and to accept wholeheartedly that doing so made her look marvelous. I too want to remember what it is like to delight in such small things and to feel that something as insignificant as putting on my chapstick has meaning and worth. I too want to look marvelous.