Thursday, August 13, 2015

A New Frontier

Each time someone figures out that all my children are now in school, I get peppered with comments and questions like:

"Are all your kids in school now? What are you going to do with yourself?!" 
"Well, I'm sure you'll enjoy all that downtime for a change."
"What will you do now?"

They make it sound like I'm being put out of work, like my "company" is downsizing and has no need for my services any more. I get knots at the thought of justifying my life at home and have so much trouble simply saying, "I'm going to try to get paid for my writing."

It's always the last thing I say after mumbling about projects and volunteering, as if I'm ashamed of it, as if it were not a valid occupation. I hate that I do that to myself, because write is what I'm going to do.

I think.

I've toyed with the idea that though being a writer, paid or not, is an essential part of my whole self and should not be given up, perhaps there is another road I need to take as well. For instance, getting a theology degree is something I've contemplated, but a. I feel like I would be stealing funds necessary for my children's education, and b. I study and read so many theology books and articles at home and never feel I have a complete grasp on the truth. Sometimes I just end up thoroughly exhausted from the effort of trying to understand and reconcile all the interpretations. I love Scripture, but I berate my own understanding. I love theology, but the subject is not an easy one. 

There are also so many laudable charitable organizations to which I could give my time in a way that might some day lead to a "job". And that is not a bad option at all, especially since my sense of social justice heightens with each world news article I read. If my family is in such a position that we do not need an income through my own efforts, should I not then give my time to improving the world on a larger scale? As a Christian I cannot view my time as mine alone, and as a mother it is impossible to do anyway.

Yes, volunteering will undoubtedly be a part of this new frontier. I will give energy to my kids' school now and to church as usual. But perhaps there is some other way I can and ought to be my brother's keeper, too - a way yet to be discovered.

As a lover of nature, perhaps I should look into becoming a park ranger. In fact, I have. A little.

I've always loved archaeology, too. I should volunteer on some digs, free menial labor in the cruel Arizona sun.

I understand where others are coming from with their inquisitions about my plans. They get up early each day and hurry to their job. Their jobs are often quite hard and under-compensated, and with that job they must balance family concerns. I think people who ask what on earth I plan to do with myself think I am going to watch a bunch of daytime TV shows while perusing fluff magazines and stuffing chocolates in my face as I compulsively buy stuff online - unfair! Or maybe that's just how my silly pride reads it. Still, I have not been a consumer of daytime television before; why would I start now if I wish to keep my self-esteem? I certainly do not intend to drink Starbucks every day/week or eat expensive chocolate; I am far too cheap, and I make no money. Fluff magazines make me feel bad about everybody. And I hate shopping and errand running, though the latter must not be avoided. 

So what's left? Is it scandalous to be at home, making a home by doing chores and projects that must be done (at least to maintain my own sanity in this place)? Is it shocking to want to write, to work with words? Because it is work, regardless of whether or not I get paid to do it. I have known many people who I believed could write very well, but they lacked the desire or the discipline to do it habitually. That's the difference. Yes, I love it. Yes, I am very lucky to have the time and energy and luxury to do what I love. Yes, I need to work harder at it, too. But it is work, and sometimes the words don't cooperate or simply don't come, and then my thoughts pace like caged, hungry lions in my head as I attempt to tame them. Still I keep trying.

Do not misunderstand. I do regret sometimes - often? - that I did not do as my pragmatic, smart husband did: go to college, get a degree in good time, and enter into a career posthaste after graduation. I don't regret at all that I missed out on college "culture", but I do bemoan the missed opportunities of the classroom, the delicious learning, and I do feel that my husband was the wise one, the grounded one. But I can't go back. 

All these years in the home, I have been truly grateful for the time with my children, for all the laughter and even tears, for the goofiness and craziness and witnessing all the firsts of the early years. I've been happy not to have to report to a different job after nights of seemingly continuous breastfeeding of infants and toddlers. I am so glad we did not have to spend a fortune on childcare or after school care and that my husband and I have not had to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, scarcely having time to say hello to each other. I love home. I love family time. I am so very grateful.

(But I must also here point out that one reason I have been able to stay at home with our children, to drop them off and pick them up at school and sports and other activities is because our family has lived frugally by design. In others' eyes I no doubt lack sufficient ambition, but earning money merely for more money's sake in order to buy more stuff has never appealed to me, especially if we are paying most of it for childcare. I'd rather live simply and stay at home, and I readily and humbly admit it's because of my husband's success in his career that I am able to do so.)

I would be lying if I didn't acknowledge how nervous I am about this new stage in my life when for many years I have been measured by the small children at my side. And being a mother will absolutely always be my most important job. We're forming human beings here who will form society. I feel my failures and mistakes, but I also bear memories of the triumphs and the redeeming moments, of the times I negotiated well with unreasonable individuals. That journey continues. But now it's also prime time for me to be a more productive writer.

Or something else.

I'll let you know.


  1. Amen! And congratulations on your first post sans kids. See? You're hard at work already! (Camille)


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