Today I made my final decision to extend my leave from teaching for another year. I spoke with my principal, got the necessary signatures, turned in my paperwork to HR . . . and that’s that. But let me tell you, that was one of the harder decisions I’ve had to make, and I was vacillating even up until I actually handed in my documents. . . . Because to extend my leave another year is really just a precursor to the ultimate decision to stay home entirely, which means I may not teach for at least ten years, when the kids are in school . . . or ever.
My struggle, I’m sure, is shared by many a mother who desires deeply to care for and nurture her own children, teach and instill values, watch them grow . . . but at the same time has an almost equal eagerness for meaningful work outside of the home, to earn an income no matter how big or small, and to be a part of something that she takes pride in — that is all her own.
In choosing to stay home, I feel a little like the kid who’s been asked to watch everyone’s belongings as they all scamper off to ride the new rollercoaster. It’s an important responsibility, and one that I’ve completely embraced and enjoyed more than I could imagine this past year, but my I-can-do-it-all mentality makes me want to drag everything behind me and jump in the wheeling car, totebags, water bottles, and cameras haphazardly in tow. I realize this analogy is faulty on so many levels (for one, my son is not a backpack), but the essence of it is I want to have both — to stay home AND teach, which isn’t a viable option at the moment.
Even last night, as my husband, also a teacher, was sharing with me his day, I couldn’t help but miss teaching already. And with all seriousness, I lamented, “I feel like my life is over!” He smiled, because I have a propensity (just a slight one) for being overdramatic, but what I mean is, I feel like MY life . . . all that was and is Cecilia’s, is being taken away. This was the case as soon as Caedmon was born; my schedule was no longer my own, my sleep, my body, my free-time . . . and now my work . . . is no longer my own. MY life is now my family’s. And it is completely wonderful . . . and still completely difficult to adjust to my shifting identity.
Whether I see it as a blessing or a curse, or just plain reality, my sister helped remind me of what a calling this is. She said that being a mom should be more than just keeping her family fed and alive. A mom has the capacity to truly mold her family, to nurture and guide her children to understand and seek God’s heart, to instill sound values and ethics to shape an individual who is loving, confident, and a contributing member of society. A mom doesn’t have to stay home in order to take on this all-important role, but if she does, her identity and value have not diminished, as I can’t help but feel. No, I will not be JUST a stay-at-home-mom, because a mom who chooses to stay at home, who directs the time, energy, and creativity once reserved for work, toward her family. . . is noble and significant and irreplaceable.
A friend of mine, a very driven woman who left her flourishing career to be home and whose relationship with her son I can only hope to have with Caedmon one day, shared her thoughts with me, as she now prepares to send her son off to college this coming fall. She told me that yes, I will miss my job, I will miss interacting with other adults in a professional context, I will miss the challenge and gratification that is afforded in advancing my career, but I will not miss any milestones, any teachable moments, any grubby fingers that insist on grabbing my hair, my hand, and my heart. And as all moms say, because it’s true, cherish it, because it all goes by so fast. I appreciate this advice from a mother who is looking back on a journey that I am just beginning.
As I made my final decision, I determined that as much as I love teaching, I love spending time with Caedmon during the day even more. I’m just a novice, but I will strive to be a mom with purpose, who will nurture Caedmon’s soul as much as his intellect and physical body, and pour into this new job even more than I did with my old.
With my extension paperwork signed, sealed, and delivered . . . Caedmon, I’m yours.