Last month marked the five year anniversary of me trading in my nine-to-five job for a position as a full time stay-at-home-mom. It’s been half a decade since I’ve had a business card with my name on it, coordinated a client event or created an Excel spreadsheet (are people even still using Excel?). I was about three weeks away from having Luke. Noah was eighteen months old and an inquisitive, rambunctious toddler at that. It was a bit like chasing a tornado with a watermelon shoved into my abdomen those few weeks before Luke entered our lives and I started to wonder if I’d made the right choice in leaving my day job. Logically, it was the best thing to do for our family because it would have actually cost us money for me to continue to work and pay for day care a few days a week. But I have to admit, it does sting a little knowing how stale my resume has gotten over the years.
The past month or so, I’ve been obsessively searching for purpose in my life. I feel that I am contributing little to nothing to the world since quitting my previous job. I have been feeling panicked because how on earth does one quantify love shown to a child? I don’t have meetings with a superior telling me, “You’re on the right track. This aligns with your goals for this quarter because…” And since I am not what I would consider an “expert mother,” how do I justify the long-term effects of my efforts when they are wrought with thousands of well-meaning but possibly misguided attempts of discipline and character building lessons?
I took Noah on a field trip with his class today. I was responsible for him and three other little boys from his class. We all piled into my minivan and drove in the pouring rain for forty minutes to The St. Joseph Mercy Health Exploration Station in Canton, MI. While there, they listened to and participated in a presentation about the five senses and the functions of some of the major organs of the body then were able to run around a giant hands-on play area which included a heart rate monitor and a huge heart which lit up with their heart’s beats and an over-sized digestive tract. They could slide through an intestine and come out of the large intestine near a toilet (yep, my kid was a figurative piece of poop). Anyway, you get the idea; lots of interesting and even gross examples of what the human body does. The kids loved it.
When we got to the car after a morning of exploring, Noah whispered, “I love you, Mom. Thanks for taking me and my friends to this place.” This was one of those hand-smack-to-the-forehead moments. I am so lucky to be able to attend these things. I am blessed to be able to stay home with my kids. I am fortunate to be a part of my kids’ lives whenever I want because I don’t have to work for an employer. And further, I am so grateful to the parents who trust me with their babies; that I will get them to and from these events in one piece. This seems like a very significant responsibility that I’m being entrusted with.
Other perks of my “job” include being able to go to Luke’s class later this week to make muffins with him for Mother’s Day and every day, I can scoop up Gracie and cover her chubby cheeks with kisses and hear her peals of laughter any time I want to. I am a STAY AT HOME MOM. It suddenly feels a little more empowering.
It all got me thinking about this “life’s purpose” stuff a bit deeper. I know people who are really struggling, just as I have been, with finding purpose in their jobs or in their lives as a whole. I am sure there are people with a true calling doing what they love and loving what they do. But some of us just fall onto a path we didn’t expect and find that we don’t necessarily know if this path was meant for us. It does feel like it chooses you sometimes more than the other way around. And when this happens, you second guess yourself a lot. This is probably a horrible analogy, but I think of the following line when Murphy’s Law seizes some of those especially challenging days. In Kevin Smith’s “Clerks,” Dante Hicks complains, “I’m not even supposed to be here today!” I find myself having to deal with situations I shouldn’t have to just because life dealt me a hand I didn’t see coming.
But there is some sort of personal growth available for us in all scenarios we find ourselves a part of. The only way you can do it wrong is by running away from it. We have to meet life head on. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have predicted I’d be making my 10,000th peanut and butter jelly sandwich or looking at a calendar and realizing it’s been more than half a decade since I sat for an eight hour day in a cubicle. Life definitely threw me a few curve balls, but they’ve been lessons in patience, fortitude and humility.
I wouldn’t say that this Mom stuff comes naturally to me. I didn’t go to school thinking that being a mom was what I wanted to do when I grew up, though God knows I love my kids more than life itself. Motherhood wasn’t a “career choice” high on my list of dream jobs. In truth, motherhood sort of stole my heart and made any other job seem lackluster in comparison. If I break down the details of any of my top-ten dream jobs I wanted, even the non-stop work hours of “motherhood,” and the thousands of diapers changed can’t diminish the happiness I feel in this “profession.” It’s one of those begrudging truths that I’d probably end up liking this job most in the end.
I think Mike Rowe said it best, “Don’t follow your passion, but always bring it with you.”