“No! Don’t go!” my children each clung to a leg.
I threw my travel mug and keys on the counter, making my hands available to put one palm on each kid’s soft hair.
“I’m sorry, loves. I want to stay, but I have to go to this meeting.”
My 5 year old daughter looked up at me, tears streaming down her face, “I wish you were a doctor,” she proclaimed, “Then you wouldn’t have to leave us at night for meetings.”
I giggled a bit inside. “Oh sweetie, if I were a doctor, I’d be on call and I’d work All. The. Time.”
“Then I wish you were a scientist,” she said, “and every night you’d come home from your lab and stay here with me.”
“I know, I know,” I said hugging her tight, and choosing not to tell her of our dear friend, a scientist who works exceptionally long hours.
Instead, I hugged them fiercely, tore them off me, and rushed out the door with my travel mug and over-stuffed bag. As I got into my car, I saw two little faces, knowingly breaking my heart into a million pieces, peering out the screen door.
As I drove to the Presbytery meeting, I thought: she’s wrong, I don’t want to be a doctor or a scientist. No, if I had a different life with different choices, I’d be one of those put together stay at home moms. One of those moms who look effortlessly put together, always on time for pickups, and always keeping it cool while their kids go crazy. Maybe I’d go to the grocery store smack in the middle of the day in the middle of the week. Maybe I’d take coupons with me. Maybe I’d take a full-on list that matches the coupons to our budget and lays out all the ingredients for the homemade healthy meals I’d cook for my family. Then I’d come home to put all the food away in its special place, while my kids calmly watch Bluey on the TV. Maybe my house would be clean, because we’d find a place for all the toys and markers and coloring books and dinosaurs and Legos and Minnie Mouse puzzles and Pete the Cat books. Maybe we’d go to a swim or dance lesson in the morning when the kids still had energy. Maybe we’d visit a museum on a weekday. Maybe we’d make close friends with the other stay at home parents and arrange playdates at reasonable times.
Maybe we’d be less hurried. Maybe we’d be less haggard. Maybe we’d get it all together.
These are fleeting thoughts, really. Ones my husband and I jokingly argue about who’d get to do it. He dreams of being a house husband and full time stay at home Dad. On nights when we play pass the kids and eat quick meals, we dream it could be different.
A few months ago, I ran into a neighbor who was juggling two children, younger than mine. She said something I’ll never forget: “I don’t know how you do it. You make it all look so easy.” I laughed, stunned that someone else thought I was that put together mom. I thought to myself: “this is good news, because clearly my yelling isn’t traveling that far down the street.”
Apparently, we’re all fooling each other well. For some reason, we all think the grass is greener on the other side. Which, of course, it’s not. We all have joys and struggles, successes and failures. We’re all loving our children more than time and space can possibly allow … and also screaming our heads off about putting on shoes! We’re all living blessedly chaotic lives – no matter what life choices we’ve made.
Which is always the conclusion my husband and I come to on the flip side of those “meeting nights.” For we recognize two truths about ourselves: 1. We both feel called to our work. 2. We wouldn’t be very good stay-at-home parents.
The truth is: even if we could change our employment situations, we’re not going to change who we are. We wouldn’t be different people. Even if we were home all day, we wouldn’t suddenly turn into homemakers. Our house would most likely be even messier with kids inside the house 8 extra hours a day. Even if we could enroll our children in daytime activities, we wouldn’t be any better at adult friendships. We’ll still be awkward introverts, who nervously text people, asking them come over and be our friend. Even if we had time to plan out meals, we still wouldn’t become master chefs. We’d still cook our go-tos of tacos, spaghetti, and chicken with vegetables.We’d probably still have a messy house and not enough time to shower. We’d have the same exact family joys, just at other times of the day.
The truth is, God didn’t form me with the gifts of a homemaker. God formed me with the gifts of a pastor. God didn’t fill me with the love of décor, or of cooking a good meal, or organization, or crafting. So many days, I wish God did.
Instead, God gave me other gifts … And God makes parents from all kinds of people with all kinds of gifts. Know this: whatever gifts you have been blessed with – they are yours to serve your community and your family.
God has a different calling for each of us. A banker. A doctor. A scientist. A teacher. An engineer. A stay-at-home parent. A home maker. A consultant. And on and on and on and on. All these jobs and vocations are all true callings. Yet, none of us are the same. None of make the same decisions for our families. For what is right for me, isn’t always right for you. God has formed us differently and belovedly ,and thus leads us into different callings.
What I’ve discovered is that I’m the best parent I can be when I’m fully myself. I’m the best parent when I show my full self to my children. Which means our house may not have a beautiful garden, or super healthy gourmet meals, or a crafting corner. But we will have stacks of books, pieces of puzzles, imagination stations, computer desks where we work like Daddy, and microphones where we preach like Mommy. I may not always like these night meetings, but the work we do there is part of who I am. So, I will go and lead and preach and teach and care (and attempt to accept the dead plants, scattered puzzles, and unfolded laundry). In it all, I pray that my children will see that they too can be the person God has made them to be.
A few weeks ago, our church’s nursery director sent me a video. While I preached in the sanctuary my 2 year old son set up his own “sermon” in the nursery. He dragged out a music stand. He pulled over a chair. Then he stood at his “pulpit” and preached his sermon: “Twinkle, twinkle little star how I wonder what you are. Amen.” Then he sat down in the chair. Just like his mama.
Children always find a way to show us exactly what we need to hear.