Some conversations stick with you. And not in the delightful way that great food sticks to your ribs. More like superglue that irritates your skin and is impossible to remove.
Five years ago I was struggling with all the things a young mother wrestles with. The demands of my three young sons seemed never ending, and I remembered the days, just a few years before, when I taught full time. I had loved my job and was really, really good at it. Praise from students, colleagues, parents, and my principal was generous and frequent. While I loved my babies, I felt my talent and passion languish, and my heart was continually torn and guilty. For so many friends, the answer to this dissatisfaction was to have another baby, but it was clear to me that another baby was the last thing I needed.
It was in this state of mind that the aforementioned sticky conversation took place. I struggled to share my feelings with a sister-friend from church, hoping for some flicker of understanding. I explained to her about my deep desire to have some kind of professional work that brought me joy. My friend shrugged and said, “I guess you’ll just have to find a new passion.”
Find a new passion.
Just like that?
How does that even work?
It seemed to me that it would be easier to cut off my right hand than to not teach again.
Other voices told me the same. You can’t possibly consider going back to work full time before your kids are out of the house. You’ve got to keep having babies until the girl comes. You can’t. You’ve got to. The voices were so loud that my own inner voice went silent, and I limped along, uninspired, trying to run faster than I had strength
Not long after that superglue conversation, something happened that provided me with the only insight I could hang on to for many years. Another friend wrote on her blog about her music students and the lovely art she’d been able to hang in her home and sell. She spoke with deep satisfaction about the difficult pieces she’d been asked to play and sing in church settings and other places. As I heard the joy come through in her essay, I had an a-ha moment: Why should our cultural mores tell me that I needed to give up my passion? Because it was a paid profession? The idea that somebody would say to my friend, “Sorry! No more music! You are a mother now!” is totally ludicrous. Why should it be any different for my own gift? A gift I know comes from the Great Gift Giver Himself.
I’ve hung on to that idea for many years now. I’ve struggled to be content with teaching at church, or passing off merit badges with Boy Scouts, or tutoring, or teaching my children. Through all of it, I have known that my real passion is in the science classroom. And I have tried to patiently wait for that road to open up again.
Two-and-a-half years ago I stood on the cusp of a huge decision. Was I really going to have that fourth baby that seemed so important in validating my membership in the Church? Cheerfully shoulder that diaper bag one more time just to shut up the library lady who shouted down the hallway at least monthly that it was time to have another one? I prayed. And then prayed more. I went to the temple and sought peace about any path forward.
It was then that the answer came, as prosy as can be, to my yearning heart: a webpage explaining the virtues of an online master’s program in Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences. All the clarity I’d been seeking burst forth like a ray of sun. I started earning my master’s degree. Despite the myriad difficulties that have come with that decision, I’ve never doubted the original inspiration to go in that direction. My classes have filled me with ideas and happiness and ambition that I haven’t known for years. My degree is about how to modernize a classroom, how to make learning relevant for the children of this generation, and the best teaching practices consistent with current research. I’ve been able to think deeply about how children learn best and have applied much of what I know with students. My studies have given a depth to my natural abilities that is unexpected and delightful.
Sometimes dinner isn’t made. Sometimes I hit the wall. Sometimes the laundry piles up and the floor isn’t vacuumed. But it doesn’t matter, because this momma is following her passion, and I know that I’ve been led to do it. Mothering, it turns out, wasn’t the end of me; it was just one part of me.
Image credit: Zen