Stuck Like Glue

by Nan

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

6 Comments on “Stuck Like Glue

  1. This is such a great post, I am so glad you never gave up on the thing that has brought you so much joy!!

    Also? I am not a mother, but there are still days when dinner isn’t made, I hit the wall, the laundry is in piles everywhere and I don’t vacuum. 😉

    xox

  2. “Why should our cultural mores tell me that I needed to give up my passion? Because it was a paid profession?”

    Such a powerful thought. I am not a mother, but this is something I have given a lot of thought to since getting married three years ago, when I was suddenly faced with the possibility of pregnancy and the necessity of a plan going in.

    I love writing. I love getting paid to write. I love interviewing people and listening to their stories. Do I have to swap out the intensity, professionalism and exposure of news for the narcissism and, frankly, extortion of a blog (sorry, bloggers) so I can be a mother?

    I don’t think so. Your piece has given me something to chew on.

  3. perfect. you summed up this experience perfectly. plus i think everybody has met that “library lady” in one form or another…

  4. I guess I never believed that there were only two choices — work or not work. The Lord is much more creative than that. You can have a passion and even pursue it while being a mom, but maybe not in the way you originally envisioned.

    I’ve been working from home for 13 years now — doing everything from freelance project work to now working full time. Before having my first, I figured I’d return to the workforce in the job I had. When she arrived, I quickly realized I’d miscalculated my attachment and had to switch paths.

    Finding a way to make money from home was like running on a rolling log. Because I started the process after my daughter was born, I felt pressured to replace my income as quickly as possible. It didn’t go as smoothly as I’d hoped.

    I counseled my younger sisters and every young woman I meet to plan ahead. Pick a major in college, pick a career, pick a company to work for…all with the knowledge that you may want something very flexible once the kids arrive. I’m happy to say that my younger sisters followed my advice and both transitioned from full time, in-an-office work, to consulting, work-from-home businesses BEFORE their kids arrived. For them, the transition was easy and not nearly as stressful as it was for me.

    I believe you can have both…just maybe not in the way you initially envisioned. With a little planning and a great deal of inspiration, you’ll end up doing exactly what you’re supposed to do.

  5. I couldn’t agree more. I, too, felt inspired that the time had come for me to get more schooling and start an additional career. I was so surprised when I started working how great it felt to have two career titles: Mother and Accountant.

  6. Brilliant, Nan! I I get so frustrated with the idea that the only **real** value of a woman is her ability to bear and raise children. That invalidates a whole raft of women who can’t or don’t. I think we should all find our passion–whatever it may be–and then share that with the world. If it’s raising kids, then great. But if it’s something else, you can touch additional lives (not to mention your own), by letting your light “so shine”.

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