With the flip of the calendar last week, I was optimistic that it would be the start of a new season in my life.
Last night reminded me that life still happens, no matter what season it is.
These things always seem to happen near or after bedtime, when my emotional and physical tolerances are nearly tapped out. Our house started on fire at 3am four years ago on this same day. Our water pump quit working after 10pm not too long ago. And last night, as we were shutting things down for bed, we heard rain.
Only it’s freezing outside, so that couldn’t happen.
Turns out it was only raining in the office we are trying to remodel.
Like, the early spring kind of rain, when it doesn’t quite pour, but you know the droplets are gigantic and lovely. Only not so lovely pouring out of the insulation in the ceiling. Not at all.
So my husband is all FML and I’m all like FML and quite frankly it’s easier to say that jokingly as we resort back to the early days of our marriage when everything in our cabin-turned-home fell apart.
But the reality is, this time we COULD have been rich enough to hire out help. We COULD have just picked up the phone and called some contractors to fix the problem and finish the remodel if I hadn’t stayed home to raise our children.
I will never change that decision, and it’s one my husband and I made together, so it wasn’t all me. In fact, if I could go back in time I would have stayed home sooner. It was a fantastic decision, but it was also a huge sacrifice.
A huge sacrifice to our family. Less money meant less toys – for both the hubby and the kids. Less money meant less giving at Christmas. Less money meant leaving a big community church as the constant pressure to give more became burdensome. Less money is less money, and in America where it’s all Keeping up with the Jones’, it can seem like a fail.
But staying home was also a sacrifice to me personally. I know this is so selfish, and it is, but it was a sacrifice. I sacrificed title and professional respect and experience. I sacrificed a ton of sleep. (I honestly never took a nap once in the six years I stayed home. I became a walking zombie). I sacrificed a Home and Gardens home.
But I gained so much more. I gained a relationship with my kids that can only be grown in that way. I gained new friends in a new community. I gained a support system all its own. I gained a closer walk with Jesus. I gained more than I sacrificed, but sacrifice cuts deeper and hurts before it is healed with gains.
I didn’t just up and decide impulsively to stay home with my kids. In fact, my entire life I had imagined the cute little pre schools my kids would attend or the wonderful daycares like the one my Mom ran to be the second home for my children early in my career. But it just wasn’t meant to be.
One of the reasons I quit (there were many!) my career six years ago was that I had pissed off a client who was diagnosed with personality disorder – sadistic and narcissistic tendencies. This basically meant he had no problem severely abusing his children, and I had to testify at his trial about the horrors the kids had reported, and he hated me. He was reported to have vandalized the county prosecutor’s home during the trial, he had set the house on fire next to the women’s shelter where his family was staying, and he tried to follow me home after the trial.
So, on top of kids sleeping issues, I was absolutely paranoid about this narcissistic jerk coming for my kids because my testimony had, in his eyes, taken his kids from him. I knew if he got ahold of my kids, it wouldn’t be for a walk in the park. They would be tortured because of my choice in profession, most likely by fire, which makes random things like a small house fire just that much more traumatic.
So, long tangent there, but on top of getting up with kids through the night, I was constantly responding to sounds of the night.
When my baby finally started kindergarten, I started back at the beginning. I felt this compulsion to thank my family for their solidarity for those years, so I waited as many tables as humanly possible at the restaurant I worked at in high school. I loved it. I loved the customers. I loved the cash. I didn’t really love my coworkers.
I was so used to the professional field and stay at home parenting community that are so committed and supportive of each other. They were so dedicated to their “job” that I never had to pick up their slack. Working with people who never wanted to complete tasks at the restaurant outside of strictly waiting tables job, and they usually didn’t even do those well, was exhausting. They were annoyed with me for getting annoyed with them. When the subbing jobs picked up at my kids’ schools, I gladly exited the waitressing position. Then life kind of snowballed from there.
However, I knew that I needed a different track in life. I didn’t want to go back into the business that I had, in effect, run from. The position didn’t change. There would always be 99% awesome clients, but it’s that 1% I didn’t want knowing about my kids. I decided that I needed to go back to school to get the licensure I needed to pursue a different track.
However, on nights like last, when it’s raining from your ceiling in January in freezing Minnesota, it feels so utterly selfish. If I just quit my spring semester, that would keep thousands of dollars in my pocket, money that could be used to fix this disaster of a house instead of remodel little by little as the cash comes in. Cash that will come in slower now that I have quit two jobs.
I was emotionally exhausted, and this little crisis didn’t help one bit. The reminders of my failures came back in fast forward, like a replay, and I felt the OCD come back full force, kind of like a comforting blanket. Control what I can so I can block out the crap that I can’t. Shut door to remodel to pretend there’s no disaster and clean the heck out of the rest of the house. That was my unhealthy coping mechanism, which cost me precious again sleep last night. Precious sleep I need to thwart the migraines and dramatic emotional responses to everyday life.
Maybe partly due to this overtired part, I had a random thought cross my mind that scared me to my toes. I get it now, I get how moms can just walk out of their lives and leave everything behind. Now that’s an awful thought to have. I NEVER understood how parents could do that to their spouses, their kids, the families they had spent decades forming and shaping and working for. But last night, I got it. The complete sense of being overwhelmed, of never being able to dig out of the mess you’ve got yourself in, the despair and desperation and fear, deep down fear of failure and exhaustion. It would be so much easier to just walk away and start fresh, in a house that doesn’t rain, maybe somewhere where my face doesn’t freeze walking to and from my car, and find myself a very rich boyfriend. But honestly if I walked away I would be searching for what I already have – my handsome, charming husband. My spirited, brilliant children. My dogs, my plot of land, my friends.
So, after a little pity party, I set up a bunch of fans and a floor heater and hoped to God that it would suffice, that it would dry the mess my husband was up in the attic diagnosing before it turned to mold.
It’s hard to predict the future. How on earth do I know that my decision to go back to school and set our family back financially another two years is actually going to work out?
I think it will because I am following a passion. I think it will because I have had people pray over this decision for me. I think it will because I want it to. But I don’t know. And if I go through with the rest of this and it all works out, it’ll be worth it. But if I mess up somehow, it’ll be a pain I won’t soon recover from.
Life sometimes brings us storms, and the storms are never predictable or controlled. We do our best to thwart them, but even the best of us wake to a disaster now and then. If I imagine my office, drenched with water, I could focus on the lack of sleep, sense of failure and emotional exhaustion it brings. Or, I could choose to see it as a spring rain. We caught it before it ruined the thousand dollars worth of equipment I just purchased for our nonprofit. We caught it before it spread to other areas of the house. We were home to catch it – not at the hospital or sleeping in a car or in a psychiatric ward (OK, maybe a bit dramatic). We caught it before the storm raged out of control. And for that I am thankful.
Have a great day, I hope that it only rains if it should at your home tonight.
(If my kids ever read this, please know it was all definitely worth it, and thanks for hanging in there with me!)