Sunday, February 15, 2009

I have finally learned contentment

As a child, I was a perfectionist. If I had messed up on a paper for school, I started over. In 5th grade when I was assigned to the "B" math group, I worked and begged until they moved me to the "A" group, even though the teacher of that group was mean and hated by all the students.

In high school, I joined groups and clubs and organizations, eventually serving as president or vice-president or section leader.

When I got my degree and joined the work force, I had 4 jobs in 3 years as I was always moving to something bigger and better. I became the youngest senior tech writer around.

When K was born, I had a huge struggle of whether to continue working or stay at home. I decided to work, but I dropped my hours to part-time and worked from home for a year. Just as I had chosen to go back to the office, I was laid-off. After only a month at home, I went searching for a new job and became a teacher.

Just before K turned 4, we moved to NC and we made the decision for me to stay home. For a long time, it was so incredibly difficult. Suddenly, I was important to only 2 people - Mr. at Home and K - and they couldn't give me the affirmation I was used to receiving from an office full of colleagues or a classroom full of students. I wasn't *needed* in the same way anymore and I resented it.

After a year, I went to work at the local Target and worked nights and weekends. If you asked, I was doing it to make a little money for our upcoming adoption trip. Truthfully, I was doing it more because I needed the opportunity to feel important. I needed people to tell me that I was good at what I did and that they liked me and appreciated my skills.

I worked at Target for over a year before Mr. at Home convinced me to quit. It was hard on my family most evenings when I would race out the door to work as soon as he came in. I missed almost every one of K's tee ball games. I was tired from little sleep, homeschooling, watching over a busy toddler, and trying to keep up with the different obligations of our household, but I still felt the need to do *something* that didn't revolve around my role as wife and mother.

Since then we've sold our house, moved to an apartment, moved to a bigger apartment, and moved to a townhome. We've traveled and made new friends. Our girls have grown and picked up a few more commitments with sports, dance, and homeschooling. Mr. at Home has gotten involved in a couple of new things with work and church. I've started a blog, had a story published, did a freelance writing project, and attended a writing conference. Life has been busy and chaotic at times, so I hadn't paid much attention to a feeling that's been building. I hadn't stopped to think about it carefully and it came as a bit of a surprise when I finally put it into words.

I am content.

For the first time in a long time, I am not searching for the next big thing. I don't have any driving ambition to reenter the work force. I'm not worrying about whether we should have more kids or if we should send the ones we have to public school or keep them at home. I have no wild dream to move across the country or publish the great American novel. I don't even worry about how many people are reading my blog.

That's not to say that my life is all sweetness and light. I still have grumpy days. Mr. at Home works some evenings. The girls make many not-so-wise choices. We still have days when we're overbooked and stressed, but I don't get overwhelmed and resentful in the same way anymore.

I am simply content to live the life I have been given right now.

Back near the beginning of the year, Marybeth posted the idea of claiming a verse for the year. That sounded too much like a "resolution" to me, so I glossed over the idea and kept going. Nevertheless, God gave me a verse complete with flashing neon arrows pointing to it yelling, "This is it!! Don't forget this one!!"

"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you," 1 Thessalonians 4:11

I have recently been working on the concept of a "quiet life" content to mind my own business and work with my hands in my own home by keeping it clean and spending time making our home a pleasant place to be. We eat more at home now, the house is currently clean, and I've kept busy with continuing to learn to crochet. And I'm happy doing it, especially seeing the wisdom God reveals in the next verse.

"so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody." 1 Thessalonians 4:12

"Not be dependent on anybody." Not for praise for my skills or affirmation that I'm doing a good job. Not for fame or respect for my great achievements. I have spent my whole life consumed with ambition and the need for approval from others. I have struggled with restlessness and discontentment and nothing I did could change it. Good thing God doesn't need me to do it myself so I can give Him all the credit.


Angela S said...

You did a great job of putting into words what many women feel. Being home with our children is wonderful and important but is a huge adjustment. Its different from the work and environments we've worked in the first part of our lives and I've found it has and is taking me years to adapt my desires and expectations as well as find new passions. I'm so happy for you realizing you are content.

Anonymous said...

LOVE this post, Valerie!


Jen said...

Nicely said my friend! Loved it. I found it convicting and refreshing.

Anonymous said...

I could seriously just post this to my own blog with a few name changes, of course ;)
While I'm not totally content yet..I know the feeling of searching for confirmation from people.
I'm glad you have found your "happy place"!

jinksto said...

Well written, well said, well done.

From a new friend, I have the greatest respect for what you do. The daily devotion to your "job" that homeschooling takes is, by my estimation at least, truly fantastic. Add to that all of the other bits of daily life that make your Children happy and well adjusted and you've got a really neat package.

After the first time that we met your children Mrs Jinksto and I had a conversation about how polite, well adjusted and entirely too smart they both are. It was decided (without reservation mind you) that they are welcome at our house any time. This is a rare occurrence. Extremely so in fact. We like Children but have very strict views about how they should behave. Yours are exceptional in the truest sense of the word. Oh, I'm sure they make bad choices occasionally but they tend to be age appropriate mistakes and something that can be expected and used for teaching. Still, they get it right such a high percentage of the time as to be over and above most other children that I've met.

Once a year, I meet with my manager and he tells me how I've done for the year. Rarely am I surprised at the result and I suspect that the same would apply to you. If once per year your family were to sit down together with you and "rate your performance" over the previous year I'd be willing to bet that they'd give you near perfect scores across the board. In fact, it's too bad we don't do this in a more formal way than "mothers day" but I suspect this would be taken in entirely the wrong context. :) In the meantime, I guess you'll have to just accept a rating of "exceeds/exceeds" from an external observer.

Yay Mom!