Updated: Jan 11, 2020
I'm from the South.
Not only am I from the South, but I feel like I had a pretty traditional southern, small-town upbringing. I played sports, cheered for the state university on Saturdays, and grew up on a farm. Growing up, I remember coming home with dinner (supper, as we said) practically on the table. My mother also ironed every stitch of clothing I wore to school, we cleaned our house every Saturday before football kick-off, and unless someone was sick, we NEVER missed a minute of school.
Fast forward twenty-something years and I am a mother. From day one, my children never had a chance to live in the structure I grew up in. I gave myself a lot of grace when Harper, my oldest, was born. She was born at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where Josh was rehabilitating as a new amputee. We were all just trying to survive. We moved out of the hospital to Auburn, Alabama and my biggest move toward a "routine" was putting Harper in a crib in her own room for the first time ever when she was seven months old. Civilian life was like trying to hop into double-dutch without falling on your face. We just wanted to swiftly jump in as if we had been there all along.
I had three jobs in three years as Josh finished his Bachelor's at Auburn and began working in athletics. I was out to make sure the world knew that being jobless for two and a half years to take care of Josh was not going to be a problem. So, I jumped into athletics at Auburn as well... then, I found out I was pregnant with baby #2.
I don't know what it is about second children, but they tend to give you perspective on how fast time is flying. I thought Harper was a baby until I had my second baby. And as Satan would have it, I felt guilty for all the things I wasn’t doing right. We picked up dinner... A LOT. We didn’t really have a bed time, we just had a series of things we did after dinner that ended with children in the bed; sometimes at 8:45, sometimes at 10:00. And cleaning? Uh, I usually did that when the dust bunnies frightened the dog. Everything from bringing kids to 6:00 am practices to nursing a baby in the bleachers while dodging volleyballs was pretty much the complete opposite of a good, structured life. Will my kids realize this one day? Will they judge me for it?
In some weird way, it’s like I’m showing loyalty to my lineage. Those sit down dinners, clean floors, and prompt bedtimes mean that I’m giving my family what a good mom should. What I really need is right relationship with my job and family whatever that means for my life in this chapter. So far in my adulthood, the feeling of failure comes from the assumption that I would find a rhythm to life that I could just copy and paste. Each day would have a staple event like a family dinner or a bedtime story that checked the "great job, Mom" box. The reality is we live around the schedules of sports teams. We cancel vacations because Auburn made the playoffs, dinner is not limited to concession stand popcorn and pretzels, and the only "me time" that I get is usually in a hotel room on a volleyball trip hundreds of miles away from home. Not one minute of it looks like what I had growing up. However, I've decided that my kids are better for it.
I have decided that I like my children's ability to stay up late to come to my games. I like that their idea of fun is chasing Aubie around a stadium all night. And, for the most part, I like that they run into our gymnastics facility, our volleyball locker room, the baseball field, or Auburn Arena like they own the place. I'm not saying that like a parent that expects their children to step into sports one day. In fact, I think there's no one on earth that has more of a right to bypass sports than my kids, but I do like that they are constantly around people that are trying to do their jobs at a high level. I have never felt guilty for having a job, but I have certainly looked at my exhausted kids while they ate cereal in the corner of the gym before school and wondered if I was dragging them around to more than they could handle. That's when I have to remind myself that everyday I am showing them what it's like to be an adult in real time.
Until they move out, my children will only ever live in my house. They don't know what they are "missing out on" because this is all they know. That's the beauty of the innocence of kids, they don't know enough about the world around them to know there is another way. Comparison is the thief of joy and me creating this dumb, Stepford wife image in my head will not create joy in my home or in my parenting. Josh and I decided that joy and bonding will come when our kids need to feel included. As soon as they are old enough to tag along, they will be invited. Does it make work harder and more chaotic at times? Yes, but this is important for my other audience: these college-age athletes who have less than four years to figure out what they want to be when they grow up. If they can see a staff member managing children and the team, then they can visualize themselves with a family and a job one day. These girls need exposure to women with a family and busy jobs because the world needs to make room for more of us. The most important thing they can learn is that no one else's life can be imitated. They must ambitiously go after what they want with the expectation of blazing their own trail to get it.
Ephesians 2:10 "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."
God already knows how Josh and I will survive football, volleyball, and basketball season. He already knows how you will manage your marriage, kids, and job too. That's the work that He's prepared beforehand-- our ability to love and provide for our children even if it's different from the way we were raised. Don't allow yourself, your cause, and your purpose to become small because it doesn't fit into the same box as the upbringing you received. If you visualize your children as ambitious, brave adults, then you better be one yourself. Despite the time away, the early mornings, the late nights, my prayer is that my children look back and are thankful that their mom brought them along.