A Different Way of Living
I wouldn't call it neglect, of course. Disengaged, distracted, or too busy is more like it. This is how my parenting could have been described for a handful of years. It's not like I was trying to be a less-than-good mom, but there were other things that took time and energy away from my boys.
My work schedule mandated that I leave the house by 7:15, dragging a kid or two with me. Poptarts and drinkable yogurts could be seen whirring by neighbors as my minivan raced to school. While my kids were in elementary school, they endured hours after school in my classroom. Even though they were with me, I couldn’t give them my full attention, as I had responsibilities and tasks to complete. Once back at home, my energy and time was limited. I was exhausted from being “on” all day and needing to focus my attention for long periods of time. I also had to offer some kind of nutrition to my family, help with homework, reconnect with hubby, and complete activities related to teaching.
There’s a period in our family that we call the Orphan Years. My older son reached middle school and his schedule was now different than mine. He went to school later and finished school later. Since I couldn’t take him to school, he rode the bus in the morning and afternoon. It was here that he was unfortunately introduced to the bus vernacular. For almost three years my husband would walk my son to the bus stop in the morning or drive him to school if it was raining. In the afternoon, the bus dropped the kids off at the entrance to our subdivision and my middle schooler burned a few calories as he walked less than half a mile home. So, an hour after school let out he walked in the door and grabbed a snack, relaxed, and started on his homework. My husband was usually at home to greet him and deal with any immediate situation, since he worked for an IT company from home. But then it was back to conference calls and hosting webinars and the demands of work. For a couple two-three hours, my tween was on his own. By the time I arrived home, he was usually finished with his homework and he enjoyed debriefing me on the school day. He made the A/B honor roll and was given the Citizenship award throughout middle school. A few years later when his little brother studied the same subject matter, it was all new to me.
But, you know, that’s life, right? We just moved into a new house in a new town, which meant lots of money was being spent in all directions. I enjoyed helping students and my salary helped us pay our mortgage and the bills. You’re probably a busy mom, too, and this picture of chaos might be nothing compared to your busyness. My boys were able to see their parents work together to create a lifestyle that allowed our family to go places and do things and have stuff we wanted.
Things started to turn sour when my first priority became and remained work.
It’s not like I intended to make my profession my first priority. Drug addicts and alcoholics don’t intend to abuse their body, either. I let my worst fears get the best of me and my whole world was out of whack. What if I wasn’t a good teacher? What if my students didn’t learn everything they were supposed to? What if I didn’t make friends in a new place? What if my performance wasn’t good enough? Through the never ending cycle of worry, I created an idol with the raw materials of insecurity. I worshipped my idol of performance-based worth and perfection at the expense of my husband and children. I couldn’t say these things years ago. I would just tell you that I was in a steep learning curve and working for my family.
It wasn’t until later, a few years ago, that I realized that my self-worth and value come from God alone. I stopped looking for affirmation of my worth from people, professions, my reputation, my looks, and my performance. I accepted the truth that God loved me just because he made me, and not for what I could or couldn’t do. I had heard this message before in various ways, but can’t say I really believed it. It was incredibly freeing to take this truth to heart and live it out.
The steps I took to reorder my priorities so that my boys received my time and energy appropriately are for another blog post. For now, consider who or what gives you self-worth. Are you trying to gain your security through what you do or what people think of you? There’s a different way of living and it starts with Jesus. Each dunk of my biscotti gives me a chance to thank God for bringing beauty to my life through Jesus.