If parenting doesn’t kill me …

A part-time position was posted a couple weeks ago at the women’s homeless shelter where I volunteer a few hours on Sundays, and for a solid 10 days I was wondering: Me? Should I?

The perks were leaving my house for 12 to 20 hours a week; which, during a polar vortex, sounds like the prescription for bliss. I could’ve also earned a (small) pay check at the same time; gave my husband a chance to quit his second job (a debt-reduction second job); plus just spending more time there. Good things.

But you know why I didn’t go for it? My husband. He said, “I’m all for it, but will it make you happy? Is it what you need?”

What I need … What a gift he gave me in that question, and what a hard time I spent asking myself what I need, and what makes me happy. Would this job do it? My head said “I don’t know,” and if I’m about to walk away from something that I’ve spent four years asking God for, if my answer isn’t “hell yes,” it should be “no.”

So why did I keep coming back to applying for a job that would take me away from home three nights a week?

Because it’s February? Because the stomach flu worked its way through our family over 12 days. Because we homeschool, and see no one when the arctic winds move into the neighborhood. Because after I shampooed the flu-weary carpets my preschooler peed on them. Just because.

Because I need our park, and I’ve not been there since the snow came and lingered, too deep to pull the toddler on the sled.

Because being with the homeless is easier than being with three kids under 6 all day. Because the world is kinder to working moms (working moms are hard on themselves, but the world values paycheck-earners; I speak from experience).

I would’ve found value in that job — but you know, I really need to accept the gift of being valued here at home. My husband isn’t a Neanderthal, my kids aren’t cave-babies; they make being home wonderful … in April, July, September. October, even. I remember smiling all the way into late December, once.

But no human can make me feel great about being home in February, when I’m doing a load of bedsheets at 3 a.m. Again.

It’s me. I’m not looking in the right place. I’m running on empty. I’m burnt out, and it has nothing to do with anyone but me. And God.

And taking that job might’ve solved the issue temporarily — who doesn’t rise to the occasion of a new job? Especially one that meets a passion?

But I think staying here — and continuing to volunteer, too, because it IS one of my passions — but staying here, it’s bound to bend me into a deeper relationship with God and these four people here.

Running to the next best thing is great for collecting experiences, but I think what my soul needs more is to grow right here. And being with three kids younger than 6 is nothing if not grueling and constantly demanding … but if it doesn’t kill me, I’ll be stronger on the other side.

I can run — and I do run, but I come back. I run miles and miles and soak up the time alone so deeply that when I return home, for hours after I hug my children with more enthusiasm, laugh deeper with my husband.  And I can sit on the kitchen island for 15 minutes: “Mom’s reading. Figure it out.”  And my mom can hear I’m tired and she can offer to take the kids on an overnight, and that’ll sustain me for a while.

But I’ve got to get the rest worked out, and for me that’s probably prayer first, followed closely by seeing the fingerprint of God on my kids.

(Do you know how hard that is to do when one of them’s peed on freshly shampooed carpets?) 

I’ve gotta wrap my head around loving this abundant life here at home, because if I don’t, anyone we welcome here as a guest will feel this is only worthwhile, only worth living out themselves until the next best thing, big paycheck, big idea comes along. When in reality, when we live out our daily lives with some form of joy in our hearts, we can share a tiny piece of heaven with each other.

I believe this, but in February, this did not happen.

March, have mercy.

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