Thursday, April 12, 2012

Just A Mommy

I was 12 years old when my cousin, Minniette, made me a wager. She proposed that by the ripe "old" age of 28, I would be at home with my kids. At the time, those words filled me with outrage. After all, there was NO way I was going to be "just a mommy". Being raised in what seemed like a "greenhouse" of strong women, the role of capable, independent woman was easy to embrace. Family. Career. I naively believed I could have it all, do it all, and be it ALL. It never occurred to me that I would be a stay at home mother, for I had big things to accomplish. Confident that Minniette was mistaken in her assessment, I took that bet. I was certain that her dollar was mine and I smugly imagined the day I would rub her nose in my victory.

Ironically, the year I turned 28 changed my life forever. It was the year that God gave me our beloved son, Jack. He is the first of our three gifts from Heaven. With his birth, my priorities shifted. Over the next few years, I began to sense that somebody had sold me an empty dream of materialism and achievement that no longer aligned with my heart. With the birth of each of my children, my heart and my desires continued to change. Over time, I began to see in myself the things my cousin has always known.

The LORD gave me a heart that longs to care for and protect those whom I deeply love. Responsible, sensible, and careful, I was the self-appointed guardian of my younger brother and cousins, whether they needed it or not. God made my ears sensitive to tones of voice and my eyes keen to body language in order to infer feelings. As I came to truly know my heart, I discovered a startling conclusion. I was born to be a caretaker. No, I was born to be a Mother. It seems my cousin saw that better than I, even when we were children. I lost the bet, but won something much greater...a sense of purpose. I owe my cousin a dollar and my thanks. (Thanks, Minniette! I owe you a buck!)

Today, my sense of identity is firmly rooted in being the heart of our home. At long last, I have stepped out of the full-time workforce as an educator and into life as a stay at home mom. Instead of grading papers, writing lesson plans, and attending meetings, my days are now filled with clipping coupons, driving our children all over town for practices and rehearsals, and managing the many responsibilities of our home. Instead of finding my worth in my performance at work, I am content to be "just a mommy" while I model the love of Christ to my family.

There is no pay or earthly recognition for the work that I do every day. To the contrary, there are even some people who belittle and degrade my choice to be at home. With humility and gratitude, I recognize that my efforts to shape my kids do not go unnoticed by God. I pray my efforts to guide my children, for whom I am accountable, bring the LORD great glory.

Now let me clarify a few things. I recognize that a woman can be a good mother and work outside the home. In fact, I was raised by a woman who did just that! Whether it be ambition or necessity, I do not begrudge another woman the right to make her own choices. Some women are remarkable enough to do it all. Be it all. To everyone. And if that were the calling on my life, I have no doubt that God would have empowered me to do just that.

But, I must confess, that is just not "me". Truly, I was never very good at juggling both motherhood and a career. Trying to do both left me feeling exhausted and discouraged. I just couldn't seem to "do it all". Despite my efforts for many years to hold down the fort both at home and at work, I went to bed feeling like a failure in nearly every aspect of my life. I wasn't the teacher, the wife, the mother, or the friend that I was called to be. There simply wasn't enough of me to go around and I knew it. By faith, my husband and I decided I needed to be at home and we made many sacrifices to make it happen for our family, even when our checkbook said it was impossible. We made adjustments, created a budget, and we prayed A LOT!

God has blessed me in my decision to follow His lead regarding my position in this world, and I am thankful that I have the awesome privilege of being at home for my kids. Each day, I am reminded that my children are learning by my example. They listen to my guidance. They watch me intently. Not a day goes by that I don't understand more fully what God has called me to do. As a mother, I am shaping my children into the people they will become. Every action and every reaction makes an impact on the hearts of my kids. It's a heavy responsibility and an awesome privilege. But it's also LOTS of work! And that is only part of what I do all day.

I am the chief dietitian, counselor, detective, judge, cook, personal shopper, chauffeur, housekeeper, and gardener for our family. I am sure I could think of a few more titles, but I have to finish my point before the kids get home from school. My husband is out of town on business so I am flying solo tonight. When the kiddos push through that door we need to finish homework and dinner before our daughter goes to soccer practice. Did I mention she also has new badges for me to sew on her Girls In Action vest? Add seamstress to the list of titles I hold.

Be advised. I have discovered that life as a full-time wife and mother is not for the faint of heart. My days are full and bedtime is still relished at the Arbuckle household. We do not drive new cars and we stick closely to our budget. Financially, we make tough decisions and even give up luxuries to make ends meet. Some days, I wonder how our finances are going to all work out in the end. Contrary to what some in the world believe, we are not wealthy. We simply made a choice to downsize our life so that I could be home. It wasn't easy, but it was right for us. And I have no regrets, though I could use a nap and a mani/pedi.

Now, there is a sweetness that has gripped our family as never before. I believe it is because I am utilizing my God given gifts. I am, in fact, who I was created to be and in that I find my sleep to be sweet. I am just a Mommy. My title isn't grand and my achievements are not met with accolades, praise, or glory. I won't be winning any awards this side of Heaven. But I have peace. I have joy. And I know what it is to be truly happy in the LORD. It's a lesson I pray will stay rooted in my heart as I raise up children to take their place in this world.

I pray that God will give each of my kids eyes to see their gifts and talents and grant them the courage to follow their God-given dreams. I hope they are wiser than I was in finding their way in life. And more than any accomplishment, "I have no greater desire than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." (3 John 1:4) Today, life has come full circle as my son is now starting to make plans for his future. Many days I listen to my Jack share his heart and I counsel him carefully. It's so much fun listening to my kids dream of what they will "be" when they grow up. A baker. A dance teacher. An engineer. And in the words of my youngest blessing Sofie, "A mommy...just a mommy".

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