Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Having it all

As a women, not to mention working mother, I can't help but struggle with the question of having it all.  And in my recent weeks, I also have to ponder the idea if I am able to satisfy my idea of having it all, will that also play a role in my personal happiness? 

I cannot remember a time when I did not want to be a parent.  My desire to have a child has been there for as long as I can remember, so when Reagan came along I was thrilled.  I remember driving home shortly after my husband and I had decided to start trying and I just burst into tears because I was so excited that this stage of my life was happening.  If you had asked me that day, I would have told you I HAD IT ALL.  I was married, had earned my Master's degree, was a homeowner, working full-time, and now I was starting a family.  That was my definition to having exactly what I wanted.

As it always does, time and circumstances change.  And a baby changes everything.  After Reagan arrived and 9 short weeks later I returned to my job, I became uncertain if I could balance working full-time and motherhood, let alone be successful at either.  Without a spouse who had schedule flexibility or the ability to spend a lot of time at home, the majority of childcare feel to me and I started to buckle under the burden.  Now I had the family I wanted, but could I still say I HAD IT ALL?  If you had asked me this about a year ago, my sleep deprived, stressed out self would have told you I had too much.

Again, time changes things, and I started to find my groove.  My husband took a new job which gave him a lot more stability in his schedule and I found that routine helped me feel more balanced.  I could sleep through the night again finally and I wasn't crying just thinking about my crazy schedule.  Though we are not without our ups and downs, unexpected issues, and occasionally suffer from every germ day care throws at us, life got better.  At least it felt more normal and manageable.  So now, did I have it all again?  Was this what life was "supposed" to be like in order to have it all?  

I've decided the whole idea of trying to evaluate having it all is complete crap.  It's focused too much on other people's opinions, status quo, accomplishments, and possessions.  I decided to try to take a different point of view.  Did I feel the life I was living was rewarding, blessing God, and building up others?

CNN has had a few articles about this lately, mostly from the after math of Yahoo!'s CEO making major changes to telecommuting.  The article I read yesterday had some interesting view points from women in a variety of life stages and careers.  My favorite  line was from Valarie Kaur who said "I am learning to embrace not just my career but my own fuller vision of what makes a good life."   I imagine we may define what makes life good differently, but I also bet we can all relate to that desire.

I recently wrote about my desire to seek more joy in my life, and I think if I can better understand how I would define the good life then the joy will also find me.  

I enjoy my job, I feel as though I have a purpose and impact at doing what I do.   However, I also need to be able to feel guilt free when my time and energy goes into that job.  That's something I am going to have to figure out how to overcome.  It's not wrong to work (or to stay home for that matter) but it is wrong to feel guilt about making that decision.  It's a reality for me that my income is necessary for my family so working is best for us.  There are advantages and disadvantages of this, no need for debate.   Working is my reality, so I need to push aside mommy guilt and find joy in my work.

I also enjoy leaving my job at 5 pm and going home to spend time with my daughter.  I enjoy weekends off, and the ability to take sick leave to care for my child or vacation day to spend time with family.  These things are possible because of my job.   I find it absolutely necessary to leave work at work, and devote time to just being present and engaged with my daughter.  For me, joy is found when I can completely unplug from the office and just be a mom.  Having the ability to seperate work and personal life is critical for me and also thankfully possible. 

In my case "having it all" will mean going to work with a guilt free, cheerful heart and savoring the non-working time by spending it loving my kid.  It can not be about achieving a certain job title or pay check.  I won't find joy there, but I find it in the balance I strive to achieve in work and family.   

Perhaps I am not as career driven as some, or define the good life in the same you would.  That does not matter.  I have to keep striving to find a way to find happiness in the things that do consume my time and energy or to change the things I give my time and energy to.  In that mindset I will feel content, and in that I will find joy.  When I can choose to live a life that my maker would approve, finding joy will be his blessing.   

And if bubbles in the tub isn't joy, what is? 

Monday, March 4, 2013

I traded my diamond for Joy

Over the summer I was browsing on the board walk when I found this unique ring that had "JOY" engraved on the band.  The word stuck with me because it was something I had been hearing a lot about lately, but wasn't feeling.  It's no secret that this last year has been one of the most difficult for me in my personal life.  My feelings about living far from family and childhood friends changed from un-bothersome to heart breaking and I have struggled to find my footing in my life as a working mom.   In my marriage, this is definitely a time of turmoil and in a journey of hills and valleys, this is a deep valley. 

I am a big believer in the fact that you make your own happiness.  It's not found in money, or possessions.  I can't make it appear with a new job or a good nights sleep.  I can't buy it or borrow it from someone else.  It won't come when I finish a to-do list or be lurking under a layer of dust to clean.  I won't stumble upon it on the most beautiful beach or find it in a box of tasty cakes.  Trust me, I have looked both places.   People can surely add to your happiness (I know my daughter has grown mine 10 fold!) but you must have some of your own to build on first.  And that is where I have been failing.  My mother told me, you have to find joy in the situation; its the only thing you can control.

My struggles come from the ease in which I can list the problems in my life.  It hit me with some sort of shock this week that I have been behaving down right unhappy.  I can tell you why, but I couldn't tell you how to fix it.  I could list my issues, reasons to be mad, sad, lonely and discouraged.  I could focus on the negatives all day long, and honestly I had been.  I was not seeking joy.  I was not even thinking about it.  That JOY ring that I bought this summer had been misplaced, and I thought it gone before I even had a chance to wear it.  Then my daughter discovered it in my travel tote over the weekend, surprising me that it has not been lost after all. 

This week I slipped off my diamond, and replaced it with the joy ring.  I wanted to get into the habit of thinking about joy and this was a great reminder for me to do just that each day.  It wasn't about forgetting my marriage or my vows, those remain important to me, but right now my priority was to change my daily outlook.  I don't want to be unhappy anymore.  I don't want to be angry.  I want to be joyful.  Even in my current situation.  After all I can't change a lot about my life right now, and as difficult as it is to let go of that control, I am really going to make the effort to give it up to faith and trust God's plan.  A joyful plan.

So instead of listing my problems, I am going to list my joys.
I have a healthy, happy daughter who is the light of my life.
I have a supportive family, that even from thousand of miles away loves me.
I have a savings account with a balance and I can pay my bills each month.
I have a job I find rewarding and I know I make a difference in students' lives.
I have a church in which I have grown friendships and connections.
I have a loving God who will never abandon me, even when I struggle and fail.
I have a group of friends that has accepted and strengthened me, who share my struggles and work through them with me. 
I have a home, health insurance, running water, and food everyday.  Things I often take for granted.

I do have joy here, I just have to see it.  I have to seek it.  So despite all my reasons for feeling anything but joy, I am putting them aside and choosing to find happiness right where I am.  Today, its all about joy.