“Well, do a good day’s work, and act like somebody.” ∼ Andy Griffith ∼
School started this week. All my teacher friends went back to work, and I’m staying home. For the first time in thirty years, I will not be starting school as either a student or a teacher. Initially, I didn’t know how to feel about that. I’ve always loved school and learning, and I’ve always believed in working hard for your family and for yourself. I come by that quality honestly.
My grandfather was good at working hard. He was a farmer—an “up with the sun” kind of guy. When my sister and I spent the night with my grandparents, he was usually in bed by seven or eight, and he could sleep better than a newborn. I attributed this to his work ethic. He and my grandmother kept that farm running and profitable for years because of their strong backs and simple lifestyle. You could ask anyone in the community; they were honest, hardworking members of what Tom Brokaw once dubbed “The Greatest Generation.”
And they weren’t the only ones who demonstrated to me the value of hard work. My father grew up poor but managed to put himself through college and obtain a master’s degree in education. He then taught and inspired and loved his students for 39 years until a fatal brain tumor forced him to retire. I’m still convinced that if he had lived, he would have taught until he was ninety.
Because of the examples I was blessed to have, I, too, chose to pursue a career of which I could be proud. For eleven years, I was a teacher, and despite what some will say, good teachers do work hard. They work many hours of overtime for which they don’t get paid. They act as moms, counselors, friends, cheerleaders, mediators, role models, and disciplinarians. And I can assure you, a person who can manage a classroom of 30 five-year-olds or 30 eighteen-year-olds (and there are more similarities than you might think) has some serious skills.
But then our beautiful twins came along.
I would like to make a disclaimer before I continue—I do NOT think staying at home with your children is the only way. You will find no judgment from this mom. We survive. We do the best we can with what we have. And as a friend stated to me the other day, “We all do what’s best for our families…and that looks different for everybody.” But for my family, I just knew.
However, I often feel the need to defend my choice of quitting my teaching job to be at home with my babies. This probably stems more from my own insecurity than anyone’s meddling, but I feel like folks wonder what I do all day. I even catch myself assuming that my own husband doubts the authenticity of me being “a stay at home mom.” (He doesn’t doubt that at all, by the way.) And in all honesty, I even doubt it myself—especially when at the end of a day, I’m still in my pajamas, I’ve had no shower, I’ve fixed no supper, I’ve washed no clothes, and I’ve cleaned nothing. I’ve basically existed to wipe dirty bottoms, feed hungry mouths, and rock…endlessly rock…sleepy babies. Compared to all the paperwork and teaching and prepping and influencing and counseling and grading of my former career, I guess it really doesn’t look like I do much. But if that’s the case, why am I so stinking tired at the end of the day?
I’ll tell you why. Because I produce endless milk and wash endless bottles and launder endless clothes. I change little diapers and fill little tummies and bathe little bodies. Why? To help my babies grow healthy and strong.
I talk gibberish and make goofy noises. I dance around and sing silly songs. I blow raspberries and make funny faces. Why? To teach my sweeties to talk and to express themselves.
I cuddle and nuzzle and snuggle. I pat and sway and bounce. I smile and laugh and kiss. Why? To teach my darlings to love and to give it freely.
It’s not easy to have another person’s entire well-being and character depend so much on what you do and think and say. In fact, it’s quite a burden to bear. Not a bad burden…but a difficult one. I dedicated many years of my life to teaching public school children, but none of that proved to be as demanding as caring for my own two little ones. Maybe it’s because I have more riding on this.
I am not too sure of my place in this world after becoming a mom…especially since I quit a job that sort of gave me an identity and a purpose for so many wonderful years. But despite the overwhelming depth of the unknown and the twinge of insecurity I get every time I see a school bus or one of my former coworkers, I have come to a realization that steadies me and refocuses me: I might not be too sure of my place in this world anymore, but I know what place I hold in the lives of my babies. And that is enough. That is a good day’s work.