Walloon Lake with Edward (still in jammies), John and Philip (red striped bottom)
I was about 20 years old, sitting in front of a 60-something, gray haired woman behind a desk applying for a job. It was the Trust Company Bank in downtown Atlanta; my brother worked there and I thought it might be fun to be a teller and count money all day. The woman read my application and said, “I’m sorry but I just don’t think you have “stick-to-itiveness.” I dejectedly looked down at my application as she passed it back to me and wondered what was wrong with having a string of jobs that I tried out for a month or two and found I didn’t like?
Now, I AM the 60-something (NOT gray haired thanks to the salon) and I realize she was totally right – I don’t have that after all. I like to keep things changing, learning new things, meeting new people, every single day if possible. I spent 40 years trying to stick to IT and failed miserably. The only thing that kept me interested was being a Mom – thank goodness (!) because I couldn’t very well have given a two week notice to my husband on that!
There are lots of things I have loved about having 5 kids (I count Olivia!) – watching them learn to ride a bike or make a cake, teaching them the importance of honesty and being a loyal friend, the pure silliness of the things they say and do, watching them perform – in plays, on fields, in programs. And now, I love the real, deep conversations I get to have with them about life, the world, God. But of course there were the tough things too – sleepless nights with a newborn, being disappointed when one needed to learn some big, hard lesson, the pure tedium and exhaustion of 5 pm to 8 pm with four rambunctious little boys.
I realized pretty early on that although I felt utterly blessed that I got to be a fulltime, stay-at-home (a TOTAL misnomer – we were never at home!) Mom that I might go slowly insane if I didn’t have something else going on in my brain while I looked after all these little ones. I needed adult interaction. Friends were super important and I have amazing ones but even that wasn’t quite what I needed.
Now as I look back, it is easy to see a pattern. Wherever I was with the kids, meaning the stage I was in, I pursued something that correlated. I loved being a roommom – such an easy way to get to know all the moms and their kids in the classroom- plus you get to plan stuff around your own schedule. I was active at church too. But my first foray into learning a new skill was a program called Active Parenting, which taught positive parenting for kids 5 to 12. It is still around (I just googled it). There was a three-day training to become a leader in Miami, so I grabbed a friend to drive down with me and while she visited her folks, I went to my class. I loved learning all this new stuff that I could immediately go home and try out on our kids. I taught it a few times at my church, and at different schools and had a fun time but it was really learning for my family that grabbed me.
My next big one came when our oldest, John, began the college process. I started with a 10-day conference/workshop at Harvard for college counselors and wannabes (me!). This was for people who wanted to help families with the college process. It was a truly amazing course with the Deans of admission from Harvard and Princeton, among others. I then went on to do an online course with UCLA - that was a huge learning curve but new skills for me (yay!) – to receive a college counseling certificate. I “stuck” to this a bit longer than my norm – 10 years! Probably because it took a while to get all my kids through college.
Then, the kids were all grown up and I was at loose ends again – nursing school! Y’all know about that already. Which brings me to now. I have our first grandchild on the way and I couldn’t be more excited. So, what am I going to do next, you ask? I’m learning to be a doula! If you don’t know what that is, you need to look it up – it’s pretty cool. I went to North Carolina for a three-day course (see the pattern?) and learned a lot but I am now taking an intensive course online. I’m a provisional member of Professional Doulas of Charleston and I’m off and away on a new adventure. More about being a doula in another post.
So, obviously, this post has been “all about me” which probably gets boring for you but here’s the bottom line. Those of you with little ones at home – enjoy what you can, appreciate and be thankful you get to spend the time with your kids – time you will never get back and will pine for when you’re old. But don’t feel guilty if you need to supplement your day with something “else” that you love. And let me recommend training to do something – even if you don’t plan on really doing it. A couple of examples: take a course to be a docent at the museum (I think I gave three tours BUT I learned so much!) or take a cooking class (even though all you ever make are fish sticks and mac and cheese). Although 5 to 8 pm can seem like a hundred years on some days, life is actually quite short. To hell with “stick-to-itiveness” – who needs it?