Yesterday, Robert and I had the opportunity to spend several hours alone. It was really good.
One thing that I'm learning through all that I have been going through is that I have spent the last several years (or maybe my whole life) doing things that I feel are expected of me. I do things that seem to work for most moms in my "circle" (ie moms who live a more natural lifestyle) thinking that if I don't do it all, then I shouldn't do any of it. Robert was saying that because he likes the outdoors so much, he used to want to do things that fit the "outdoor lifestyle" all of the time- backpacking, climbing, camping, hiking, kayaking, even wearing Chaco sandles, carrying around a Nalgene water bottle, and eating Clif Bars because all of those things fit together. He eventually began to realize that in his life right now, ALL of those things aren't possible or necessary, and that it's okay to just do the things that he can or enjoys the most. He doesn't have to fit the profile of a person with an "outdoor lifestyle."
So, because of trying to fit the profile of a "natural mama," I thought I had to do it all- homebirth (which I will never change :), breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping, cloth diapering, using ALL natural products and cleaners, not using any medication, making everything homemade with organic and grass fed foods, having chickens and goats, having a large garden, staying home, homeschooling... you get the picture. As I've stopped reading other people's opinions through blogs and "online communities," I've realized that I can pick and choose. God made each one of us different for a reason. It's not necessary to do anything the way others do them just because it seems to be best (which, what is best anyway?). I've learned that everyone thinks what they are doing is best... and it is... best for them. But, best for me and my family may be different.
I've also thought that it was completely wrong to think about sending our kids to school, or to even think about pursuing something that I know I would enjoy. For years I have talked to Robert about getting my Master's degree. I need to take some classes in order to keep my teaching certification current, and I LOVE higher education and learning and know that I would enjoy even just being in school again (even if it's just one or two classes at at time). Also, having a higher education opens the doors to many possibilities. Through talking to Robert yesterday, he reminded me that it's okay to pursue something that I would enjoy and that would benefit me (because it would benefit my family as well). In fact, he wants me to. He always envisioned me staying home while our kids were too young for school, then going back to work when they all got into school. He must know me better than I know myself. When we started talking about that yesterday, I literally starting feeling a weight lifted. To be given permission to do something that I love made me realize that I'm not "stuck" doing what everyone else expects of me (of course, I'm sure that I just assume those expectations are there and they're not). I'm not stuck staying home for the rest of my life. I have something to look forward to as the kids grow up. With my anxiety, the thought of always being home is very difficult to swallow. I knew that being home for a while was necessary, and I thought that I needed to be home forever because isn't that the good Christian mom and wife thing to do?? NO. It's not for everyone! It's not selfish of me to want to pursue something that I enjoy. If I am pursuing something that I enjoy, then I will be a much more content mama, and the kids and my husband will benefit from it. If I feel "stuck," then I will always be anxious and depressed, and my life will always be frustrating to me.
As I've been processing all of these things, I've begun to realize even more that I truly need to ask God what He wants me to pursue... not what I've thought was best for me and our family this whole time. Maybe He gave me the gifts and desires that He did for a purpose? Of course He did. :) Now, I just need to ask Him what those gifts and desires are exactly, and how I need to pursue them.
Robert asked me if some of my anxiety came from feeling "stuck" being home for the rest of my life... and I think some of it is from that. But I think there was something bigger beneath that... the thought that I had to do everything a certain way because of what seemed to fit the mold.
I am breaking free from that "mold" or the profile of a "natural mama," and I'm deciding that I am different than everyone else. It's okay to do something that I enjoy, even if that something is beyond caring for my family and children (as long as I'm still taking care of them!). I'm deciding today that God made me different, gave me different desires, and will give me a clear idea of where to go from here. I am asking Him what He wants, and not what I think is expected of me.
I don't have a choice in whether or not I stay home right now (because I can't afford childcare for three kids!), and I think it's good for them if I'm home while they're babies and toddlers. But I am most likely going to pursue higher education. Robert really wants me to, I want to, I have found a school in Austin (Concordia University) that has a program that I really like (Advanced Literacy Instruction to be a Reading Specialist), and the classes are one evening a week! So, I don't have to have childcare... Robert can just stay home with the kids (or I can send them to Granny's for the night if I need to!). I will take it slow... maybe one or two classes a semester (because we will most likely try to pay as I go, using our income tax refunds). It will be best to take it slow, especially with the kids :). I will most likely try to start in the Spring or Fall of 2011. I wouldn't try to take that on in the Fall of this year :). I need the kids to get a little older first.
I'm excited about what is to come. I'm spending daily time in prayer about all of this, and I am beginning to feel a weight lifted and peace about everything.
If this isn't the avenue that God wants me to pursue, I will allow HIM to tell me that, and not blogs or other people :). Again, I'm just taking it one day at a time.