Monday, June 11, 2012

Life...Then and Now...

"Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you will look back and realize they were the big things..."

For the past month or so, it feels like my weeks have taken on more of a routine than usual, which is fine, I actually like routines.  I know that sounds weird, but I like having dinners mapped out for a few days, knowing when I'm going to wash sheets, go to the grocery store, etc.  Everyone needs something to look forward to, and a reason to feel useful and get up in the morning, even if that reason is to clean out the cat litter box or put clothes in the dryer.

When I moved up to Washington after Eric and I married, the lack of routine was one of the things I feared the most.  As a teacher, my days, and the days of my 32 students, were extremely scheduled, because that is the way I liked it, and the kids responded better to that kind of predictability.  Not being bound to a schedule of bells and daily subjects and meeting has been VERY liberating, but also a little scary in that now there are no excuses for not getting things done.

I feel very lucky that, as a married couple, Eric and I have had relatively little trouble in carving out our individual duties. The fact that he works outside the home and I don't made this a little easier.  He has a few responsibilities around the house, but the general management and cleanliness are mine.  I'm officially a Housewife.  That word used to rank up there with some other bad words when I was a working woman, but I realize now that I was allowing my job to define me way too much.  I also realize that I did that because there was really nothing else to define me.  I was not a wife, I did not attend church for a long time so I had no church calling, and I was not even an auntie until 4 years ago.

Surely, there are other housewives who sometimes ponder the tedium of the constant making of beds, cooking, cleaning, and laundry.  I did that a lot at first, although I wasn't attending church when I first moved up here and we were just getting into the bad weather phase of the year.  It took me a while to tell myself that EVERY job, no matter how exciting, has it's tedious moments.

I remember when people would find out that I was a teacher and think how fun and exciting it was.  I would nod my head politely and think about how clueless that person was about the realities of the profession.  I didn't want to burst their bubble.  I didn't want to tell them about the hours and hours it took to set up the classroom every September, the hundreds of dollars of my own money I spent each year on supplies that were not provided, the hours it would take to change the bulletin boards when usually the only people who saw them were my students and me, the amount of time taken away from teaching because of trainings and meetings and dealing with those one or two severely disruptive students that we were all lucky enough to get.  Don't get me wrong, teaching is a great and noble profession when we are actually allowed to teach.  But those golden moments don't happen as often as any of us would like.

Yes, I miss the a lot of the kids.  Some kids are unforgettable, even from when I first started teaching back in 1996.  I miss those times when we felt so unified as I taught a lesson in Social Studies or Math (I loved teaching math.)  I really miss Story Time, which I did even when I taught 4th and 5th grade.  I miss those times when I would be walking down the hall and about 10 kids would cross my path and say "Hi Teacher!"

But I don't miss the interruptions and meetings and trainings. And I don't miss that, when you are a teacher, the job never ends.  Never. You are either actually doing it or you're thinking about it. When so many little lives are in your care, you can't leave them behind at 3pm.  So when teachers say they aren't paid enough, they aren't.  Because they are really on the job ALL the time.  And, as we know, there is so much more to be a teacher than teaching.  You are a nurse, a psychologist, a referee, a time-keeper, a friend, sometimes even a mother.  And you are always an example.  Kids notice everything.

I am very glad that I had all of those years in the classroom and in the workplace.  They taught me a lot.  But I'm also glad that another chapter of my life has begun.

So when I compare my life then and my life now, I think one of the greatest things about my life now (besides being married to a wonderful man) is my freedom.  It is glorious.  I don't have to get up at 5am anymore.  I don't have a bedtime.  Mondays are not that dreaded day that spoiled Sunday anymore.  I have the energy to be in a Book Club because I have the time to actually read the book.  (When I taught I only read books during summer vacation.)  I am loving my calling as a Relief Society teacher and even preparing the lessons is a joy.  I love Visiting Teaching and getting to know the sisters in my ward more than I ever did when I was working.  It used to feel like a chore and now it feels like a privilege and stewardship.

I don't even mind my hours of solitude during the day as I'm cleaning house or writing or reading a book.  They make the time with my husband all the more special.  I don't mind the tedium of certain things because of the freedom I have in return.  I don't mind cooking and cleaning for my husband because I know that he is doing more than his share putting in all of those hours at his work.  We are a team, and running our house and our little family of 2 (plus 3 pets) is a team effort. 

But the important thing is that new things define me.  I am Eric's wife.  I am Xander and Angelique's auntie.  I am Sister Cooley who teaches Relief Society each month and feeds the missionaries whenever possible.  I am the one who runs the book club.  I am that lady who walks her dog by the lake each day.  I am the friend of some wonderful ladies.  I really love being all of these things. 

Amidst the normal things like never-ending laundry, cooking dinners, and always trying to keep the floors clean (which isn't easy with a big, hairy dog and 3 cats,) there are plenty of things to look forward to.  These are the things that make the routines feel less restrictive.  Just this week there are 2 concerts, going to the temple tomorrow (I've been going weekly and love it,) working on my Relief Society lesson for next Sunday, hosting the missionaries on Friday night, and taking advantage of this fabulous weather and working in the garden. 

See?  Just enough planning to give Life purpose. And just enough freedom to create new purposes.

Life is good. 


Kathryn said...

I love hearing people's life stories. Thank you for sharing a little bit of yours. I could feel your happiness and it made me smile.

garcias said...

Thank you for this post. There are so many times that I feel like I am not making a difference. But there is so much more to this life then working in someone else's schedule. Taking care of a home is a special calling and I needed that reminder thank you.

Sally said...

You forgot you are also a Slook!

Every since college I have thought you were brilliant at managing your daily routines and embracing that those routines contribute to your definition of who you are. I envied you for it then and I do now.

I appreciate also that you point out that Eric pulls his weight at work. I get tired of housewives complaining that they work harder at home then their husbands do at work and insisting that they jump in with chores at home in the evenings, too. I don't believe that we should have to rake the carpet and make the kids tiptoe around all evening so Dad can read the paper, but at the same time give the man some appreciation. I think the women's movement has spent too much time trying to foster equality by insisting that men and women do each other's traditional roles with the idea that women are elevated and men will realize how 'denigrating' housework and child-rearing is, and not enough time insisting that both of these roles are equally valid and important and it has only been our perceptions that are flawed.

Kristie said...

Thanks, Ladies! I have had several comments, both here and on Facebook from stay-at-home moms who struggle with their identity and feeling valued as they tackle the endless chores around the house. We don't even have kids and there is always something waiting that needs to be done.

Sally, you are right, I'm also a Slook! That means a lot to me too! And thank you very much for your comment.

MOM said...

Hi honey, You are also a wonderful, dutiful daughter who is a great friend to her MOM! I am so fortunate you are my daughter...I love having you for a friend and a relative! Gique and Xander love having you for an auntie! BTW...I like Sally's comments, and I love what you true. We have to appreciate what we have, the role we are in, our functions in life...we can't all be Madeline Albright or Queen Elizabeth to make a difference. There are different adjustment is going from a full time teacher to I totally understand your thought your blogs, keep writing! Your mom loves you and admires you!