Did I Waste My Life At Home?
A Teacher’s Words
“Oh Rita, please don’t waste your life at home.” Her words stung, and I couldn’t process them before she continued. “The world needs what you have to offer.”
I was pregnant with my first child. I had gone to my old school, as I often did, to visit my most respected former teacher. She’d encouraged me since elementary school to dream big, expect more, and do more. I wanted her to be happy for me. I wanted her to share my joy over a decision I’d labored over. If only she were in my corner, I would know I was on the right track. But she wasn’t. She thought choosing to devote the next few years to raising this life kicking inside my body would be wasted time.
My great advisor suggested I have my baby, spend some time doing the mommy thing to get it out of my system, and then get back out and rock the world. She implored me to consider what would become of the world if great minds chose to stay within the walls of their home.
I was shattered. Not only was I disappointing my great mentor, but I was also more confused than ever. Was she right? Was I was making a life-destroying decision?
I was 23 years old. I was simultaneously excited about this next season and terrified about the outcome. What if I was wrong? What if what my baby needed was to be in a daycare with people trained to teach him? What if I gave these years up only to find I was lousy at mothering but then couldn’t re-enter the real world where I could be successful? How could I make my mark on the world if I spent the next years cleaning spit up off my sweats?
I didn’t understand what it was to hear God back in those days, but I did believe that He heard anyone who sincerely prayed. So I prayed. And I prayed. And I bargained. I told Him I’d make this great sacrifice because I thought it was the right thing to do, but I expected Him to help me do something big when my time was up. And in my mind, my time would be up when my child entered kindergarten. Done. We’d made a deal I could live with.
I know, I know, I was seeing through an immature lens. And I’d made a one-sided deal. Little did I know God would teach me to listen to him as well as to talk. And He had much to say about this deal.
Here’s how it turned out. God gave me a little boy February 23, 1995 who charmed his way into every corner of my heart and being. I didn’t have a clue how to mother him, and I was certain I was going to blow it. Still I decided with great resolve that if anyone was going to mess up my son’s life, it ought to be me. I know—another shining moment of stellar reasoning. He will confirm I did blow it often, but that he was awesome enough to survive fairly unscathed :-).
So, here I am today. 23 years have passed since my conversation with my teacher and my lopsided deal with God. Since 1995, we’ve added three daughters and a daughter-in-law to our family—all who fill my heart to overflowing. My few years at home turned into 23 and counting when, along the way, I felt the “call” to homeschool. Yep! I was more than a little annoyed that God would expect that of me too. After all, hadn’t I sacrificed enough time! So, I rolled my eyes and struck another bargain with Him (but that’s another story).
The Gift of Time
Bargain or no bargain, it was the deal of a lifetime. What I didn’t know then was I hadn’t sacrificed time at all. I was given the gift of it. Time. Day in and day out time to stroll through the woods in the fall, to walk in the rain, or to build a fort in the living room. I was given time to stroke my sick child’s forehead and play Yahtzee with my teens. Oh trust me, it also gave time to be in each other’s way and in each other’s business. A stroll through the woods may have turned into stamping down the path. And a walk in the rain could end in an unfriendly splash fest. But, like labor pains in birth, the reward outweighed the struggle.
Throughout those earlier years, I wavered between times of great confidence in my choice to be home and times of great concern that I should be doing more. I don’t waver anymore. I’m still homeschooling, and I realized a long time ago that all of this is my something big. My life of homeschooling and nurturing human hearts has brought me fulfillment I never knew was possible (in spite of the “I-don’t-like-my-child-and-my child-doesn’t-like-me-either-days).
Once I understood the value of my job, God transformed my “prison of smallness” into my sanctuary of abundance. He transformed my heart to beat with His a little better. I like His rhythm far more.
No Wasted Life
Today, I can firmly and unequivocally tell you that my teacher was both absolutely wrong and absolutely right. She was wrong in thinking my years at home would be wasted. And she was right in saying the world needs what I have to offer. It does. And it needs yours. What that looks like is between you and God. For me, it looks like a white farmhouse overflowing with books, messes, and a table full of people who may or may not share my last name. It’s a life overflowing.
All those years ago, I thought my offering would garner shiny plaques on the wall and letters behind my name. If that’s what some believe my contribution should have been, then I have failed them so far. But hey, I still have half my life in front of me, so there’s still time ;-).
Over the years, I’ve learned to turn down the volume of others’ opinions and tune in more to the Lord’s. Children have a way of making you lean in and listen to the One who knows them best. You want to know what He says?
God says I’ve contributed to the world beyond this one.
He says my contribution is not measured in plaques and awards but in hearts set on heaven.
I hold no confidence that the “greats” of this world will stand over my grave when I leave it and recount the amazing things I’ve done. And I’m okay with that. However, I have great confidence that I will enter into my Father’s world with the words, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” OH not because I did “big things” but because I did the thing He asked of me. And just fyi, the thing is always the big thing.
I suppose I took my teacher’s advice after all. I didn’t waste my life at home. I invested in it. And because of that, I’ve thrived in it. I’ve learned to see it for what it is—an opportunity to rock the world through rocking babies, and the opportunity to leave a legacy by leaving my mark on the four human hearts I’ve been given the privilege to raise. And that’s not including their countless friends who leave their fingerprints on my clean refrigerator and muddy footprints on my mopped floors. It matters.
Your Eternal Investment
Mamas, can I encourage you today about the worth of your contribution? When you leave a mark on those God has entrusted to your care, then you leave an eternal one. If you are home, count it as a privilege not a prison. Embrace this call. Embrace those little jelly-smeared faces. And pray! Pray God gives you the wisdom to know what they need, the grace to do it, and the peace of heart during this messy motherhood season. It is a short season of planting despite seemingly long days, but OH! The beautiful harvest is coming!* It’s all worth it my friends. So plant—rock, feed, wipe, and start over. It counts more than you can see right now.
*I just want to add that it is possible to sow great things and be disappointed with the harvest. But please take heart and know that it is a not a sign of a poor job, but a fallen world where weeds choke out and destroy good seed. Continue to pray and trust that God is a good gardener and He isn’t ever finished with us or our children. Hugs, Rita