Transforming Treasure

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21

The worst part for me of not having a career while raising two young children was wishing I had a job so we had more money.  If I were working, we could afford childcare. I wouldn’t have such a strict budget, we could go out to eat more often and I wouldn’t have to cook all the time. I could enroll my children in a Montessori preschool and perhaps even private school. My kids could take whatever lessons they wanted. We could save for college.

When my kids were about four and seven, I joined a Moms’ ministry small group class called Fully Alive. In this class we together explored what it meant to live a life “fully alive.” One of the first themes we discussed was the word treasure. To treasure something was to fill one’s heart with the beauty and value of something. We talked about what we treasured and that even loss could be transformed into treasure.

To get to know each other in the group, we each shared a photo of our family. While looking at my photo and thinking about how I was going to introduce my husband and kids, my thoughts went back to wishing I had a career and the benefits of having more money. My son who never asked for anything wanted to learn to play golf. What else would he ask for in the future that I could not afford? My turn was next and I shared some adjectives to describe my husband and kids. And then suddenly, in the brief pause it took to gather my thoughts, a revelation hit me. Tears welled in my eyes as I blurted out, “My kids have everything.”

My kids had loving parents, a warm and nurturing home, family that adored them. I had friendships, a spiritual heritage, a wonderful family, a home in a nice neighborhood, more than enough. I had been treasuring an elusive career and the money it would provide when I was already rich in treasures that money couldn’t buy.

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Questions for Discussion: What do you treasure? What are your treasures? What would you like them to be?

Depressed.

I was nearing 40, had a caring husband, a precocious little boy, and a healthy, rotund  baby girl. I  lived in a new house in a cookie-cutter neighborhood and had plenty of happy mommy things — a nurturing local preschool, playdates at parks, plenty of  friends. But the world around me  darkened as I pondered my career prospects.

My thought process went something along the lines of this:  If only I had a well-paying job  we would not have to host international students in our home and we could afford childcare or someone to help me with chores. If only I had made better decisions in the past I would not be dealing with this. If I only I hadn’t gone into teaching and then quit and then marketing and then quit, and then started the wrong business and then quit,  I’d be somewhere by now. If only I could figure out what I want to with my life, at least I could move in the right direction. Why can’t I figure it out? And why had I been so unsuccessful at doing so? What can I do anyway at this age? It’s too late to go back to school and who would hire me?  But it is great I can stay home with the kids. I should be cherishing the time but I am wasting it worrying. What should I do? How did I get here? How will I ever get out of this mess? Why am I this way? Nothing I do ever helps. Why can’t I just enjoy this season of my life?

I was physically exhausted from having young children and mentally drained from those thoughts in my mind.  Sweet, nurturing mommy on the outside, darkened self in the head. Friends listened, sermons gave insight, and books advised, but the inner dissonance became so unbearable that I sought professional solace. Unfortunately,  the therapist I  decided to spill my guts out to turned out to be brash and insensitive, so that was the end of that.

Looking back, those early years of motherhood were somewhat of a mixed bag:  a good amount of loving moments with little ones juxtaposed alongside a dull undercurrent of self-loathing, confusion, and discontent.  I wish I could have fully enjoyed my time at home with my children, been more present with them, but then again, no one chooses to be depressed.

Questions for Discussion: What do you think about therapy and counseling?Have you seen a counselor before? If so,  what was your experience?

 

 

 

 

 

Split-Brain Mommy

Moses was born on a sweltering day in June. Like all  new moms, I was overjoyed and could not believe the treasure I held in my arms. 

The first couple months was a torrent of blissful cuddles, timed nursings,  visits to lactation nurses, logging ounces drank, documenting diaper matter, lugging a car seat around, and counting hours of sleep. As a stay-at-home mom, taking care of baby was 24/7, and the most pressing decision each day  was what to do while my baby was napping. Should I eat, take a shower, close my eyes,  or go to the bathroom? Which one did I need to do most? 

As Moses grew bigger and his naps grew longer,  our schedule was less rushed we had new routines. A walk in the park in the stroller. Tummy time. Teething toys. Trying out solid food. Finally, more down time for me.  But then the split-brain thoughts started coming in:

While driving back from the grocery store with Moses happily kicking his feet in the back seat: “He looks so content.  What kind of job could I do that is part-time? ”

While waiting for Moses to wake up from his nap in the car: “This is great, I can spend so much time with my son. I can’t wait to read to him. But I should go back to work.”

While cooking dinner and watching him cruise around the living room:  “So glad I did not miss his first steps. I really should do the exercises in What Color is your Parachute * and set up some informational interviews.”

While giving Moses a bath and watching him teethe on his bath toys: “He has the cutest smile and just loves taking a bath. I need to find a job. But I don’t want to go back to teaching. How are we going to afford preschool? ”

While watching him put together a puzzle: “My staying home with Moses is best for the family.  What about working at a non-profit? ”

While patting Moses down to sleep at night:  “I need to go back to school and get a well-paying job for once. What should I do? ”

These relentless back and forth thoughts pushed me to action.  By the time Moses was nine-months old,  I  hired a babysitter  two days a week and enrolled in Legal Writing and Research at the local community college.  I was considering law school.

 

Reflections:

It look me about a year to realize that law school was not a panacea for my  needing to do something professional and respectable with my life in addition to being a mom. I completed a Civil Litigation class at another community college and started interviewing for legal assistant positions I found on Craigslist.  My plan was to find a part-time entry-level job in the legal field to get experience before applying to law school. Unfortunately, the consensus  was that (with two Stanford degrees) I was overeducated.  Finally, an attorney friend of mine gave me a job answering phones and filing papers for his boutique law firm. You don’t want to be a lawyer, he told me. After a few months listening to arguing through closed doors, I came to the same conclusion. I wanted a well-paying job, but I did not want to be a lawyer.