I don’t know for sure what I thought my life would look like when I dreamed, as a little girl, of being a grown up. I wanted to be a teacher, a doctor (before I realized you have to touch strangers and their gross bodily fluids), a lawyer, the first female governor of Tennessee, a Philosophy professor — but only if being a wife and mother didn’t pan out.
I’ve always wanted to be a mama. I wanted five children. I wanted to stay home and homeschool and live in a house with a white picket fence and go to church every Sunday. Minus that picket fence and our fifth baby that was lost before she was born, I got the dream.
I married a wonderful man who also wanted a big family. We finished college, had our babies, and lived on his one income so I could stay home. We’ve always had great houses — even this “shabby” old rental that is bigger and nicer than either of the houses we grew up in. We homeschool and live in a city with ample opportunities for families like ours, and we go to church most every Sunday.
But…reality isn’t that pretty.
Reality is piles and piles and PILES of never-ending laundry. Reality is a sink filled with dishes pretty much all the time. Reality is wiping noses and bottoms and floors that are never clean. It’s bathrooms that smell like pee, sticky fingerprints on everything and NEVER getting a decent night’s sleep (10.5 years and counting now…). Reality is dreading homeschool almost as much as my kids (maybe more?) because while teaching math and history and language arts to reluctant elementary school kids, I’m also trying to keep a two-year-old from emptying the fridge or setting something on fire. Reality is seeing that big, yellow bus drive by and thinking “would they notice a couple more kids if I just stuck mine on there?” Reality is praying for just a few more minutes of nap because it’s the only time I’ll be alone all day.
What would I do now if I weren’t a stay-at-home-homeschool-mama of four boys?
I would build a fitness empire. I would blog and write training plans and workouts and hang out at the gym all day eating healthy food and working out to my heart’s content. I would share my love of exercise with the world and single-handedly solve the obesity epidemic. Jillian Michaels would have nothing on me!
I am, however, a stay-at-home-homeschool-mama of four boys.
I have a husband and four little men who depend on me. They count on me to be here. If I decided to walk away…or even if I just backed up to pursue MY dreams…then what? Would they be ok? Probably. Would it be the best thing for any of us? Absolutely not.
The fact is, this is where I am.
This is where God has placed me. I had the drive to become a mama — to become THIS mama — and that is who my family expects and needs me to be. Does it mean putting what I think might make me happy aside in order to continue to care for them? Yes it does. Does it mean a life of misery and unfulfilled dreams for me? Not on your life.
Although I think that Jama’s Fitness Empire would bring me joy, that’s not how life works. Joy isn’t found in our circumstances. Have mercy, if everyone looked for a job that made them “happy,” who would clean septic tanks for a living? True joy is found in knowing I am serving God where I am. While I don’t particularly enjoy wiping bottoms or doing laundry (good gracious, I hate the laundry — like, I think we should just move to a nudist colony), I find joy in the fact that I am keeping little tushies clean and rash free. I am happy that my husband has clean clothes to wear to the office. I am ecstatic that my boys’ socks no longer smell like death on a cracker.
As I clip coupons and meal plan and trudge through the grocery store while wrestling an alligator — er, toddler — I find joy in the fact that I am filling hungry bellies. As we crawl through another homeschool day, I look at how much my boys have learned and how they will one day use that knowledge to do something great.
I can’t think about the fact that I may not get a day off for another 16 years or so. I can’t look at the rock-hard abs of that 21-year-old newlywed. I can’t dream of an empty laundry basket or fingernails that don’t have poop under them (you know it’s true). I can’t sit around and think “what if?”