[You might like to read Part One here.]
I became a housewife in stages.
The first time I came home was out of necessity. I had babies and a house and I needed to be there to take care of them. A marriage, house, plus an outside career was doable (though in hindsight I can see many things were neglected even then). But add in the babies and it was all just too much. I call this first crisis “Trying to Do it All 1.0.” So I accepted and embraced my role as a Stay-At-Home-Homeschooling-Mom, even found it enjoyable and fulfilling, and I settled in for the duration of their childhood years.
And so it was that when the children started to get older and more independent, I entered into a second crisis, “Trying to Do it All, 2.0”.
Both my sons were set to attend a private high school. Thinking that now that homeschooling was completed I would have loads of free time, I found myself restless and thinking I might resume my teaching career.
Working seemed like the thing to do. Everyone I knew worked outside the home. My friends, the women at church, family members. I didn’t have children at home during the day anymore. Maybe it was time for me to get a job, too? I hardly knew anyone who just stayed at home and kept house.
So when a parent called me and told me of an opening for a Spanish teacher at the local high school, begging me to apply, I decided to call up the school and see what was going on...I interviewed, was offered the job and accepted it that day.
Immediately I had doubts about whether I was doing the right thing. So much during those fifteen years (1990-2005) I had been at home…in education and in society…had changed. The night before school started, I cried my eyes out. I loved my home, my family, and it felt very sad to be leaving them even for part of the day. That should have been a red flag.
But I also felt excited and I threw myself into my new career. My students did well, and they learned. I had good evaluations and feedback from parents. I made girlfriends among the faculty. At the same time, I struggled to deal with the new demands of a large number of students, many of whom were apathetic, as well as new federal policies and mandates. I was quickly becoming disenchanted with the public schools, but I was determined to make it work.
In the meantime, both my sons did well in high school, went on to university on scholarships, and my husband and I settled into empty-nest married life.
Within a few years, I was offered a position at the private Christian school I had previously taught at when I was a young mother. I took it, remembering the pleasant experience I had there, and I stayed there five years.
Unfortunately, that experience turned out to be almost as disappointing as the public schools and so I decided to give public education one more try. After three hard years at this school, I came to the conclusion that the whole process and approach to education (as well as society) had changed too much for me. I wanted to find my way back home.
But there were problems at home, too.
The law of entropy is true: things tend to fall apart. And the house, being neglected while I took a deep dive back into a career, was falling apart.
Twenty-five years of homeschooling then classroom teaching had turned my house into a hot mess. We did have a cleaning service come in every other week and the house was superficially clean, but I knew what lay underneath: the deep, lurking disorder of untended shelves, drawers, and files.
My house was out of control and I didn’t have the time nor the energy to deal with it.
I found myself unsettled. I cared about the state of my house. The disorder of my house reflected the disorder of my spirit, which began to bleed over into our marriage. My husband seemed to have this uncanny ability to be able to work as well as pursue his hobbies and interests, which I found myself increasingly resenting. And we had much less time together as a couple as I played catch-up around the house in the evenings and on the weekends. I realized my life was out of balance.
Why was I trying to “do it all”? “Maybe there is something inherently untrue about even trying?” whispered a little voice….
I revisited my decision to return to teaching. I had spent time and money getting my degree. I had successfully homeschooled my own children. I was educated for this. I was trained for this. I had experience in this. Surely teaching was my vocation? And there was a great need for teachers in our area. Therefore, I should teach. Right? And once I started teaching, I found out that I was good at it. Would I be wasting this talent if I just stayed at home and folded towels?
But I knew that the most important things to me and to my marriage, my priorities, were being neglected. My life was out of balance.
Finding my Base
Some folks get flashes of brilliance when it comes to working out their life purpose, but for me, it took years of prayer and study. So I began to seek God in what I called my “self-therapy sessions”. I would get up early in the morning before school, around 5:00 a.m., and read the Bible, pray and write in a journal. In the front of the journal, I wrote meaningful passages of scripture I came across with a comment or two. In the back of the journal, I wrote about the things that were going on in my life and at school and my attempt to make sense of it all.
All the time I kept on teaching, cooking meals, keeping house, gardening. I had a certain pride in being a wife, mother and homemaker who also had a successful career. I told myself I was oriented toward my home and kept it my priority even though I had outside business. I was that woman doing it all! A “boss babe”!
And I was also exhausted and resentful.
Why was I doing this to myself?
The key belief I had was that if I didn’t have a career, I would not be fulfilling my potential as a human being. I had this belief that if I wasn’t out there in the world using my talents, I was letting myself, my family and the community down. This is why I kept at the teaching even though it was making me crazy. In truth, we didn’t need the money. My husband never pushed me to work, although on the other hand he never said, as he had when we had babies, “Honey, I think you should be at home.” He was leaving the choice up to me.
So I would come home after work and do the “second shift” of cooking and laundry…and my husband would come home after work and relax and read on the couch or lift weights. Then he took up bicycling for exercise. He began taking cross-country cycling trips with his new biking friends. I would stay at home and grade papers or “catch up” on the house. Disturbingly, I found myself secretly looking forward to his trips because, with him gone, my life was easier and I could focus even more on my teaching and housekeeping catch-ups. These thoughts scared me because I knew that, really, I loved him so much. Also, his cycling activity was revving up his middle-aged body and our love life was hotter than ever!
Nonetheless, I had a few meltdowns in which I would start feeling sorry for myself/ cry/ scream/ throw things and generally act like a child. Mike would just watch me and I knew that he was confused, too. What had happened to his previously happy wife? He was being a loyal, steadfast husband, as always, but something in me had changed.
Neither of us gave up. Mike kept being his hard-working, patient, yet uncompromising self, and cycling, and I kept on getting up early every morning for my therapy/Bible reading sessions.
The part of the Bible that I kept coming back to in my morning sessions was Paul’s letter to Titus. In it, Paul deals with how to organize the growing church and how to get it going in the right direction. And that was what I also needed: a clear direction and purpose, and order…and more order. I needed to understand my first responsibilities and find steadfast purpose:
But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: that the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh godliness, not false accusers, not addicted to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be wise, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.
So…being a wife, mother and keeper of the home was Christian ministry? It was making a viable contribution to the world? It seemed that Paul was saying this was the best way for a married woman to bring glory to God and the Gospel of Christ.
I surrendered everything to God and decided to let the teaching go and simply focus on my marriage, family and home. In the Spring of 2017, I resigned from teaching to become a housewife.
I’ve had many starts and stops on this journey. It has taken inner work, unlearning and learning. All my life I had heard that a woman must have her own career to have value. That if she has talents they must be used in the marketplace. These messages came in subtle and not so subtle ways…in school and college, women’s magazines, advertising, books and novels, tv shows and movies, peers, and even parents. I had spent very little time hearing, or rather listening to what God has to say about a woman’s role.
Once I opened my Bible, I found the truth; but then I had to learn how to practice it. It took time to hear, understand and then process that I didn’t have to go out into the world and prove myself, that homemaking is in itself an important vocation.
I am a housewife. This work is not a job nor a career…but a divine calling. The home is my God-assigned place of ministry and contributes to the well-being of my marriage, my children and family, the church, the community as well as bringing to myself much good.
As I embrace this responsibility and give my talents to it, I find great blessings: peace, provision, stability, fulfillment, joy.
Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you. ~Matthew 6:33
Amy Laurie <3