Significance. Identity: Two jobs and the difference between…Why do things look better when you are looking back.

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Recently, I got a job.

Well, back up more than a decade when I was blessed with ‘the most important job’.

Post a BS in Exercise and Movement Science, the will to work and not create more college debt, I got a job.   It was a good job in the hospitality industry at the time, making pretty good money. Fast forward 2.5 years and I knew this wasn’t a career for me…so immediately after a great promotion and pay raise, I decided I wanted to pursue a teaching degree. Resigned the old job, started making no money as an instructional aide to confirm my desire to teach high schoolers.  Applied for a masters program. Got my MAT.

Graduated with the best recommends, best grades, and the best subject area for a woman: Science.

But, when it all came down to it, the district started a new program the year I graduated that hired workplace folks who wanted to now teach and paid them while they got their MAT.  The year I graduated in the top, there were no high school science jobs.  So, husband and I decided to have a go at perhaps starting our family.

And when we decided to start a family….it happened…right away.

So began ‘the most important job.’

I subbed for a year while pregnant, and a little after baby #1 arrived.  But when baby #2 joined us, that was no longer a good or easy option.  And I was blessed to be able to stay at home with the 2 sweet ones, and soon after 3.  3 kiddos in less than 4 years.

But, despite the comments of the ‘the most important job: motherhood’, I didn’t feel it that often.  I mean, I did.  If you ask friends of mine from high school, they would tell you that I always wanted to be a mom.  It was just a desire that God put on my heart.  I loved babysitting, and teaching swim lessons, and life guarding and teaching kiddos, serving in Sunday School, or whatever it might be.  Babies fascinated me, and the whole process of being pregnant, and raising a family just seemed amazing to me.

And I have been blessed…so very blessed.

But there are no promotions, pay increases, measures of the success of your parenting.  Parenting is an ongoing process and our children are unfinished ‘projects’….and always will be ‘works in progress.’  So unlike the other jobs, or careers it is one that doesn’t have a measure.  Well, ‘the world’ has measures.  But they aren’t the ones that feel good always.

There is so much more to say here, and I eventually may go on in another blog post, but my point is, recently I got a job.

I had wanted to re-enter the teaching field as a ‘hired employee’ for quite a while.  But I had a knee surgery one August that put me out for 6-8 weeks, and then home schooled the youngest for a short time last year…so the ability for me to apply and realistically be available to teaching or subbing , just opened this year.

I am substitute teaching now–at some wonderful schools.  I have actually filled out a W2 form and pay taxes and social security and all those other fees that big girls pay.  (I mean of course our family has paid these, but through my husband!).  I still have some flexibility, I don’t work every day, so I can still do things at home, or volunteer, or serve, or go to the grocery store.  Its a pretty good gig, and it has been a wonderful point of re-entry into the work force.

The experience of working while raising children, and balancing life, and all of that has brought me to some interesting musings about my own identity and significance.  And where I get my identity and significance….

First, substitute teaching.  I mean, some days I think, “Really? Do I matter? I don’t have my own classroom. These kids don’t really care and it doesn’t really matter if I am “good at it” or not. I am just taking someone else’s lessons and spitting them out!”  Yet I leave, knowing I accomplished something.  I helped in keeping things going, organizing, collecting work, communicating expectations, or making sure nothing went wrong in the classroom.  I also made money.  So, I think “Wow, I actually did a lot today.” Even if I watched the same movie 4 times, or gave the same physics problem and answer 3 times.  And my friends and family (and they are wonderful), they are all supportive and say “Wow, great job!”, “Tell me about your work!” and “How does it feel to be teaching, or working again?”  And I kinda pat myself on the back and think, “Good girl! You did something today!”

Recently, in wondering if substitute teachers even really matter, I walked into a classroom and a sweet student walked in and proclaimed, “Oh, yay! You are our sub?! My favorite!”  I was shocked and surprised!  I smiled….and I thought…”Thanks God, I can make a difference where ever you put me!” (Which I truly believe for all of us, and that is one thing that always has been a comfort to me.)  And I felt special.  I mean, it is kinda dorky to say, but it really did feel good.

So what have I been doing for the last 11, 12, 13 years!???

Well….I couldn’t always quantify it.  I didn’t always feel accomplished.  It never felt like a job well done, or mission completed.  Each precious project had never been ‘all taken care of’, ‘checked off the to-do list’ and I couldn’t get my accolades, awards, mvp on the sales team.  I didn’t  ever collect the paycheck and leave the office and feel great about everything…..(Not that paying jobs always work that way, but you get the point).

I mean occasionally, I would clean the house, vacuum, dust, put everything away….and FLEE! “Come on everyone, we are leaving the house for 1 hour, just so the house can stay clean!!!!”

And of course I had wonderful teachable moments, or hugs and snuggles, or “I love you,  you are the best!” from my ‘works in progress’.

But, my point is, at times, I didn’t feel that I had my own identity, or that I was very significant.

And now, I have this simple, less complex, somewhat important job…and I feel significant? I feel like I have accomplished something. I can join the ranks of “the paid workforce”?

And then, whoa… the hind sight.  The pendulum always swings back the opposite direction, doesn’t it?

First, upon the annoucement of my “newfound job” and everyone saying how great that was, because they all love me and know that I can work and be successful, the youngest says, “But….”

“But………”

“But, will you still be home when I get home from school?”

“Will you still be able to come in an volunteer in my class?”

“Can you still help me in the mornings?” And “What about my days off school, like holidays…when we just hang out and do fun stuff….will you be able to?”

Wow, slapped across the face with all of the things that have mattered to those ‘projects’.  I knew the moments mattered–somewhere in the back of my mind, but not like this….not through words ‘from the mouths of babes’… Oh boy!  And I don’t mean slapped by them, I just kinda mean by myself.  My own search for significance and my own identity and my own career path, or lack of a career path.

–And friends who work, and who don’t…We all have our own stories, our own calling and our own reasons– This is my own self evaluation, and my own journey–

Again, I am so grateful for God’s direction in my life…and this place that I can live up to what the Lord wants of me and for me and His expectations.  They have always kept me grounded and bring me back around…again and again.  There is benefit in looking back after a change in life, seeing where God has placed me and actually recognizing the value in it all, the blessing.   I think it is kind of a crossroad where I can look back …and forward … and left … and right.  I can see more clearly somehow, because I am right here, right now….and I have a different viewpoint.  A new perspective.

See, it just doesn’t always feel valuable when you are changing diapers, or bed sheets, or a load of laundry.  And I know that volunteering in classrooms had value, but there wasn’t much of a measure for it.  Should there be?

And the reality is that Jesus is my guide and friend and He meets me RIGHT where I am.  He reminds me of treasures and where they are and where my heart is.  He reminds me that I am to do WHATEVER I do as if for the Lord and not for men.  So either way, working or at home, or cleaning counter tops or managing a soccer team, my significance, my identity is found in Him and working for Him.  That is IT.   So I push onward, blessed by a new job, blessed by time at home with my family.  Blessed to serve as a simple substitute teacher all for Him with His light, and blessed to be a mom, friend and wife for Him, and even blessed to clean toilets for Him.

Whatever may be my task, work at it heartily (from the soul), as [something done] for the Lord and not for men.  Colossians 3v23 (Amplified Bible)

Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart.  Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.  Ephesians 6v6-7

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2 thoughts on “Significance. Identity: Two jobs and the difference between…Why do things look better when you are looking back.

  1. This really hit home for me. THANK YOU, Rachel! I’d love it if you expand more on your full time “at home” years, too. It’s crazy how similar our paths are 😉

    • Thanks, Megan! I have some “at home years” stories to share for sure…I will put them in my idea bank 🙂 I definitely think there is comfort to be found in the fact that we are never alone…Look forward to talking with you more!

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