I've been doing a good bit of writing this past week but not much of it has made it here, unfortunately. If you've really missed me, you can peruse this thread at 4Real where I think I contributed enough material to fill several blog posts.
What has me thinking even more--and on weightier matters--is Sally's recent post on the clash of vocations. It surprised me, actually, that the post inspired so much thought on my part. I never would have said before this week that I felt a "clash of vocations" in my life. For the first three years of our marriage I did work. I was a librarian and then a Residential Life Director for Washington, DC, interns. Both of these occupations earned much-needed money for our family while Eric chipped away at a Ph.D but neither job was a second vocation. I was a librarian only to kill time until I could start being an RD--a job which would then allow me to be a stay-at-home Mom. The RD job was part-time, all from home, and my co-workers graciously put up with Joseph's presence at staff meetings. Ideal. Once Margaret came along it was too much and Eric gave it a go for a year but now we're living like grown-ups, paying rent, and desperately job-hunting.
Despite past employment I have for some time seen my primary, and really my sole vocation, as that of wife and mother. This really drove my college professors nuts. One wanted me to get a Ph.D. Several thought I should go to law school. All thought I was throwing away all my gifts by wanting to be "just a mom." I do not have a single regret and I'm not posting here to defend the vocation of motherhood. But, for the record, I think it is completely possible to be one hundred percent fulfilled and satisfied by a life devoted entirely to one's family. I adore my children and I hope we have lots more but I have been wondering of late whether this "just a mom" thing is enough for me.
I suppose where I'm feeling the lack is in the exercise of my intellectual powers. Not to suggest that I'm more "powerful" than average in this area but I know something is lying dormant in there. It would also be nice to contribute economically to the well-being of my family. It turns out I'm not the only adult in the family who thinks that would be nice. And given that our preferred places to live rank pretty high on the cost-of-living scales it wouldn't be so bad to have a little extra coming in.
But then I consider, also, that I have pretty high ideals in how to parent my children and how to be available to them. And I want to support my husband's vocation. And, um, it would be nice if that huge pile of laundry were folded on a regular basis. How to balance it all? I feel on the one hand too busy to take on mere work just to earn money and on the other hand like not all of me is being challenged and utilized in the way I currently live my life. I would certainly just get "some job" if I had to in order for our family to survive but we're not there, yet, and I'm certain that "some job" would not satisfy the lack I'm feeling.
I wonder if taking a stab at doing something in a disciplined way would seep into other ares of my life to positive effect. It's tempting for me, prone to despair as I am, to give it all up and refuse to do anything until I learn to get the laundry folded every single day. I just need to work and work at that and when I get it, then I can move on. I'm not convinced that this is the best approach, though because of two recent breakthroughs around here.
The first was actually in Eric's life. He's been cranking really hard on this dissertation. He sprinted for weeks to get all the writing done and then the extra little bits of work and revisions that came after were threatening to overwhelm and, I daresay, he was teetering on the edge of burnout. In my classic, hands-off way I sat him down and made him give me a list of all the things he ideally wanted to accomplish in a week from dissertation work to prayer time to time with the kids. Then I made him a schedule and--surprise!--it all fit. In a normal week Eric does have time to get everything done and still do all the things that make his life worth living. It was a revelation for both of us and he is able to leave for work on Saturday morning knowing that he only needs to put in a certain number of hours before coming back home to tend to other things including taking Margaret out for a walk so I can make our Lord's Day dinner in relative peace. I really, really wish I could do this for myself but I'm not sure that housework and children can be scheduled as rigidly. But I'm thinking about it.
I also had a big revelation during Holy Week about the dishes. Some of you are really going to laugh at me but I don't care. I'm terrible about doing the dishes. I too easily come up with an excuse to leave them overnight and then wake to them in the morning. The sight of the dishes in the sink and on the counter when we get home from Mass completely destroys my morning. I get angry and tense and often yell at my family and slam cupboard doors and such. It's very bad. One morning I said, "I dread coming home to our apartment." I'd never said that before and, thus, never really realized it before. In the back of my mind I knew that the messy kitchen would be waiting for me and all the way home from Mass my agitation would increase. Sometime during Holy Week, without realizing it, I made the cognitive leap from my morning stress to my evening activity. I finally realized that it was totally worth it to sacrifice my limited free time in exchange for waking up to a clean kitchen. The dishes have, for the most part, gotten clean every night since.
Parenting my children and maintaining my home are the most important aspects of living my vocation and I have a long way to go in these areas. But I can't simply exert my will and try extra hard and magically create lovely children and a beautiful home. I can keep slowly cultivating good habits and slowly I will grow in maturity and virtue.
In the meantime, what can I do to feel more balanced? I have always nurtured hopes of being a writer. I've never called myself a writer because mostly I'm not and I've never been published anywhere of note. Eric and I will occasionally come up with an idea for a New York Times bestseller to be written "someday" in our copious free time. There's the hope, too, that getting published could help with that economic contribution thing I mentioned earlier.
But, well, I can't be a writer if I don't write. On the day when Eric and I realize that we actually have time to write that paradigm-shifting book of ours, I'm not going to be much use if I haven't been working at the writing craft. Next time I see someone looking for articles on a topic I know something about I'm probably not going to have time to whip up something from scratch and another opportunity will be lost.
I love to write. I may never publish anything but it's a satisfying hobby for me, at least. I have stacks of journals--mostly of the navel-gazing, sentimental, whiny, and immature genre but recent entries have been more substantial. I've got a couple blogs. My homemaking aspirations really only serve as a loose framework within which to practice writing about life. I'm tentatively considering adding "writer" as a facet of my vocation and committing to working at it in some way every day: blogging, journaling, working on drafts of essays or articles. Maybe it will "pay off" in concrete terms one day and maybe not but I do hope that some project that brings me outside myself will give me more energy and focus for all that is going on inside my life in the day-to-day.