What do you do?

"In the family, parents have the task of training their children from childhood to recognize God's love for all people.  Especially by example they should teach them little by little to show concern for the material and spiritual needs of their neighbor.  The whole of family life, then, would become a sort of apprenticeship for the apostolate."

I've been asked the question, "What do you do?"  My response has obviously changed over the years.  Fifteen years ago I said proudly, "I'm a physical therapist."  It sounded so esteemed, like it was obvious with that answer that I was educated, and left the assumption that I was also smart.  I had dedicated many years to my education and had a "higher" degree.  True.  Beyond that though, I really liked what I did.  I was a good therapist and enjoyed every element of it.  Sometimes the idea of going to work instead of staying at home over a holiday wasn't so appealing, but came with the territory. 

I worked full time as a therapist for four years.  That is one year longer than the three year period that my graduate level education required after college.  Not long really considering that I would be paying back loans for ten years!  While expecting Jakob's arrival in 1998, Tim and I visited the thought of me staying home.  It was more like, "What happens if I just can't bear going back after seven weeks of leave?"  "We'll cross that bridge when we get there", was the response.  The bridge was over water deep with debt if we decided that I wouldn't return to work, so I went back until November 1999 when I was home on bed rest for 6 weeks after a surgery to remove an ovarian tumor.  During this time (I was 6 months pregnant with Joshua) with MUCH prayerful consideration, we decided that I would not return to work after Joshua was born.  I was so excited to be a stay-at-home mom! 

By the time Joshua was about 3 months old, I thought maybe I needed to try to find a very part time position somewhere to stay on top of my career.  I really was feeling a little lost and somewhat overwhelmed by not working and using my education even though I was enjoying being at home.  I honestly had a hard time answering that question:  "What do you do?"  I was a physical therapist, but I wasn't practicing...I needed to at least practice a little bit.  I started working part time...1-2 days a week to fill in here and there and that quickly turned into a position of 3 days a week, every other weekend and some holidays.    It was very flexible, I had child care available and of course, I still loved being a therapist, so it was mostly good.  I kind of had the best of both worlds.  I worked with a bunch of moms, so they understood the sick kids.  At that point I had also become a Pampered Chef consultant, which was super fun for me.  We "moved" to Sioux Falls for 6 months during which time I took a leave of absence from the hospital.  Even while we were there though, if someone asked me "What do you do?"  my response would always be, "I am a physical therapist".  By the time Mathilda was born, I had fine tuned my schedule to 1 day a week, 1 weekend a month and still part of the holiday rotation.  At the point when I worked Christmas, we decided to rethink my "occupation".  My first thought was "I'm a stay at home mom...I should be at home with my family for Christmas, not here."  At this point, Joshua was three years old...I had been a stay at home mom for three and a half years to four children, but my identity was still that of a health care professional...not even "Pampered Chef" consultant made the cut for my title. 

Fast forward seven years...well, 6+ years anyway.  I am a full time stay at home mom and proud to offer that answer to anyone that asks what I do.  It's not sugar coated or glamorous, it is just who I am, what I do...my title.  It's a harder and more demanding job than any other I've ever had...I've said that before many times.  I resigned from the hospital sometime in the spring of 2004, and haven't been back in a clinic since 2006.  I've kept my liscence active so that I could return to my practice at some point.  The plan in my head is to pick up PRN work...covering vacations, having the priveledge to say "no" or "yes" on my time when the kids are all in school.  This way I don't miss out on any of the stay-at-home happenings and benefits.  This last year at the time for my liscence renewal, I opted to let my liscence become inactive.  That doesn't mean anything more than that I don't have to take any classes or pay to renew it, but I am still liscenced and can return to the practice at any point as long as I take 20 hours of continuing education.  (I've never been great at eliminating possibilities)  I've often thought about letting it lapse though.  In my view of the world, I'm a mom of seven (at this point) kids...when am I ever NOT going to be busy with them?  Their events don't stop when they enter kindergarten...I want to be available for anything at any time...even if it is the birth of their third child!  It's not like I don't have a hundred other interests anyway that would provide an income if necessary!

Now, that was just the introduction to this blog post!  Here is the main content:  "What do you do?"  That is such a complex question!  Who knew???  "I'm a stay-at-home mom of seven kids."  That usually gets some pretty good reactions!  I always think, "It's not like I said 27...just 7!"  Of course it's a matter of perspective!  LOL!!!  What does it mean?  What is my job description?  What DO I do beyond cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring, and changing diapers?  I am responsible for forming and shaping my children...teaching them, providing them with life skills.  I know, they go to school, but that is just a small portion of their learning.  Tim and I are responsible for so much more than what they're taught in school.  We are responsible for not only enforcing what they learn in school regarding academia, but also shaping their spiritual beings.  We are responsible for praying for them, setting good examples, providing opportunities for them to experience things, nurturing them far beyond just physical nourishment, guarding their innocense, their hearts and even their souls  That's where it becomes a real full time job.  This is where the real life continuing education is beyond a requirement...it is necessary and daily.  This is where "clocking in" is more important that punching a time clock.  This is where it is about setting examples together as dad and mom...husband and wife, not just enforcing rules.  Children soak up lots of things, and especially seem to mirror what they see most often.  Yep...that's probably the absolute hardest...it doesn't quite cut it here to frequently say, "Do what I say, not what I do."  :)

I've learned that it is far easier to offer the easy option...for me.  The option of allowing something just to stop or avoid the whining or avoid a confrontation.  It isn't any easier to try to explain to a child of any age that the decision we make as parents aren't meant to make them unhappy.  We are accountable...to God.  We're raising His children.  I've always wished there was a simple handbook for raising children.  There are actually several "how to" books, but good luck picking the right things from the right books.  All children are different anyway!  There are though a list of simple guidelines that I've found that I feel are a good source of accountability...like do I monitor what they're watching, what I'm saying, do I praise them, do I worry more about a clean house...I may post them in a stand-alone post just to have them.  They're part of the Confraternity of Christian Mothers.  It is often good for me to refer to them to make sure that I'm staying on the right track or sometimes just to encourage me that I've made the right decision, especially when I feel like a different one would have likely provided a much more pleasurable outcome regarding responses from the kids. Some of them don't seem to apply to me now, but are certainly a good reminder to prepare for.

In running the last several weeks with friends, I've learned that what is shared and heard during hours of running is priceless...who needs a counselor when you can talk and listen for free???  Running with a fellow PT, I found myself thinking..."wow, maybe I could teach a class at the med center.  Maybe I could be more involved in my professional community.  Maybe I could...do a lot of things if I went back to work and immersed myself into the health care field again."  Which would of course mean completely rearranging this fabulous full time stay at home mom gig that I have going on!  It stirred up some question though about my identity.  Another run, another day:  another friend who could passionately affirm that she is and was meant to be and will be a stay at home mom, and love all that comes with it.  "What do you do?"  "Life", she replied.  That's the best answer I've heard yet, and I'm sure one that I will use regularly.  Remembering my question about contentment vs. satisfaction, I can confidently say that I am satisfied and content with my occupation.  :)