Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Broken Record

In my late high school years and the beginning of college, I didn't want to go to college.  I went without complaining and was even excited to be there, but my life goals didn't include career or educational goals.  I honestly just wanted to marry and have a family.  But I did really well in college.  I finished my freshman year with a 3.9 GPA.  The summer after my freshman year I worked in a chemistry lab, helping a graduate student with her research.  And I loved it.  And I set a goal that someday I wanted to get a graduate degree myself.

As college went on, I did more undergraduate research.  I was accepted into a summer program at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Melon in Mathematical Biology - a field I was highly interested in because of it's involvement in cancer research.  I left the program after two weeks mostly because of a cute boy that I missed terribly  - and I can admit that now because I am very happily married to him.  After that I didn't know what I wanted to do with my career.  I thought about architecture.  I worked at an architectural design firm for the rest of that summer and enjoyed it.  I interned with the university architect my senior year of college.

I graduated college with honors.  I worked for a year at a design company.  It was a ton of fun, but I could not handle sitting at a desk all day.  I taught high school math for a year.  I married that cute boy.  I started to teach a second year of school.  A few months into that year, I found out I was pregnant.  I knew I wasn't going to return to teaching after the baby was born.

The baby was born.  I was a mother.  It was more beautiful, moving, and harder than I ever imagined.  He was (and still is) an excellent sleeper.  He was (and still is) a super snuggler.  He filled my heart with more love than I ever imagined.  He caused tears and frustrations I never imagined.  He taught me more than I ever imagined.

Then his sister came.  She changed everything.  She was an even better sleeper.  But I was even more exhausted.  Everything was undone as quickly (or quicker) as I could get it done.  Everything he didn't think to get into, she did.  She was happier, but louder and more dramatic.  She was more wide open, but just as sweet.

The husband I always hoped for.  Two babies I always hoped for.  The life I always wanted.  Life was so good.

But when she was closing in on one, the idea of graduate school crept back into my mind.  We were strapped financially and if I had a higher degree, that would help fix our finances.  Graduate school (Round I) didn't go well.  My heart was at home with those babies every moment I was at school.  I realized I no longer had any interest in higher level mathematics.  It's hard to realize something that you once enjoyed just doesn't hold your interest in the least.  I finished out the semester barely - one W, one F, and one C-.  You can decide for yourself if that even counts as finishing.

I dove back into motherhood with absolute vengeance and a renewed sense of purpose.  I think that following year was when I had my best mothering moments.  I was in it.  I was focused.

Then we moved.  The cute boy was now a handsome man and pursuing new goals for our sweet family.  He was no longer the unfocused boy I fell in love with.  He was focused and he had purpose to get a higher degree for our family.  I struggled tremendously last year - I cried and struggled to find happiness in our new "home".  I missed friends.  I missed being able to stay at home completely.  But I loved supporting his dreams.  And really, his dreams are our dreams.  All of these things happened because of open communication.  We moved because we felt like it was the best thing to do, but moving is still hard even when you want to do it and know it's best.

Then the kids started preschool.  And I turned 30.  Eek.  Still not 100% ok with that number.  It means I have to start being an official grown-up.  I kind of liked the 20s - kinda grown up, kinda not really yet.  And that grad school concept started creeping back in.  I mean, we're already in a college town.  I had a better idea of what I would like to study.  The grandparents live here to help out.  And I thought and thought.  And thought some more.  And I figured if I'm going to do this, I better do it now.

So I decided to change areas of study.  And I did a lot of self studying throughout the fall and early winter.  And I started to audit one (undergraduate) class this semester.  And I loved the material covered.  And at first is was really fun to have something all for myself.  After a summer of "single" parenting and a really slam packed busy fall semester for the hubby, it was fun to be a little selfish.

But then the hubby's workload kept growing.  And my workload was full, on top of still working part-time.  And reality set in that four and five year old kids can do a lot, but they still need a lot.  And I kept feeling like I needed to ask more and more of my parents.

And just like a broken record, last week I walked away from higher education in the name of family.  And I do it with my head held high.

I don't get a do-over with my kids.  I don't get a do-over with these years when my spouse needs my support the most.  And I think the most important thing I can do right now is listen to the cries of my heart.  My heart continually calls me back to my love of family and being a stay-at-home mother. 

Someday my children will be grown.  Some day my spouse will be settled into a career.  And maybe then again, my idea of graduate school will resurface with a renewed meaning and purpose.  But for now, I have gained a clarity of how fortunate I am.  I get to make these choices.  I get to choose being at home or going to school.  And I feel so very fortunate that I can continue to choose family.

And so, yet again, just like a broken record, I return my focus to my family and my home with a renewed sense of purpose and joyfulness in my heart.  I only get one shot at this life and I'm going to make it count for the people that mean the most to me.