Our guest blogger today is Stephanie from The Mount Laundry News.
You know that object lesson where the teacher has an assortment of big rocks, small rocks, sand, and -for the truly ambitious – water, that all has to fit in a jar? The idea is to teach that if we properly prioritize by putting our big rocks (family, church) into the jar (our lives) first, we’ll be able to add in the small rocks (jobs), then the sand (hobbies), then the water (which I can only assume represents sleep, since that seems to be the last thing in anybody’s life they’re able to do).
Well, lately I’ve been eyeing my arrangement of rocks, sand, etc., and thinking it won’t all fit. And maybe I don’t want it to.
We could blame this failure on having too many big rocks. My husband and I have five children (all girls, if you’re wondering), which seems like a lot to most of the world, but a pittance compared to the family of eleven that just moved into our ward. It’s less than I wanted but probably more than I can handle, and therefore the perfect number. Along with the daughters, I’ve served in twelve presidencies in the last eighteen years, all while supporting my husband in similarly busy church assignments.
So let’s look at how I’ve filled my life – big rocks, more big rocks, and a trickle of water here and there. Plus whatever ingredient equals books. Everybody has their sanity-saver, and mine is reading.
Where are the small rocks? The jobs? I’ve been fortunate enough, with my husband’s income and a whole lotta clearance rack shopping, cooking from scratch, driving clunkers, and wearing shoes until they fall apart, to not have to work. Sometimes I’ve wanted to find something I felt passionate about that would also provide some extra money, but I never have. And truthfully, I’ve never known how to fit it into my schedule.
This has been a source of much guilt through the years. I’m not without an education, ambition, or talents. I graduated, seven months pregnant with my first child, from college, and I’m a fairly good artist and wannabe writer. Somewhere I should have found or made the time to use these gifts, not only to scratch my creative itches, but add to my bank balance. After all, my bookshelves are filled with novels written by LDS mother/authors, I admire their art, I listen to their music. (Except nobody would ever pay me to do anything musical. Let’s be honest. ) More realistically, I could have learned bookkeeping.
Most of the art I’ve produced has been for Primary or Young Women Camp. My writing has been sorely neglected for the last two years so I could be the stake camp director, which requires essentially composing a yearly supplemental camp manual so everybody knows This is How We Do Things in Our Camp.
More honesty: I have loved using my talents in my church callings. I may never make much time to write, draw, or paint as a hobby, much less as a career, but if it’s for church it’s not only excusable, but virtuous, lovely, of good report, and praiseworthy.
Here’s the scary part: with my husband now serving as a bishop, I was released from all my other assignments and am now in the nursery. My youngest daughter just started kindergarten, which gives me six hours to myself five days a week. Suddenly I have a chance to do everything I’ve wanted to do for years – fit in all the little rocks, the sand, even the water – and I can’t. Or I won’t. Instead, I want to put better big rocks in my life. Not only do I want to be a good mom, I want to have a perfectly clean house, with freshly painted walls! I’ll volunteer to make costumes for the school musical! I’ll master the art of cooking with freeze dried food storage!
Who is this person? Where’s the ambition, the certainty that someday I’d do something impressive (other than potty training five kids)? Since when has the pinnacle of existence equaled organized craft supplies? Have I said, “I’d be a better housekeeper if only I had more time” so often that I actually started to mean it?
Part of it might be the knowing that my kids still need me – the teenagers just as much as my little ones. They’re good girls, but it’s a scary world out there and they need their mama if they’re going to keep being good girls. And by the time my baby leaves the nest, the older ones might be coming back to visit with babies of their own. Is it premature to plan now for a life that allows me to spoil my grandchildren?
Part of it might be that I recently turned 40, and no longer feel the need to prove I’m smart or capable to anybody, including myself. Plus, I’m tired. Reinventing myself for an amazing second act sounds like a lot of work.
Most of all, though, I look at my life and think, “I got to do what matters most. I have great children, and a wonderful husband. My church callings have offered me some marvelous opportunities to grow and serve.” True, it’s not everything I imagined my life would be. It’s better, and it feels good in my soul.
Six months from now I might decide the closets are sufficiently tidy and find a part-time job (necessity might require it; five daughters = five weddings!), or write that novel I’ve been kicking around in my head. I’m sure life still has a few surprises in store, and maybe I can still be one of those women who manage to fit all the big rocks, the little rocks, the sand, and maybe even the water into my jar.
But if not – if raising a family with my husband and keeping my covenants is all I ever manage, it will be enough. After all, it’s everything.
I am a Wyoming native and graduate of the University of Wyoming, with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. I use my education to reassure myself that the craziness of raising five daughters is perfectly normal. Most of my time is spent being a wife and mom, hunting for good books, and hoping for a nap.
Be sure to visit We Talk of Christ to see what Jocelyn had posted to Celebrate the Family Proclamation!