I have always wanted to be a teacher. I got started on this career path at the ripe old age of 11. I was finally old enough to take the Red Cross babysitting course, and I was overjoyed! Since then I have cared for children in every possible capacity. I have been a camp counselor, arts and crafts planner, nanny, church nursery employee, camp director, infant teacher, toddler teacher, middle school small group leader, tutor, and most recently, an elementary school teacher.
When people found out I was pregnant I was asked the same question over and over: “How much time will you get to stay home?” I knew my answer long before I was even married (this made for interesting early dating conversation). I did not intend to return to the classroom once I was a mom.
I had always planned to become a “stay at home mom”. There was never any doubt in my mind. Initially, this was because it was what I knew. My mom stayed home with us, and I grew up thinking that was really my only option. But as I grew up and started caring for the children of so many other families, it became more clear to me that I wanted to be there for my own children, not just because I had to, but because I wanted to. I simply could not imagine it any other way.
This is a touchy subject with a lot of moms, mostly because not all moms choose the same path I have. Some don’t have the financial freedom to be able to make that choice. Some simply don’t want to.
First, let me say that I do not judge those who do not make the choices I make. I know so many incredible moms who work full time outside of the home and still make the most of every second they are with their children. I don’t feel that I need to defend my decision any more than I feel you need to defend yours. You don’t have to be with your child all day to be a great mom.
But for me, caring for kids is what I do, and I have always looked forward to not only being a mom, but being their primary caregiver until they are old enough to enter preschool and so forth (don’t worry…there is no homeschooling in the Runions’ future).
That said, the last few months have been tough on me. It is so easy, especially in our society, to let our career become our identity. When we meet new people and we are asked to tell about ourselves, we immediately start with our jobs. We spend so much of our day on our work, that this is the natural response. I have always taken pride in the answer to this question. Being a teacher is considered noble (by most at least), typically seen as a career which deserves respect. I knew that I was making a difference in the lives of children and their families on a daily basis. I felt good about my calling to nurture little minds. I went to work daily, filled with excitement as I saw students engaged, loving learning for its own sake. My work brought me great joy.
So leaving this world, one that I not only felt called to, but also felt that I was good at, has been difficult to say the least. My Twitter feed is filled with innovative teachers sharing great ideas. Pinterest constantly reminds me that, for the first time in 13 years, I am not planning for either summer camp or a new school year. Despite being absolutely head over heels in love with this little man, I have felt a little like I was missing out. Like I was selfish for being home and not continuing to teach.
Knowing that this is irrational (I KNOW that being home is what I want and what I am called to), I have been spending a lot of time thinking about what it really means to find your identity in Christ. This cliché saying is tossed around a lot, but I have never really dug in and thought about what it actually means. This got me thinking about spiritual gifts. Wikipedia gives the following definition:
In Christianity, spiritual gifts (or charismata) are endowments given by the Holy Spirit. These are the supernatural graces which individual Christians need to fulfill the mission of the church.
Over the last months I have realized that I am not a FORMER teacher. I am STILL a teacher. I may no longer be responsible for teaching long division to a classroom full of elementary school students, but teaching, for me at least, isn’t just a career. It is a gift, one I was blessed with. One that I was molded for from a very young age. One that is important for me to fulfill my purpose, and to fulfill the mission of the church.
I get to play an important new role: my child’s FIRST teacher. I get to be the one who reads stories and sings songs and plans fun craft projects. I get to be the one who crawls around in the dirt and looks for bugs, or helps build a robot out of leftover recyclables. And hopefully someday I will have the opportunity to use my experience as not only a teacher of other people’s children, but as a teacher of my own, to inspire and assist other new moms who may not have the education and resources I have been blessed with.
God’s plans for me didn’t end the day I said goodbye to my career and paycheck, and they won’t end the day my children become adults and start their own families. He blessed me with this gift for more reasons than I know. My identity doesn’t come from my job. It comes from being formed into the woman that God created me to be. I am SO looking forward to how he will use me and this amazing gift in all of the adventures yet to come.