discovering my identity between cardigans and diapers

Three years ago I decided to hang up my cardigans for awhile in order to stay home full time with Blythe. The decision did not come easily. It felt like a loss. But I knew, for me, it was the right decision for that time.

And I foolishly thought because it was the right decision that it would be the easy one. 

It wasn't. That first fall when I sat with my 4 month old and watched the yellow school bus roll down the street, tears jetted down my cheeks, splashing onto Blythe's happy face. I held her tightly, whispering to myself that she was enough. But all day I thought about my other kids, the ones in the plastic chairs and their fresh new-first-day-of-school clothes. I thought about them walking into "my" classroom where someone else was in front of them putting on the big first-day show and dance.

I didn't allow myself much grace to grow into this new role. I thought it would come easily and naturally and that teaching would seem like such a secondary thing. But my days were long. And lonely. And tedious. I would have ideas for something to teach and I'd get excited and think I needed to go write it down...and then I'd realize I wouldn't be back in the classroom for awhile.

I foolishly thought I hadn't wrapped up my identity in what I did for a living. 
But I had.
"I'm Kelsey. I'm a teacher."

That first year when I met someone new I would say, "I'm a stay at home mom now, but I used to teach High School English." I'd almost shout it at them in hopes they would look past the stay-at-home-ness of me. If they just knew what I was capable of! I would think. I can do more than change diapers and sing lullabies and nurse. I can freakin' mold minds and get kids excited about reading and poetry! 

The truth is, I didn't feel like I was enough without teaching.

Years ago when I mentioned wanting to stay home with my kids in the future, a colleague nearly shook me and said, "You're too good of a teacher to waste yourself on being home." I told myself it was a lie and went on. But those words buried deep in my bones.

And I foolishly felt like I was wasting myself because I just had too much to offer outside of my home. 

It took a long time, but slowly I learned something that changed everything:
I am not what I do. Or don't do. 

I know, right? It's so simple. And I've heard that a million times and thought I believed it. But when it came time to really believe it, I didn't. My identity was so wrapped up in teaching. And in being good at teaching.

Once I broke through that, and embraced my role as a stay at home mom, the same thing happened. My identity was wrapped up in motherhood. And in being good at motherhood.

But finally in the past year I feel like I've broken through all of that [though I know it's not for good, because I'm trying not to be foolish anymore]. I feel like I've finally realized my identity is not at all wrapped up in what I do. That's just my role. And roles are constantly changing. If I am my role, I lose me. 

My identity is in Christ. This does not change with what I do, or even with whether or not I'm good at what I do. It simply is. And will always be.

And most importantly I am realizing that this identity is eternal. In heaven I will not be a teacher or wife or mother. And though it is nearly impossible for me to wrap my mind around this next fact-- I won't care that I am not a mother, wife, or teacher. All I will want is Jesus.

Staying home was the right decision for me. But it required some growing pains-- some letting go and some grace for myself. There are still times I struggle with "not contributing" and "not using my degree" and lots of other "nots." But these days I'm just trying to bring a little more of heaven to earth by being lost in Christ. And when I do that, when I make that decision every day, I love getting to do what I get to do.

Being a teacher will never be enough.
Blythe and Becks will never be enough. 
But Christ? He will always be enough. 
And in Him, I am enough too. 

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Torrie said...

I just gave birth to my first baby and also teach English...I'm planning on teaching one more year before becoming a stay-at-home mom, but it was really good to get someone else's perspective on the whole matter. I think I'll struggle for awhile, too, with the whole not-being-a-teacher thing, but your words gave me encouragement. Thanks for posting!

Callie Nicole said...

LOVE this post, Kelsey! Exactly what the Lord has been teaching me lately. I hope you don't mind if I link to this post on my Facebook page!