I think a lot of parents nowadays have this notion that their lives shouldn’t really change all that much when they have children. They envision themselves doing all the same things they usually did, but with a baby and accompanying gear in tow. I was certainly like that before Abby was born. I didn’t want to become one of those mothers whose entire life is wrapped up in her children, who has no identity apart from that of Mother. I think it’s all related to the intense individualism that is preached in the Western world, and also to the “American Dream” that we’re told to strive for. Let nothing and no one hold you back; you can do whatever you want and be whatever you want; look out for number one. It’s hard to do those things if you have to set your desires aside in favor of tending to another person.
Fast forward six years, and I could fill pages detailing all the opportunities I’ve missed, all the experiences I’ve let pass by. And with each one I faced a choice: Do I hold true to my parenting philosophy? Practice what I preach? Choose my child’s needs over mine? Or do I draw a line and say, “Enough–it’s my turn now”? It’s possible my writing career has suffered because of my choices. I turned down television interviews because it would have meant leaving my still-nursing daughter for 24 hours while I flew to the sets. I’ve passed on writing conferences that would have provided training and publicity because I knew my girls weren’t ready for Mommy to be gone for an entire weekend. What might that exposure have done for my sales?
I get four afternoons a week to work–a total of about 16 hours a week. That’s my time to write emails, blog posts, social media updates, newsletters, do online interviews, market and publicize my books and, oh yeah, write the books. And while I manage to sneak onto Facebook and Twitter and Gmail here and there outside of that time, I’m not in a place where I can concentrate much at those times, so it’s not like I can tackle anything of importance. Somehow God made it possible for me to pump out four novels over the last few years on that schedule. Just think what I could have done with forty whole hours a week! All I had to do was put my girls in school instead of clinging to my homeschooling ideal. But I couldn’t do it. I sacrificed productivity for my children’s education, for our family’s bond, for my girls’ innocence.
I’m not going to lie to you. There have been times that I’ve wondered if having children was the right choice. Think of all I could have done without having to make those sacrifices. Think where my career might be. Think of the speaking ministry I could have built. Think of the people I could have met, the opportunities I could have taken. Heck–think of the sleep I could have gotten, of the money I could have saved on chiropractic care to help un-kink my body after dozing off for most of the night while nursing a child to sleep. Think of the stress I could have avoided by not having to think about things like whether or not to vaccinate my girls or if my child’s sensory issues were going to cause life-long problems for her. Instead, I was called to sacrifice.
And it’s a good thing, too. I’m a selfish person. I’m selfish with my time and I’m selfish with my effort. Altruism and self-denial don’t come naturally to me. And without children to tend to, I would be a very self-centered person indeed. God knew what he was doing when He gave us these girls. He knew the lesson I needed to learn–namely that it’s not all about me. And he knew I wouldn’t learn it without being the one on whom a little life completely depended.
Now, don’t go jumping all over me, saying that I’m condemning those who don’t make the same choices I made. I think I can honestly say that this blog entry IS all about me. The choices you make are between you and God. All I know is that I was called to sacrifice. I really didn’t want to. And it’s been really, really hard. But I found that I couldn’t look my children in the eye and tell them their needs weren’t as important as mine. And I’m trusting that God knew what He was doing, and that I’ve been obedient to Him in my choices.
This week I face another choice, another opportunity to sacrifice–though I don’t actually know yet what the sacrifice will be. I haven’t figured out yet the choice I’m supposed to make. Either way it goes, it will be tough. But either way it goes, I know God will go with me. And since He knows a thing or two about sacrifice, I know I’ll have good company for the journey. He knows the plans He has for me. And that’s the only reason I’m able to let go of the “what if’s” of those options I didn’t take. It doesn’t matter what might have been had I taken those interviews or gone to those conferences–God had my route, sacrifices and all, mapped out before I ever left the gate. It’s the balm that soothes the sting of sacrifice: the knowledge that He goes with me. He knows what my career is to be, what my marriage is to be, what my children are to be.
And so I open my hands. Not my will, but Thine. Whatever You ask, Lord, I will sacrifice.