How I Achieve A Balanced Life

When I was younger, I had a very distinct vision of what my life would be like by the time I was 30. In this mental picture, I saw myself being a woman who juggled multiple challenging demands with ease: successful, fulfilling career, loving marriage, a couple of wonderful children, free time to pursue personal interests, etc. And me, easily navigating it all. Kicking butt and taking names, basically; having achieved that most elusive of things: work-life balance.

I am now 29. And while I wouldn’t say that I am kicking butt and taking names or some type of #bossbabe, for the first in my life I feel like I am getting close to having and successfully balancing all of the great things in my life that I described above.

Now, I know that the concepts of “having it all” and “work-life balance” are gendered in ways that are problematic. Men don’t frequently get asked how they balance work and family, or if it’s hard to find time to work and parent and spend time with their spouse and maintain a home. Only women get asked those questions, and judged on the basis of them. But the fact remains that work-life balance is an issue that many women do struggle with, so I wanted to explore how it’s working for me these days while acknowledging the problems that exist with it.

A few important things have changed since we moved to Atlanta that help make my work-life balance more possible: 1) support from my family that has resulted in a little breathing room financially and logistically, 2) a much happier work situation,  3) the fact that my school district actually pays teachers a living wage and 4) that I’ve been really trying to nurture my personal passions.

Living two doors down from my family has been amazing. Our normal weekday routine now involves my mom taking care of Jonah, as I’ve mentioned. And more than that, just the fact that there is always at least one backup person to help in case of an emergency feels very reassuring, especially to me, who tends to prepare for the worst-case scenario in all situations. I can breathe easier now.

As to work, I read a quote posted by some random person on Facebook the other day which said “It’s a lucky man or woman who gets up in the morning, puts both feet on the floor, knows what they’re about to do, and thinks it still matters.” (I just looked this up and it turns out it’s a Joe Biden quote.) This is where I am about teaching. I know that what I do matters, and I’m happy to go to my school every day. It’s what I want to spend my days doing.

On the practical side, I feel better-treated than I ever have as a teacher. There are several responsibilities that our current school system helps its teachers with, such as lesson planning, so that makes life a little easier and less stressful than previous teaching jobs.

More importantly, for the first time I feel like my colleagues and I are being paid close to what we are worth. To illustrate: I am making $10,000 more than I would were I to be teaching now in North Carolina, with the same years of experience, same degrees, etc. I am making $20,000 more than I did last year at my non-school system job. THOUSAND. Not hundred.

All educators deserve to make this, and more. Making enough money allows a person to do a few things for themselves. My family can now afford a gym membership and some housecleaning help without feeling like we won’t make it to the end of the month, which is where we were in 2015-2016. Money being extremely tight led to me being both less healthy and more stressed, because there was always work that needed to be done at home once I got home from my day job, and because I knew I wasn’t taking care of myself.

It’s hard to practice self-care when you literally can’t afford any non-essentials, and when you can barely afford the essentials. To employers: want your employees to be happy at work and have a good work-life balance? Pay them a freaking decent amount of money.

Because I feel less stress in other areas of my life, I’ve had the freedom and space to devote to people and things that I love. When I am spending time with Jonah and Jonathan, I can be all there, not worrying about when I will have time to clean the house or do those hours of lessons plans or if we can afford to go to a museum.

It’s kind of a snowball effect: just like stress in one area tends to build up and spill over into other areas of your life, peace can be the same. Remove a tremendous stresser in one area, and everything else gets calmer and more peaceful. Serenity spreads.

I’m also devoting more time to my personal passions. Readers of this blog have probably noticed that I am writing more regularly than I used to, because I actually have time to do it. I am also getting to go to yoga and Pilates at the gym weekly, which I love but couldn’t afford in the past.

I know that I am tremendously lucky, and I am so thankful for how my family has been blessed over the last year. Is everything perfect now? Of course not. But I’m feeling better physically and emotionally than I have in a long time, maybe since Jonah was born and Jonathan and I took on the responsibilities of parenthood. I feel…balanced.

To sum up: in my experience the answer to the work-life balance question is the following: get outside help from family (or friends) if you can, do a job you find fulfilling and find an employer who will pay you what you’re worth, take care of yourself physically, and take time to nurture your inner life and do the things that you find meaningful.

 

How do you achieve work-life balance?

10 Things I Don’t Care About

If you’re a regular reader of this blog and/or know me in real life, you can attest to the fact that I care, a lot, about a lot of things. I talk about these things in most of my posts. Today, however, I’m thinking about things that I don’t care about in the least. Behold:

  1. I don’t care if you tell me “Happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”
  2. I don’t care about plain red Starbucks cups.
  3. I don’t care about who does or doesn’t stand up for the National Anthem.
  4. I don’t care about transgender people using their preferred bathroom.
  5. I don’t care if college and university faculties are liberal.
  6. I don’t care that the media reports the facts, and that some journalism outlets also feature commentary that I may or may not agree with.
  7. I don’t care that many young people think they are special.
  8. I don’t care if someone receiving government assistance has a smartphone or a nice purse.
  9. I don’t care about anyone’s immigration status unless they are a violent criminal.
  10. I don’t care that English is not America’s official language.

gif_monsters_inc__boo_by_marcelovaticbelieber-d5r7fkn

What do you not care about?

It’s Hard To Go To Church In Trump’s America.

This post was also featured on Patheos’ Unfundamentalist Christians blog.

It’s hard for me to go to church these days.

It’s hard for me to give up my precious, fleeting family time to transport my toddler across town, stand in a room with people I don’t know and listen to a sermon that’s just a little too long. It’s hard to go by myself with my son when my husband is working, and it’s hard to go as a whole family on my husband’s Sundays off, when we would really rather be doing something else together. It’s hard to make the effort. Especially now.

The truth of the matter is that it’s hard for me to go to an evangelical church in the wake of Trump’s election. I don’t think I belong there anymore.

I don’t belong with a group of people that by and large believes Trump is worthy of being president.

I feel uprooted, disoriented. Homeless. The evangelical church is the body into which I was born and raised, where I was educated and how I came to faith. I’m not sure where to go next.

Knowing that 80% of white evangelicals voted for Trump, I was interested to see how the leaders at our new church here in Atlanta would handle the election aftermath. Would they be silent about it? Call for unity? Reference it obliquely? Or speak out against Trump’s nativism, racism, mysogyny, etc.?

On the second Sunday after election day, the pastor at church preached a sermon on living out the gospel in everyday life. I was cautiously hopeful that he would reference the obvious elephant in the room, but he didn’t get any more explicit than saying something like “our current cultural context.”

He made the point that the first human occupation was gardener, not soldier, that we can’t force other people to believe the same things we do, but that we can live out our beliefs in our daily lives. All pretty basic stuff, but the phrase “gardeners, not soldiers” stuck out to me. At the time I interpreted that to mean that it is not Christians’ job to be culture warriors. And I found it vaguely reassuring.

But as I got to thinking about it later, I realized that this phrase also seems to be discouraging of Christians’ efforts to take a stand against the worst parts of this upcoming administration. Obviously, I strongly disagree.

If there was ever a time to fight like hell for things that are true and right and fair, it’s now.

Before November 8th, I already knew that I was more forward-thinking than most evangelicals, that I cared more about equity and racial justice and public education than most. But I have been absolutely shocked to discover just how far removed I am from the evangelical tribe. And even more, I am embarrassed.

I am so embarrassed that calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” wasn’t enough to get evangelicals not to vote for him. That mocking a disabled reporter wasn’t enough. Or saying that he would deport millions of people, including citizen children. Or wanting to create a Muslin registry. Or admitting to, and then being accused of, sexually assaulting women. And those are just for starters.

Because these things did not directly affect most white evangelical Christians, they were able to disregard them. And that attitude makes me feel ill. The privilege is breathtaking.

I know that evangelical ministers have a difficult task in front of them in this moment. Regardless of their personal beliefs, many are figuring out how to pastor ideologically divided congregations, what they can and cannot say to avoid offending different groups of people in their churches. But this timidity is keeping me from seeing much of Jesus at church right now.

Jesus is with the poor. Jesus is with the oppressed. He is with the marginalized. Jesus is with the groups of people that Donald Trump’s supporters mock, shame and attack, whose schools and places of worship they deface.

Instead, I am finding Jesus during restful moments at home with my family. I see him in my classroom, where children are making breakthroughs, learning to do things they never thought they could, and becoming moral people who care about others. I see him in organizations that work on behalf of the downtrodden, and those that work to protect the environment.

I’m not sure where all of this is leading me, and leading my family. For the first time in my life, I am pondering concepts like “spiritual but not religious.” I know that’s not the answer, though.

I want to belong to a body of believers, a place to study and worship and learn more about God. I just think the evangelicals have lost me, and I’m not sure what comes next.

What I’ve Learned from Being White in a Black World

I am a white woman. All my life, I have been surrounded by people who looked just like me. Though I have lived in many different places, starting when I was a child the one constant I could be sure of was that when I walked in to a space, I would find many people who looked and talked like I did. This affected how I carried myself, my comfort level and my confidence. No matter where I went, I felt like I belonged and like I had a right to be there. This was true of my schools, churches, workplaces, stores, etc. You name it.

I have never been the minority. Until now.

In my new life in Atlanta, it is common for me to walk into places (especially in and around where I work) and be one of only a few white people there. At first I felt uncomfortable to stand out so much. I felt like I was being watched or judged for being different when I just wanted to blend in. My own voice sounded strange and awkward to my ears. At work, kids had lots of questions about my eyes and hair, because most of them had never had a white teacher before.

And then it hit me…this is how life is for people of color EVERY. DAY. Times about 100.

atlanta-819326_640
Atlanta. image via pixabay.com

When we first moved, I felt some trepidation when I entered a space as the only white person in the room. Now I’m more used to it. I’m making friends and fitting in. I have been treated with respect and kindness everywhere I have gone, but it has taken some getting used to, this feeling like maybe you don’t quite belong. Even if no one says anything.

So what I’m realizing in a whole new way is how much harder it is for a person of color in a white environment, when unfortunately white people often DO say something. When white people often perform microaggressions upon people of color on a daily basis and think nothing of it.

I’ve also seen how, as a white minority, I still benefit from white privilege everywhere I go. I can go into a sketchy-looking gas station with bullet-proof glass around the cash register and not have to worry about anyone bothering me, or about the cashier staring at me to make sure my hands are visible at all times. Instead, people tell me I look like a teacher and thank me for what I do. True story. (More than once.)

When I see a cop, I don’t have to worry too much about being stopped by him or her, and about what might happen if I did get stopped. Even though I have a tendency to speed and my car tag is out of date. (Oops.) I don’t have to be scared of an interaction with the police.

So I am thankful. I’m thankful for this experience of life as a minority, and I wish I could have had it earlier. I lived in a comfortable, sheltered suburban white Christian bubble for far too long, and one of the reasons I’m happy we moved to Atlanta is that my son’s experience is going to be different.

Jonah will learn early that there are lots of different kinds of people in the world and that white is not the “right” way to look and act. He will have classmates and friends of different races from an early age. He will learn that diversity is beautiful, that the world does not look like an evangelical church on Sundays. He will learn that as a white, privileged person he can be a voice against society’s subjugation of black Americans and other minority groups.

If you as a white person have never been in the minority anywhere, I suggest you try it. White people can never truly understand the daily experiences of people of color, but flipping the script and engaging in an environment that’s not all about you is a good place to start.

I am not the Pinterest mom.

I saw a funny Buzzfeed video a while ago about the different kinds of moms you meet.

Apparently there are five different types: the PTA mom, the hipster mom, the crunchy mom, the parenting expert and the hot mess mom. (Not sure where I fit here…maybe a bit of parenting expert, crunchy and hot mess, all rolled into one?)

I would like to respectfully submit one more: the Pinterest mom.

Mother and her kid making chestnuts creatures
Chestnut creatures, anyone?

We all know the Pinterest mom. She does homemade crafts with her children on the regular. She takes family photos on holidays with all offspring in coordinating outfits. She makes her children’s Halloween costumes and does Elf on a Shelf. She thoroughly documents each moment of her children’s lives with baby books, scrapbooks and photo albums. She throws elaborate, themed birthday parties for toddlers with a professional photographer present. She always remembers to squeeze every last ounce of special out of her children’s special days.

Well, this is not me. At all.

I am not great at this aspect of modern parenting. I typically don’t think to take a family photo on holidays until about 10 pm when Jonah has been asleep for hours. The idea of doing a craft with my toddler fills me with dread. I would theoretically like to create a scrapbook for my son but I doubt I would ever actually follow through with it. I forgot to get Jonah an Easter basket until everyone else’s photos appeared on Facebook.

I don’t know exactly why I’m so bad at all of this. Maybe it’s the combination of having a busy life plus a general lack of craftiness/artistic ability that just makes me generally bad at all things Pinterest-y.

ba20aa7f6f5e74b6b6ab8913af90f0a2

I often feel some guilt and anxiety over this, and I haven’t been able to get on Pinterest much since Jonah was born because of it. Not doing the things that most of my contemporaries seem to do with their children makes me feel like somewhat of a failure as a parent. Did a fun day really happen if I forgot to document it? Is Easter still special for my 15-month old if I forgot to get him a gift? Do I still have a beautiful family if we don’t have many photos all together? WILL JONAH BE UPSET AS AN ADULT TO NOT HAVE A BABY BOOK???!!!

I’m trying to remember that these things look good, but they don’t really matter that much in the grand scheme of things. They’re extra.

Instead, I’m trying to focus on the ways I am really knocking it out of the park as a parent. Jonah loves being read to, and books are his favorite toys, because we have read to him every day from birth. He is extremely friendly and social. His vocabulary is exploding. He isn’t a picky eater and regularly eats lots of different kinds of foods, such as Thai, Mexican, Vietnamese and Chinese. He is obviously intelligent. He is such a happy, loving little guy. I like to think that means we’re doing a lot of things right.

And honestly, I think focusing on the positive is the answer to so many of our issues around insecurity and anxiety as mothers. Cut yourself some slack, mama…you’re doing fine.

And for all the Pinterest moms…I salute you and your crafty ways! Want to come make/plan/organize some of that stuff for me?

What about you? Do you love Pinterest or does it stress you out?

This post originally appeared on BlogHer.

I Had An Easy Baby.

I had an easy baby. There. I said it.

It’s the kind of thing you don’t like to admit in a mixed group for fear of offending someone. It sounds like gloating–like someone talking about how they can eat anything they want and not gain weight. But it’s true.

Jonah has been easy from the very beginning. I only threw up once during my pregnancy. Once I got past the first trimester I felt pretty energetic. My blood pressure unexpectedly went up at around 36 weeks, but even with preeclampsia I pretty much felt fine. Even though my labor had to be induced, it only lasted about 10 hours, and I had an amazingly positive experience. I only had to push for 45 minutes.

10253899_759438698412_2419704669780943172_n

Jonah latched easily and nursed well from the beginning. None of us got much sleep for the first month or so, but after he started sleeping through the night at about six weeks I began to think maybe I could handle this parenting thing after all.

Jonah has turned into a real extrovert who is generally entertained whenever he’s around lots of people. He is happy at daycare during the day, happy with grandma on his days with her, and happy with us at home at night (unless he hasn’t napped–then not so much). In general, he has always been an unusually pleasant baby who seemed to not cry much and to be soothed easily when he did get upset.

As he’s become a toddler, these characteristics continue–so far. For the most part, he eats what we put in front of him. He goes to bed with a minimum amount of struggle. Even though we are starting to get into the tantrum stage, he is still remarkably sanguine most of the time. Being around Jonah is fun. (Notwithstanding the things that are just hard about toddler life.)

Though I think we were just lucky that Jonah was born a good-humored little guy, Jonathan and I have been very intentional about doing certain things in our parenting to help keep it this way. We plan our days around his sleep schedule. We don’t expect him to sit still and quiet for long periods of time in public–it’s not gonna happen anyway, and it would only end in tears for everyone involved. Jonah and I spend a lot of time outside. But I would not say that we have done anything extraordinary, or that we have some secret to share for raising a happy child that other parents don’t know.

13260229_10206260178732465_107172171182163207_n

 

It sounds awful to say that having an easy baby isn’t what I expected, but it’s true. I expected parenting to be harder than it’s been so far. You don’t hear a lot about easy babies–instead, you hear the horror stories, about babies with colic who cry for hours, about babies who refuse to sleep through the night well past 12 months old, etc. I’m not sure if this is because parents with difficult babies talk about it more as a way to commiserate, but I know that, so far, parenting has been easier than I was led to believe it would be.

While it’s good to be prepared for the difficulties that may lie ahead, I think all of the negative stories do a disservice to expectant parents. Expecting to not sleep and to not be able to go anywhere for months on end is not the best way to approach a major life change. If I could give any advice to moms-to-be, it would be this: There will certainly be hard moments, but consider the possibility that life with a baby may not be as hard as you fear.

When people meet Jonah they typically have one of two responses:

  1. It’ll change when he turns 2.
  2.  Just wait till the next one!

In a way I know we are due, if things work like that. We’ll see on both counts!

What My Parents’ Marriage Taught Me About Fighting With My Husband

Spoiler alert: Not much.

My parents have an idyllic marriage. Really. This August they will have been married for 32 years and they still make eyes at each other, kiss in public and hold hands under the table.

I can count on MAYBE five fingers the number of times I was aware of them arguing during the 18 years that I lived at home. When you think about it, that’s quite something.

I think this can be attributed to two things: 1) My parents are both pretty agreeable people who just don’t argue much, and 2) They were very intentional about having disagreements behind closed doors/after us kids were asleep.

On the one hand, this made for a very peaceful, loving environment to grow up in, and it gave me a nice picture of what a beautiful marriage looked like. I really respect my parents for the way they approached this issue. On the other hand, however, it did not provide me with many realistic expectations for how to deal with conflict in marriage.

arguing-1296392_960_720
public domain image via pixabay.com

Because I almost never saw them, I wasn’t aware that it was common for married people to have disagreements, and to work through them. As a child, the few times that I did notice my parents arguing were pretty upsetting, because it was just such an uncommon occurrence. I immediately assumed that arguments meant serious problem/separation/divorce. And it took me a while as a newlywed to realize that there wasn’t something wrong with my marriage just because we seemed to fight more than my parents did. I expected perfection because that is what I was used to.

My marriage is different than my parents’. Jonathan and I are two passionate, headstrong, opinionated, sometimes contrary first-borns, and we both have a tendency to want our own way. These characteristics make great things happen when we are united toward a common goal, but they can be a real pain when we have a disagreement. Things can get heated quickly.

But you know what? Disagreements happen in marriage. They just do. We disagree, get angry at each other, take some space, work it out, apologize and move on. While it is very important to me that Jonah not be forced to hear things that are inappropriate related to his parents arguing, I do want my son to be aware that married people disagree sometimes, but they always work it out, and they love each other through it all.

We’re still working on this, but I think disagreeing respectfully in the earshot of children is a very important skill to have. This means things like keeping our voices even and our language neutral, and when we can’t do that, we table the conversation until a later time. Often, the act of having to wait to hash out an issue makes it resolve itself anyway.

In the early days of my marriage, I wish I would have known that married people can disagree sometimes but still love each other and be happy, and that life doesn’t have to be perfect to be really darn good.

 

What is your approach to arguing in front of your kids? How is it similar or different to your parents’ approach?

I Support Public Education (And So Should You)

I’ve written quite a bit about being a former public school teacher. You might think that because I left teaching I have a problem with public schools. In fact, the opposite is true. I love public schools. I think they are the foundation for a democratic and equitable society. I support them, and you should too. More on that in a minute.

topic-public-school

First of all, a story. Growing up, I attended both private Christian and public schools, though I ended up graduating from a private Christian school. Here’s a brief summary of the state of the school options in my hometown (circa 2002-2006): expensive college-prep private, mediocre Christian private, and public schools containing mostly minority students.

When I say the private Christian schools were mediocre, I mean lacking options, like AP/IB classes, electives, even honors classes in most subjects–things the public schools had in abundance. Case in point: At the time that I graduated from my private Christian high school, there was ONE AP class offered–AP Calculus–that wasn’t doable for me. I entered college with no college credit, when other students had full years.

My parents were paying thousands of dollars a year for fewer options than I could have gotten at the local public school, for free. It boggles the mind.

183384_1002755278237_4492_n

So why am I writing about this? Am I still bitter, ten years later, about not getting to take a few AP classes? Of course not. I’m writing about this because it matters, a great deal. The way people feel about public schools affects education policy at the state and federal levels–how much funding schools get, how public school teachers are evaluated, how (and how much) students are tested, etc. In the end, that affects all of us.

494492aab3921048a9a88cd64e6a9e73

Why are public schools worth supporting?

  • Public schools are legally required to provide all necessary academic services that children need, for free.

Did you know that public schools are required by the government to provide all services that children with various needs require to have equitable educational access? This includes services like ESL, classes for the intellectually gifted, a variety of special education classes, hearing and vision specialists, and speech, physical and occupational therapy, to name a few. One of my previous schools even purchased expensive cochlear implant hearing aids for all of its hearing-impaired students with district money. Do you think private schools offer all of these services? You would be very hard-pressed to find one.

  • Public schools are held to common state and federal standards.

All public schools are held to the same state and federal standards under which they are judged. Teachers are required to be highly qualified and evaluated for effectiveness at regularly-scheduled intervals. Money in the budget has to be accounted for. Curriculum is based on the Common Core standards. Private schools aren’t required to meet any of these standards. (In my nine years in private school, I don’t remember a single instance of a teacher being evaluated by an administrator while I was in class.)

  • Public schools expose children to those who are different.

It is a fact that many private Christian schools in the South opened during the 1960s and 70s as a way for parents to keep their white children separated from the black students in newly-desegregated public schools (see here, and here–the latter article is about my hometown). Most private schools remain overwhelmingly white. For example, there were maybe 5-7 black students in my entire high school of approximately 200.

As the average evangelical church is fairly segregated, your average white Christian child at a private school could conceivably go through his or her life and not interact with a person of color until adulthood. Personally, the first time I can remember talking to a black person was when I switched from private to public school in the 7th grade. What message are we sending to kids when they are constantly surrounded by those who look and act just like them? How do we expect them to feel and to act when they do encounter diversity?

Public school provides middle-class white children with the opportunity to interact and become friends with kids of different races, ethnicities, cultures and socioeconomic classes. This interaction (a) fosters empathy, (b) prepares children for the increasingly diverse United States that we live in, and (c) teaches children that they are not the center of the universe.

  • Public schools have the potential to be the great equalizer.

Theoretically, public schools have the potential to be true meritocracies, where all children enter on a level playing field and have the ability to succeed or fail based on their own merits and hard work. We know in reality that this is rarely the case. Even though no one is paying for an eduction at a public school, middle class parents are still able to provide extra benefits to help their children succeed, such as outside help and support, a knowledge of how the system works, etc. But the dream is there. Done right, public schools have the potential to be truly equitable in a way that private schools can never be.

 

So what is the point of this post? What’s a concerned parent to do? I’m not saying that public schools are the right choice for everyone in every setting. If I lived somewhere with a very low-quality school system Jonathan and I would perhaps choose private, too.

This is my point: Truly weigh all of your school options before automatically selecting a private school for your child. Make sure the private school really is a better choice, and has the services and options that the public schools do. Do your research. If your child won’t experience racial diversity at school, intentionally include it in your lives in other ways. Consider the fact that if more middle-class parents chose public schools, the school system would likely be better for everyone. Most importantly, don’t assume public schools are bad just because they contain a lot of black and brown children.

Why I Would Rather Be 28 than 18

Jonathan and I will have been together for 10 years this November. 10 years! That is over a third of my life. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how I have changed over the last 10 years, and I think I’ve changed quite a bit, in mainly good ways. Holly Love at 28 is a different person than Holly Gushee was at 18.

2007
Check out these babies! I was 19 here, but close enough.

People talk a lot about “the best years of your life,” as in, “enjoy college, those are the best years of your life.” I find statements like this problematic. If certain years really are the best of your life, what about the rest of your life? Is it just all downhill from there?

I like to take a different approach. Common sense says to me that there are good and not-so-good parts of each different life stage, and that we should appreciate the best parts of the stage that we are in. And I’ve realized the best parts of my current stage are pretty awesome. Adulting has some good things about it, amirite? Here’s what I’m enjoying about being an “older” young adult:

  1. I’m not afraid to ask for what I need.

If I want something–at home, at work, etc.–I’ve learned that it’s okay to say so. It’s fine to say at work that I have too much going on and that I can’t take on another project. It’s fine to tell Jonathan that for my mental and physical health I want to make going to yoga a priority, and that we should be able to spare the money for me to do it. If I need something, I’ve learned to verbalize it and to advocate for it. It sounds so simple, but this isn’t something that I did much as a “younger” young adult, and this is something I’ve also noticed in the younger people that I work with. It’s so much more effective to directly say what you need than to hint around it, keep it to yourself and then get upset when you don’t get it.

2. I appreciate my body more for what it can do than for how it looks.

Having a child has fundamentally changed the way I feel about my body, for the better. Carrying, giving birth to and nurturing Jonah with my own body has helped me appreciate my body for the amazing things that it can do, and has helped me to cut myself a little slack for my body’s imperfections. Case in point: I am currently trying to lose about 8-10 pounds. Four years ago, I would have been pretty obsessed about this and upset that I was having a hard time fitting into my size 4 jeans. Now, it’s something that I’m working on, but it’s nowhere near my main concern.

3. I know the true value of money and material blessings.

Nothing will teach you the true value of money than going through a time in your life where you don’t have much of it. I had a very blessed childhood and young adulthood. This past year money was kind of tight for Jonathan and me, and it’s increased my feelings of thankfulness for what we have.

4. Some of my ideals have died. 

I planned to be a teacher forever. I wanted to change the world. But I’ve learned that my family and my mental health are more important. I don’t have to be involved in direct service to make a difference in the world.

5. I’ve learned that not everyone is just like me.

This is a big one. The first step to empathy is realizing that many, many people have a difference experience of life than you do. Since being out in the world, I have been exposed to many different kinds of people, and I’ve realized 1) my privilege and 2) that not everyone experiences life in exactly the same way as an upper middle-class Southern Christian white girl. Once you really get a glimpse of what life is like for others, it is much easier to love, and much harder to judge. (Many politicians need to learn this! *cough* *Donald Trump* *cough*)

11898917_10204683820124485_5111868144437507872_n
Present-day Holly, Jonathan and Jonah

What have you learned as you have gotten older? How has growing older changed you for the better?

Envy

I’m not proud of something that I felt today.

I was in a conversation with someone I am directly connected to. I obviously won’t say who it is. I see this person about once a week and will for the indefinite future. She is a newlywed married to a young guy who got an awesome, high-paying job straight out of college. He is five years younger than me and makes roughly double my income. Let’s call her husband Mike. Today this girl and I were talking about her job search. She was trying to get a certain kind of job to get hours to apply to a graduate school program.

“How’s your job search going?”-Me

“I have a lead on a job at _________. Oh by the way, Mike and I have decided I’m not going to try to go to (type of graduate school).”-Her

“Oh really, why not?”-Me

“Because Mike has such a good job, we decided that it wouldn’t be worth the money for me to go. It would be better to put that money toward his education. So I’m planning to just get a part-time job.”-Her

“Oh, why not full time? Because you don’t have to?”-Me

“Yeah, because I don’t have to. Since Mike makes so much money, there is no reason for me to work full-time. It makes sense to have one of us home to take care of the apartment, make dinner, stuff like that.”-Her

I felt physically ill when she said this. Even now, thinking about this conversation makes me feel queasy. It took everything I had not to say, “OH HOW NICE FOR YOU” in a really bitchy tone of voice. Instead, I bit my lip (literally), stood up and went outside to get some fresh air.

Important to know: This person has made comments like this before. “Mike and I are really comfortable… blah blah blah.” And she knows that my husband is unemployed right now and looking hard for a job.

Jonathan and I are so blessed in so many ways. In general we are pretty comfortable and have no reason to complain. Since he lost his job at the end of July, things have been tight, but we are making it. He’s been looking hard for a job and has had some interviews, but nothing has come of it so far. During our marriage to date, there has never been a time when I wasn’t the main breadwinner, for a variety of reasons. More on that saga another time. Recently I have been feeling a bit resentful about this, even though I like working, and I love my job. I’ve been wishing that I could spend more time with Jonah. I think I am tired of HAVING to work, of having to be the dependable, responsible one. Is it wrong to want to be taken care of for a change?

I’m a little scared of how honest this post is. Stuff from the deepest, darkest part of my heart is coming out.

So back to this conversation. Hearing this girl, who doesn’t have a child, who doesn’t even have pets, talk about how she doesn’t really have to work and needs lots of time to take care of things at home, made me feel sick to my stomach with envy. There–I said it. i am envious of how easy life is for her. I’m not proud of it. Obviously lots of people make more money than we do, but I’ve never felt before like I felt today. Today, it was personal. I can’t recall ever feeling as acute a sense of wishing I had what someone else has as I did today.

What’s funny is that I have never wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. As someone who thrives on a schedule, I’ve never thought I would be happy without one. I tend to get stir-crazy when I’m at home too long. On the other hand, I would love more time with my baby. Isn’t that the working mom’s dilemma? I do think a goal of mine might be to work part-time someday when we can afford it. And obviously it would be amazing if Jonathan made enough money that I didn’t have to work, even though I probably would anyway.

People, choose your words carefully. Think about other people’s situations in life before you speak. And clearly don’t spout off about how comfortable you are if you know someone else is struggling. As for me…I need to be content with what I have.