Wednesday, May 20, 2009


the kitchen garden we have been working on during any spare moments

Parenting creates interesting paradoxes. Being a mama or papa makes you aware of your values, the vision you have for the family you want your child to grow in, who you want to be as a person, how you want to act and model to your children, and the way you want to spend your valuable time. It also takes a lot of work with few breaks which makes it difficult to get the healthy dinner on the table, keep your patience, stop washing the dishes to sing songs, and act with intention.

That last thought has come up for me a lot since Miryam was born - acting with intention. Often when I am feeling down I will scribble on some scrap paper Kerouac style with no punctuation or breaks about my vision. When we were despairing to find a house to buy I would write for a while about what I want in a house, what I would do in it, how it would feel, what things would fill it, who would visit. It helped to purge the disappointment and also to clarify the vision.

Some days I have "low mojo" and just can't get anything going, or I feel like I am just not walking the right path. That I have a vision for the person I would like to be, the life I would like to live, the family culture I would like to create, and that I am falling short. We're close but not quite there. They are hard days especially with the littles underfoot - there's less time to ponder and mother yourself and help regain your footing. The only thing I usually have time for is my scribbles - just to get it out somewhere. I don't journal - I don't save these, it's just a process - when it's done, I'm done.

This past year there have been many of these days. I have more clarity about what I want for my life than I did before becoming a mother and it feels more important to attain my vision now while my children are still young. So I tried to think about what hurdles are standing in the way of the life I envision and the big obstacle that came up again and again was Andy's working. He was lucky enough to have a friend get him started tutoring in the evenings. The pay is wonderful and there is very little prep work needed. Because we needed the extra money to buy the house it was hard to turn the work away but at 70 hours or so a week of work between school and tutoring he was turning clients away. The hours were too much but the per-hour rate for tutoring was so good in comparison to teaching that we kept adding and hour here and an hour there.Link
I've been very inspired by Rhonda's blog Down To Earth. She shares her story without judgement of where her readers are on their path or how they define "simple living" but the most moving thing about her blog, for me, is the very obvious joy and contentment she can created for herself. The sense of giving each activity her attention and commitment, to cultivating the things that are important to her and to being intentional in every choice. When I found it originally I went down the hole and read through the archives and thought and thought about the control I have over my life. That the life that I wanted was a simple life but a simple life takes time - something that was very scarce this past year. That the life I wanted was the one in which I acted with intention. When the family was on a reasonable schedule we ate fantastic home-cooked meals, we read books and played and had friends over for supper. I sewed clothes and mended them. We kept the house clean and relaxed. As soon as things got busy again everything was a reaction. We were hungry so we had to get something to eat - it wasn't already made so we would have burritos downtown. The laundry wasn't done, the dishes were dirty and I was so busy trying to get caught up that I didn't want to play. The children would finally get in bed and Andy and I would crash in front of a DVD and slump until we went to bed. The contrast was so great between our two patterns that it might have been comical if we hadn't been living it. I felt like we were doing all we could do create the life we wanted but something was always getting slighted.

I started thinking about what kind of a change we could make. Something bold and authentic. Something that felt like we were taking back control of our time and embuing it with the value it deserved. I started throwing out the idea of taking some time off from teaching and just tutoring. Good money, less hours, no stress, flexible schedule. Andy thought I was crazy. I kept thinking and trying my best to make the pieces come together. To make the yummy dinner and still have a tidy house, happy children, friend's to visit, time to relax and enough energy at the end of the night to play cards or chat with Andy instead of zoning out. It wasn't happening. I brought my idea up again and Andy thought I was crazy - thats what people do, they go to work and come home at night and we should feel blessed that I get to stay at home with the children. I took a long hard look and my vision. Was it realistic? Was it as likely as me getting a large estate in the English countryside to reside it? No. This was something that, although currently rare, should be completely realistic. Papa's should see their children for more than 2 hours before they go to bed at night. There should be time to rest when the work is done.

During spring break - a week of vacation from school but with the normal amount of tutoring - I kept noting how much smoother things ran when were in less of a rush and had more time to act with intention. We ate well, we played, we worked, we relaxed, we talked. The children were cooperative, we were patient. The rough moments were easier to weather because we were all on the same page.I brought up this contrast after the first week back to school was particularly trying. "Why are we doing this?" I asked. "This life doesn't feel like "us". It feels like we are letting circumstances make our choices for us". And Andy agreed. "Why not" he said. "Why shouldn't we try this?" And so we held our breath, held hands and jumped. Andy went into work the next day and asked for a sabbatical. And they said yes. The commended him for his commitment to his family and asked him to stay on as a department head for 3 days a month. He accepted.

Just knowing that, come July, we'll be able to make our reality that much closer to our vision makes it easier to get through these last busy weeks. I feel so blessed to have a husband who shares my vision and is willing to figure out how to make a good idea work.


nicole said...

Thank you for sharing your heart, in such a beautiful and thoughtful way!
I appreciate and *hear* what you are expressing.
I wish you many blessings on your journey, you certainly have a pure and meaningful vision, to live with intention and for your family!

Gillian said...

Thank you for the good wishes nicole. It's difficult to express the whole of such a big decision in a blog post. There was so much thinking and worrying involved but now that we have made the choice there is such clarity, thankfully.

Carly said...

This makes me smile, Ms. Gilly. Thanks for sharing your blog with me, love. It was so great to see you last week.