It's been two months since my youngest flew the coop. It feels like he hasn't really flown at all. He still sends me text messages regularly, and he's been home often. I'm thankful for that part. Still, the house is a lot quieter and I realize how just how much easier it is to run a household with just two of us here. Some evenings, I don't even cook anything; we just have soup and sandwiches.
When we confront new situations, we often speculate about how it will be. Often, we expect one thing to happen, but something else does instead. I didn't know what to expect, really, when I thought of life with all of my children away from home. I do know, however, that the feeling of guilt that I recently detetcted was not something I anticipated. Guilt, you say? About what?
Many women, when they have no more children at home return to the workforce. I am not planning to do so. If it was a matter of feeding us, I would, but we are able to live on my husband's income alone. I don't take any credit for this. We understand this is a gift from God. What has surprised me is the comments some have made, and my own feelings of guilt about it.
Some have said, "Oh, it must be nice to be at home all day." I don't want to be paranoid, but there often feels like an unspoken, "...sitting around doing nothing" behind such comments. I do have more free time than I used to, but I am also busy with things.
I also get comments like "We could never manage on one income," as if our ability to do so is somehow abnormal or suspect. Well, we only had two incomes for two years of our marriage; we adapated. It has meant sacrifices. When people talk about how lucky we are (and we know we are blessed) to manage on one income, I seldom mention the fact that we've never had more than one television, and the one we have now was given to us as a gift. We've never been to Disneyland with our kids and most of our holidays have been to see family or have been taken when my husband went to a convention and our transportation costs were covered. Our home is not elaborately decorated and we only have two vehicles because one of them belongs to my husband's employer and he has the privilege of using it. I'm thankful for all our blessings, and I wouldn't change a thing. I am not going to get into a debate with women who work about the benefits or drawbacks. We all have our vocations.
My guilt, I suspect, has come from the prevalent sentiment in our culture that says that our worth is found in our ability to work. I have grown up in a world where being able to earn substantial amounts of money or gain success in employment has become a virtue. In a society which rejects God, people will naturally turn to something else to determine their worth. As a Christian, my worth is in Christ, and that worldly practice of determining my worth by my work is not an attitude I should have.
I realized that I had given into this guilt trip last week, when after lunch I indulged in watching on DVD an episode of one of my favourite television shows, "Ballykissangel," while I knitted. I had a clean house. I'd finished my study for the day in preparation for my lesson the following Sunday. That morning, I'd been in the nursery at the mom's bible study, and my dinner for that evening was simmering in the crock pot. Yet I still felt guilty. Surely, sitting around like that was being a bad steward of my time. As I reflect on that I see that this comes from the wrong place. Whose standard am I trying to live up to? Do I subconsciously still cling to the notion that my identity is wrapped up in my work?
My identity does not rest in the definitions outlined by the world. Because I am in Christ, my life is hidden with Him (Colossians 3:3). I have been chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-5). I am His workmanship created to do good works (Ephesians 2:8-10). My citizenship is ultimately not in this world (Philippians 3:20). I am not to be of the world despite being in it (I John 2:15-17). My identity is in Christ and in doing everything to His glory. That can mean a number of things. An entire post could be written about the things a Christian woman is able to do in service to God. My point is that I should not give in to guilt because I don't bring in an income or have a prestigious career.
Every morning, after my husband is gone to work, I sit at my desk. I read; I study; I pray; I write; I listen to music; sometimes, I sing out loud. If the sun is coming up in a particularly lovely way that day, I may run out on to the driveway in my bathrobe and take a picture. I love those times. But I recognize that all of this is a gift from God, and it could all change without notice. There could come a day when I long for times like this. The challenge now is to make sure I immerse myself in Scripture as much as I can. This opportunity to study and read more can only bring benefits with it. Who knows how what I'm learning now will help me in an area in the future?