A few years ago, I thought I had life and career and marriage and motherhood all figured out. Feel free to laugh. I was the classic example of “Man plans, God laughs.” When my story changed drastically, it was hard to accept at first. My original life plan was gone, and in its place was a blank page.
For eleven years, I was a high school English teacher, a job where I taught great literature and its relevance to my students’ lives. I also helped my students write their own stories, their life stories…what they would be when they graduated, where they would go, and how their actions as young adults would define their character.
Being a dedicated teacher comes with a price…sometimes it’s financial, the ever-present adage that teachers could never be adequately compensated for the work they do. Sometimes good teaching costs a staggering amount of time outside the classroom, time that an hour-long planning period cannot begin to relieve. Being a good teacher always costs pieces of our hearts.
For me, the price of being a good teacher was paid at home. With two small children and another on the way, I worked constantly. I planned lessons, worked on the yearbook, and graded college-level essays in almost every open moment, nights and weekends. When research papers rolled around, I would leave my husband and children on a Saturday and hole up in the local library to grade papers all day long.
I was exhausted and yet proud of the job I was doing. My husband and I figured out the work/home balance as best we could. My children were wonderful and happy, enjoying their daycare, and accepting that we were busy and we adored them.
This was my story. An English teacher, wife, mother…
And then everything changed. Everything.
My husband called me from work when I was on maternity leave. “You’re driving?” he asked. “Maybe you should pull over.”
Though panic nearly overwhelmed me, I pulled over and asked what could possibly be wrong. He told me he’d been offered a promotion, a great promotion, which was something we’d hoped for for a long time.
“That’s wonderful! That’s amazing! I’m so proud of you!” I couldn’t stop gushing. “This is so exciting! Maybe we can…”
“Carrie, it’s in Arkansas. The job they offered me is in Arkansas.”
I’m not proud of my reaction to this news. We were happily settled in a Nashville, Tennessee suburb, and moving to a new state wasn’t in the plan.
My story was changing, but I felt like I’d lost control of it. I was terrified…our young family would encounter a new state, new house, new schools, new people, new church, new community…the running joke was that I had no idea what people from Arkansas even called themselves. (It’s Ar-KAN-sans, by the way.)
The biggest change of all was a new job for me. Instead of teaching English, I would try my hand at being a stay-at-home mom. I was pretty sure I’d be back in the classroom within a few months.
Almost four years later, here I am. We live in Arkansas, I’m a stay-at-home mom for our three children, and I’m happier than I ever dreamed I could be. Though being at home with the kids presents inevitable challenges to my sanity, my wardrobe, and my bank account, I wouldn’t change a thing.
I’ve maintained the best parts of my former life, creating the yearbook for my kids’ elementary school and volunteering as a Sunday school teacher for children and adults at our church. I read constantly and have found amazing friends. And I’m writing again.
This time, I’m not the workaholic. I’m a mother and wife and someone who makes time for the important things. And of course, of course I realize how lucky I am.
I’m rewriting my story each day, and it’s a good one. The people in my story are closer to me than ever. Our relationships are better, and we actively choose to spend as much quality time as we can together. Is the story perfect? Nah. There are plot twists and villains every once in a while. But we are happy, and we are together. Our happy ending is just beginning.