When our older two children were small, I went back to finish my first degree—that last, leftover semester I needed to graduate in order to become a teacher. The plan was for me to teach while my husband finished a doctorate. The house suffered. Friendships suffered. And our family suffered.
I remember the night our elder son (age 3) was sent to bed without his usual prayer and a “tuck in” chat because I had a paper due the next day. I heard his pitiful voice from the bedroom complain, “I CAN’T go to bed; nobody made it up today!”
Then there was the baby girl, not quite three years younger than her brother, who willingly went to bed but who prayed her first prayer alone. Not only was it her first prayer, but her first full sentence and actually the first words she had ever uttered. I will never forget my shock at hearing the clear, “I wove ee, Gawd” from her crib.
Many unnecessary sicknesses, the long sleepless nights when neither child nor I could sleep and the ugly fact that I had to go to school the next day followed one after the other. Trying to find ways to help the children sleep through the night was a frustration, until the day I came home at an unscheduled hour and found the wretched babysitter GONE! A neighbor told me that the babysitter’s habit was to be out selling candy on the streets while the children slept at home alone with quilts nailed over the windows to block the light. I couldn’t help wondering if she had also drugged them. That revelation made everything painfully clear that our children had endured weeks of doing nothing but sleeping because one selfish, unfaithful woman wanted to make an extra buck.
Did I feel guilt? You can believe I did. Not only did I feel guilty for having forsaken my children at a time in their lives when they needed me most, but I felt a wave of loneliness so deep, it almost drowned me. I was lonely for the closeness the little ones and I had known earlier and for the mothering I had abandoned because of our career goals.
Many say, “Oh, you are so lucky to have finished college and made something of yourself.”
People also talk about the seasons of life, but looking back now at that season reminds me of all I missed—all I gave up. It is an unpleasant memory filled with regret and guilt. If I had it to do over, I would never do what I did. In our foolish youth, my husband and I had set goals that excluded the children. Did either of us consider the serious need our growing babies had? We certainly thought we loved them and may have had fleeting thoughts of how much work our goals would entail, but nobody could warn of the times of pain and guilt we would feel over the small things.
So what is the lesson to take from this? What did I learn? The Lord certainly knew best when he spoke through Paul to Titus.
The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed (Titus 2:3-5).