I wonder sometimes about making a difference. Wiping fingerprints off the walls and sweeping behind the toilet can be thankless tasks. Making dinner usually gets a few comments, though not all of those are compliments. “I don’t mean to hurt your feelings,” my daughter said one evening, “but dinner tasted a little burned.”
There are also comments about the quality of the ingredients (“I don’t like beans”) and requests for special accommodations (“Can I have mine without the tortilla?”). None of those make me feel loved and appreciated. Sure, my kids are well fed, even if they don’t eat burned beans and tortillas, but is any of it worth the effort?
I started out, in the time before kids, as a speech pathologist. My goal was simple. I was going to save the world through speech therapy. In my fresh-out-of-college world, people got better. I wasn’t always prepared for the reality that “getting better” is sometimes a very subjective assessment.
A child who spoke his first word at age 4 is still better than at age 3, but that one word doesn’t go very far. A stroke patient who regains the ability to swallow pureed food is still better than he was on a feeding tube, but even filet mignon through the blender isn’t much fun.
When the children came along, I was on a new adventure, planning to save the world through parenting and homeschooling. I was going to do all of that while juggling a part-time career. An eternal optimist, I like to call myself. As a small-business owner, I could set my own hours, take my children to work with me and bring along their school work.
My office closed just over a year ago, a circumstance of a shrinking economy and lost contracts. I focused on home and family, and I loved it. I could snuggle a restless child at 2 a.m. without having to worry about the morning alarm clock. We cleaned out bookcases and discarded the mountain of mostly finished workbooks. And then, it was time to go back to work.
Tearing myself away, even for a few hours a week, has been difficult. My career as a speech pathologist is kind of like a jealous mistress. Wanting all of my time, she calls to me with interesting cases and prospects for improvement.
Once at home, the order is reversed. Baking cookies and reading books is more pressing than getting ready for work. My 2-year-old says, “I want to go wif you,” and I melt inside.
I wrote this a few years back when going through a transition. I find myself in a time of transition again, and while the circumstances are different, the questions are the same. Life is funny like that.
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