Friday, April 28, 2006

Professional Mothers: Renee 2

As promised, my interview with Renee...

Here's my attempt at reflection on a peaceful night in the eye of the hurricane (where I've always chosen to live). My path did not lead to marriage and motherhood directly but took a decade of running the carreer track, more and more frenetically. Don't mistake me, I loved the teaching career I was given: the students, the discipline, the opportunities to grow my skills in a real world application that college never prepared me to do. I loved the class discussion and travel with students, the missions opportunities, the theatre program I cultivated single handedly. But with this career came thousands of papers to grade, seven classes a day with six different preps, an inner drive to do the next production bigger and better than the last, and a passion to never repeat anything I'd ever done before. The single life was a place to focus heart, mind and strength on the sole job of pleasing the distractions, no breaks, no excuses. I also began to add more and more to my plate until I was teaching full time, directing a musical with 200+students, grading 75 research papers, performing in a play in which I had to memorize 125 pages, co-leading a singles Sunday school class of 300, and directing three one-act plays for a competition. That was the month I discovered there was a reason I had been drinking 36 oz. of water every 45 minute class period... I was a type I diabetic and my health was broken. It was from this hurricane that the Lord rescued me and gave me a husband who introduced me to grace, and rest. We married and moved to teach in China where I went from teaching/directing 14 -17 hours a day to teaching 15 hours a week. Then came children.
Mother-Lode: Did you purpose to become a mother? Why or why not?
Again and again I had resigned myself to the single life since I was 29 with no man on the horizon. But after marriage, the thought of children was a welcome delight and I never realized just how important all the teaching I had done would be to my confidence as I looked my own children in the face and knew I wanted to pour the wow of learning into them.

Mother-Lode: When and how did you begin to prepare yourself for this life's work?
I never prepared myself for this work. Fortunately God did. Shaping, winning and disciplining the belligerent, the dear, the talented and the devious student every day in class molded my pedagogy. All along I took mental note of successes and struggles of my siblings and the parents of great kids at school. When our first girl came along, I found Mike and Debbie Pearl's books, George MacDonald, and scriptures set to music all refreshing resources.

Mother-Lode: If you went to college, do you find that your college degree has been a help to you in your work as a mother? What would have been lacking in your home if you had not pursued college?
College was the necessary means to the end (a piece of paper so I could teach) but no help in and of itself unless the discipline of study counts. Most of what I learned, I gladly dropped as useless or worse. What it gave me were books, records and resources for my own study and a love of Shakespeare.
Mother-Lode: In the course of your work as a mother, what kinds of things have you done?
Things I never dreamed existed. I've floated polymers in water, alcohol, vinegar and oil; examined lip and teeth prints, and experimented on mystery powders all to get one girl ready for a crime lab competition. I've critiqued a brief for one daughter (using her competitive speech skills) to give to the state congress opposing a bill. I've taught all three girls to speak the Gospel in Spanish for the yearly family mission trip to Mexico. I've planned and executed a six month study abroad for our family through 12 countries in Europe visiting professors in Scotland and gypsies in Slovakia making all the history, literature, art and music live. For the last five years I've run a two week Shakespeare Camp for kids age 3-18 with a full blown play at the end to benefit a local crisis pregnancy center that last year raised $2000.00. And I've made a gingerbread castle cake with my three year old.

Mother-Lode: Have you found your work as a mother narrows your opportunities or confounds your work for and in the community?
Hardly! (See above)

Mother-Lode: How have you dealt with the feminists' view that a career is all-important for the full development of women, and with the pull of careerism in your own life?
Career was an intensely wonderful, awful slave master. How's that for an oxymoron? It was not until I met my husband who is to me "grace on legs" that I began to measure myself NOT by my productivity but by the quality of my relationships. And it was not until recently that I've begun to see that rest in the One Relationship means that all my work is a joyful reflection of His creativity...redeemed and full of purpose ...Not a frenetic attempt to be super-woman.

Mother-Lode: How would you advise a young woman about to graduate from high school?
Get a degree in something. It opens doors of credibility and opportunity you would not otherwise have. Be careful where you choose to go if you want to be able to hold what you learned as valuable.

Mother-Lode: What have been the returns of your labors as a mother?
The sweet smell of soft baby hair cuddled under my chin; the gleam in the eye of our youngest with every creative engineering project done to ease someone's load; the courage and cheerfulness of our middle girl who overcomes her physical pains of hydrocephalus shunt failure and a broken back that brought her ballet to a halt but her spirit to a place of humble care for others; the awe of watching our oldest make serving her glory on the volleyball team, the babysitting job, the mission trip, or counseling peers to make right choices in the context of abstinence; the excitement of launching educated, entertaining, engagingly articulate and caring girls into the culture with a positive visions for changing it.

Mother-Lode: If you had it to do over again, would you make the choice to be a professional mother?
It's the best of joys! It's the "break your heart beautiful" reason to pour myself out! It's the reward behind every effort. It's purpose behind so many questions. It's the best pay I've ever had.

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