I Carry Your Heart With Me

Hello, friend! Welcome to my little dwelling place. I’m Amanda, the Literary Homemaker. I’m a working mom who blogs about family life and how to balance the joys and obligations at home with a full-time career. I always dreamed of being a stay at home mom until I was finally able to pursue my dream of becoming a college professor. While being at home with my kids is still a dream I have, I truly understand now why some women choose to pursue a career outside the home even if they could get by on one income. The rewards of teaching are palpable. There is room for my creative mind to play, and I truly feel as though I’m making an impact (most days).

College was not an easy time for me. I experienced intense feelings of isolation, loneliness, and spiritual doubt. Looking back, I had to experience those things in order to gain the mental strength and security in my faith I can say I have today, regardless of circumstances. At the time I thought I was the only person in the world wrestling with that darkness, but I know now that isn’t true.

There is something that happens when you are plucked from your parents’ borders and placed in the middle of a campus swarming with every personality and walk of life you can imagine. Even though Texas A&M is considered a “conservative” school, I was sent into immediate culture shock by posters advertising the Baptist Student Union and Atheist/Agnostic Associations hanging side by side in the student center. I was wracked with constant guilt over the freedoms I had to skip class or waste my Aggie bucks on candy and $5 lattes. The sudden amount of choices available to me was something my sheltered mind desperately needed, but had no idea how to process.

Among this vast array of seemingly insignificant choices was the big one: What are you going to do with your life?

I decided to major in English, but was adamant I would not teach. I had always loved to read and been a good writer, and those skills would serve me well in whatever job I chose to pursue. I would figure it out later.

The deeper I got into my major, the more I fell in love with literature and hearing my professors talk about it. The closer I got to graduation I began to think of all the people who’d had an impact on the course of my life. In addition to my family, most of them were teachers.

I knew that teaching at the college level meant obtaining a higher degree, and that was where I lacked confidence. I was a lazy student, would most certainly be a lazy graduate student, and would make a terrible professor. The first time I voiced my dream I was out jogging/talking to my best friend on the phone (if I tried that now I would surely die), and lamenting the reality of the situation. She did not indulge my negativity. “If you truly want to be a professor,” she told me, “then one day you will.” Ten years later when I taught my first class as a graduate assistant, I thought about her and that moment.

You never know how long someone will cling to a few simple words of encouragement.

I don’t possess a gift for teaching. I’m a nervous speaker and have to work at it daily. However, I have always been drawn to people with unique quirks and struggles. My search after graduation for a full-time teaching position led me to an opening in Developmental English, which has been an unexpected blessing. The majority of my students truly need one on one help, and due to the size of my institution and my classes, I can give them that. In addition to being an educator to them, I get to be a counselor, a cheerleader, and I dare say, a friend. I have learned so much in just a year and a half about people’s lives and struggles, and I can feel my compassion for others slowly returning to a place where life previously left me a bit numb.

But then there’s the other thing.

There’s the alarm that goes off at 5:45 a.m. reminding me to get up, get dressed, and leave my babies behind.

There’s the feeling of their warm little bodies as I lift them from their beds, and the cold void that’s left as I walk out the door.

The few hours a night I get to spend with my children during the week is their most cranky time, affectionately referred to by some as “the witching hour.” Some evenings letting them play in the bathtub until the water is cold is literally the only thing that keeps them both pleasant until bedtime. And although they delight in the time spent with their Grandma during the week, by Friday they often seem as ready as I am to laze around in their pajamas and just. stay. home.

For every minute I waste at work wishing I was home, I spend just as much of my time at home preparing lessons, grading papers, ironing clothes, and packing lunches for my husband and me. The inside of my microwave is disgusting. I have boxes of hand-me-down clothes that need to be organized and hung in the kids’ closets. Grocery shopping has to be done late at night and vacuuming often gets pushed back another day so I can spend a few coveted minutes with Kindle or Netflix while I can still keep my eyes open. Quality time with my husband is rare, and often interrupted by thoughts of dishes in the sink and online course modules that need to be updated by 11:59.

So how do you give 100 (or even 80?) percent to your work, and to your family, when it feels as though you’re constantly running on empty?

I’m still figuring that out.

My hope and prayer for this blog is that it can serve up a little bit of hope to working mamas and stay-at-home mamas alike. Because let’s face it, we’re all working our ever-loving tails off. Some of us just do it in heels, and others in slippers.

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