Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Changing Seasons

By Elizabeth Petrides
Guest Contributor

When I was a teenager, I knew that whatever I did with my life, it was not going to include getting married, having children, or teaching. However, God had other plans for me. I married a wonderful man in 1979, quit my full-time bookkeeping job when the first of our five children was born in 1982, taught piano lessons for 10 years, went back to college for teacher certification, taught full-time for 13 years, and completed a Master’s degree. How does a woman balance family life and career? One season at a time.

I learned this lesson once when I complained about feeling overwhelmed with the responsibilities of caring for young children. An older and wiser friend explained that there are seasons in a woman’s life. She urged me to enjoy the blessings of each season, because the seasons wouldn’t last forever. She was right. During the 34 years we’ve been married, I’ve had just about every position a woman could have. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for my five children, had part-time jobs, worked full-time, and volunteered. When I look back on my life, it is the story of God’s grace and direction, not brilliant planning on my part. That said, there were a few deliberate choices that we made as a family that made all this possible.

Raising five children and putting them through parochial schools was no small task financially. In anticipation of living on one income when children came, my husband and I made a deliberate decision to budget only for his income so that we didn’t become dependent on two. Thus, we were able to save for a down payment on a house and save the rest of my salary. When children came, there was no perceived drop in income, and we had a small nest egg saved. Furthermore, the house we bought was in the city, about a 10 minute drive from my husband’s office, and close to everything else we would need for our family: grocery store, library, parish, park. This saved us money.
Another financial decision that made all this possible was tithing. From the beginning of our marriage, we gave 10% to God’s work: our parish and other ministries. We even set up a separate checking account so that the money would automatically be deposited there, making it easy for us to think of this as God’s money, not ours. As our salaries have risen and fallen over the years, God has been faithful. We’ve always had everything we needed.

Most times, our decisions about my activities came after prayer and simply watching how circumstances unfolded. For example, when I had infants and young children, there were other women in our neighborhood who were in the same situation. We were able to give each other the support we all needed, going to Burger King together for a lunch treat or just sitting outside together in the afternoon waiting for the dads to come home. Without this priceless fellowship, we may have made a different decision about full-time motherhood. In addition to this, my husband and I belonged to a prayer group that had small group meetings. Because many of us women were home with children, we were able to meet during the daytime and bring our children to play together. When I began teaching piano lessons, I never had to seek out students. Parents sought me out. The money I earned as a piano teacher sufficed to pay for my teacher certification coursework.

When I began taking classes to become certified for teaching, my class schedules just happened to work out so that I was in class only when my children were in school. Then, when I was asked to teach before I had actually completed all the classes, I had accidentally registered for a class during the after-school time. This made it possible to take the job and still finish my classes in the evenings. Even when I made a decision to retire, after the children were out of our home, it wasn’t obvious what I would be doing to fill my time (and keep me out of the stores). By the end of the summer, Baker College had called with a part-time job offer. Our elderly parents all of a sudden began needing more care, for which I had time. Watching these circumstances fall into place gave us the confidence that I was on the path that God had planned for me. It felt like he was rolling out the red carpet for me.

Of course, there were adjustments in our family life that needed to be made along the way. I learned to share child transportation responsibilities with other parents to sports and school events. The kids and I would often do our homework together at the kitchen table after supper. Our chore chart grew more complex as we added bathrooms and vacuuming to the kids’ responsibilities. When I realized the boys’ Cub Scout handbooks suggested that 5th graders were capable of doing laundry, they all learned how to do it. My husband happily picked up grocery shopping responsibilities. The evenings I had class provided opportunities for the kids to learn to cook. Though it seemed like my kids had more chores to do than their classmates, when they grew up, they knew they were competent to manage their own lives. They’ve all expressed gratitude since they left home.

One other significant lesson I’ve learned as a result of all the changes in my life is to be less judgmental of my sisters’ choices. When I was a stay-at-home mother, I looked with mild disdain at other women who were having babies and working full-time, while I was the perfect mother and stayed home with my children. As I got to know them, some colleagues and some the mothers of my students, I began to think that perhaps not all mothers are really cut out to be stay-at- home mothers. Other mothers I knew continued to stay at home even when all their kids were in school, instead of finding other productive work. They were a blessing to our school as volunteers.

The most important issue is to find our own call and follow the direction God gives us. God’s call is specific to each of his daughters. We need to pay attention to his voice in every season of our lives.

Elizabeth with her husband and grandchildren

Elizabeth Petrides teaches English Composition at Baker College in Flint, Michigan. She has raised five children, taught piano lessons, taught middle school for 13 years, and danced at the weddings of three of her children. Her husband of 34 years and her three grandchildren are the best in the world. In her spare time, she enjoys playing piano and gardening.

1 comment:

  1. It's so lovely to have encouragement from someone who has been where I am now!


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