"I'm glad you didn't get that job."
I think she was trying to make me feel better.
I know what she meant. At least this year, I won't be juggling a full-time gig and the demands of a newborn, increasingly sleep-deprived and constantly facing feelings of professional and domestic and personal failure. At least now I can stop feeling guilty for leaving my baby to go to class and for all the volunteering I couldn't do at my eldest's school, and equally guilty for all the sketchy lecture notes and belatedly returned papers. At least now, I'll only have one full-time, demanding job, instead of trying to juggle two.
At least now I might get some sleep.
But I'm not happy I didn't get the job, and despite understanding, mostly, what I think my mom meant...it wasn't comforting.
Because just like being a mom is who I am, so is being a theologian. Losing a job doesn't make me not a theologian, of course, but it does mean I no longer have a forum or reliable opportunities to theologize. And it means that there's no place in my life where I am regularly affirmed in that aspect of my identity, in the form of collegiality, respect, and, of course, not insignificantly, financially. (Toilets not only seem indifferent to regular faithful scrubbing; they're pretty meh on professional God-talk as well. Likewise, the piles of laundry and stacks of dirty dishes remain unmoved by my eloquence in invoking divine intervention.)
While I welcome the recognition that juggling full-time paid employment and a newborn is an attempt to live the superhuman impossible, I don't think it's because being a mom and being a theologian (or whatever your vocation) is essentially mutually exclusive. I suspect that my mom does, and so, she's uncomplicatedly happy that I no longer am attempting to juggle impossibilities. I'll be happier, I think she thinks, without trying to carry a full-time teaching load. I'll get some rest. I'll be able to do fun things with my children. I'll be able to keep the house to a satisfactory if minimal standard of orderliness. I'll be able to knit, make bread, read books for fun, do yoga, go on walks, blog, play, nap, feed my family nutritiously and deliciously and feel virtuous about it, volunteer at Clare's school, etc., etc. All the stuff I haven't done in a very long time because every single waking minute had to be devoted to Getting Something Utterly Necessary Done--while staving off the looming anxiety about the other pressing agenda items that therefore weren't getting done because I was doing Something Else Utterly Necessary.
It sounds absolutely reasonable. And I'll do all that stuff, and more besides. I can fill up my time. But I'm not going to be happier. I may be better rested, I may be healthier, skinnier, a little less tense, but I won't be happier. Because I'll be missing doing one of the things I love most.
I theologize. I can't help it. For awhile I had a forum for this, and now...well, I have a blog. And a Facebook group. (Not that y'all are chopped liver. Love and kisses!)
What I need--what we all need--are workplaces that value our motherhood, and households that value our vocations.
That, and I could use a job.