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Fulfillment vs Feedback

I used to be a middle school teacher. I interacted with about 150 students and a dozen or so staff members five days a week, nine months of the year. I love teaching. Early on in my teaching career, however, I realized I am the type of person that needs feedback – a lot of it. Positive feedback is, of course, the best, but I also needed constructive criticism, or at the very least, an acknowledgement that I was doing what I was supposed to do.

My husband and I had a conversation last week about me going back to work. Do I want to go back to work? Not necessarily. I mean, I miss the actual act of teaching, but all the other crap that goes along with it? Not so much. And we determined how much I’d have to make for it even to be worth it (daycare, clothing, car expenses and eating out – because if I was working I wouldn’t want to cook).

But I miss receiving feedback on a daily basis.

This week I had a conversation with a friends of my stepmom’s. Little Man and I had swung past my parents’ restaurant for a quick lunch, and this friend came in. We conversed for a bit, and she said a number of things that have stuck with me. But the thing that has stuck the most is when she encouraged me for staying home with a strong-willed two year old; how it is so worth it to be home with him, and what a difference I am making.

Words I needed to hear. Feedback.

You don’t get a lot of feedback as the stay at home mom of a two-year old. In fact, one day last week, every time I asked the child a question or to do something, he’d say, “No Ma’am!”

Every. Single. Time.

You don’t get performance reviews…raises…paychecks…bonuses…gift cards from grateful students and parents. You don’t get cute thank you letters written during English class, or the principal surprising you with a note with a monetary gift from a parent.

You get laundry. And tears. And plates upended onto the floor because “All done!” You get peed upon and snotted upon and pinched and hit (usually all by accident. I think!). You get a sinkful of dirty dishes at least twice a day, rude people at the grocery store, a mournful cry when you explain there is no horsie to ride at this store, open packages of potato chips and yogurt from the grocery cart when you turn to pull green beans from the freezer case. You get wet sheets and stinky diaper pails and bruised feet from stepping upon play french fries when you go to get a cup of milk at 3 am. You get tired from being up four times in the night. You get worried when your child is acting “weird” or ill.

None of that is feedback.

So instead, you have to find fulfillment.

Feedback is external; fulfillment is internal. Feedback comes from someone else; fulfillment comes from thequiet whispers of the Holy Spirit. Fulfillment comes when you realize everything you do can be a gift to Jesus – yes, even laundry and dishes and cooking and wiping noses and bottoms.

Feedback is easy, because you can usually just ask for it (unless you ask your two year old!). Fulfillment is not easy – it’s what I struggle with day after day, hour after hour, moment after moment, and sometimes second after second.

When you become a mother, your life changes overnight. But YOU do not change overnight. We brought home our son, and with the blink of an eye, I was “Mama.” But today, over two years from that homecoming, I am still becoming “her”.

When my son says “All done night night” at 5:45 am, after not sleeping until 9 pm and waking up four times in between… I just want ten more minutes of sleep (okay, or ten hours, let’s be honest). I don’t want to serve Jesus by happily greeting my son and starting our day.

When my husband, who leaves for work at 6 am, calls at 5 pm and says it’ll be at least two more hours before he gets home… I want to curse at my husband (even though I rationally know it isn’t his fault) and cry out, “Why me?” I don’t want to serve Jesus by fixing a complete meal for my toddler and joyfully entertaining him by myself.

When my son says, “No, Ma’am” for the 43rd time before noon…I want to snap and scream and lock him in his bedroom and go for a sweet tea. I don’t want to serve Jesus by being patient and loving and nurturing.

But I’m getting there. I am becoming the woman – the wife – the mother I think God wants me to be. Some days are easier and better than others, I will admit. There are days that I am joyful and happy to play “knock it down” 57 times and watch “Rack, Shack and Benny” 6 times, all while taking care of my son’s and husband’s needs. And then there are days I blow it so far out of the water I cry myself to sleep at night. I will never be perfect, but as I slowly start to remember that I serve Jesus and not myself, fulfillment starts to permeate my soul.

And that is better than any feedback I think I could ever receive.

{and because I’m always behind the rest of the blogosphere… Callah wrote a gorgeous post along the same theme. go read it and show her some love. oh, and feel free to show me some love, too. after all, i thrive on feedback 😉 }

8 thoughts on “Fulfillment vs Feedback

  1. Been reading a lot of posts like this lately.
    A verse at church this morning gave me strength to continue the hard days, knowing God called me to this.
    Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

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  2. Resentment. I hadn't given a name to it either, the darkness that eats away at me. But for some reason, it gives me comfort to know I'm not alone. And neither are you.

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  3. I miss exactly that from teaching too. Not the papers but the feeling-like-you-work-to-inspire-someone-every-day-and-are-recognized-as-such-daily part of teaching.

    Oh – and the pumpkin log I received from one family every Thanksgiving as a “thank you”. I miss that delicious pumpkin log too.

    What you are doing is so hard. So messy. And so spiritual.

    It's funny – I actually popped over tonight to leave a comment and was pleased to find a post I hadn't read yet. (I love when that happens.)

    I just wanted to let you know that I was deboning a chicken today and now I think of YOU and I prayed for you and I prayed specifically for rest (long hours of sleep) and time alone with your husband. I hope those prayers are granted this week.

    As for the feedback – I think what you are doing matters. So much. And I think every night that you don't cry when your husband calls saying he will be home late matters too. And when you thank him for working for you guys to stay home together- that matters too!

    That's all.

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  4. I think you are doing an AMAZING job raising little man. AMAZING.

    I am working outside of the home (by choice), and I have to tell you, I have A LOT of respect for you. I don't know that I could do it. I am home with my girls on Wednesdays, and I spend 90% of my time running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get dishes done, laundry started or folded, the tupperware picked up off the kitchen floor for the 17th time today, fights between the girls quashed, the toys put back into their bins, lunch made, the list goes on and on! And I have to stop and think – could I do this every day and be happy about it?! I don't think I could. The fact that you are living it is so inspiring to me =). Keep up all of the good work!!

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  5. Great post. I needed to read that today. Mondays are hard for me and I don't want to serve Jesus on these hard days.
    Both my kids cried almost ALL morning. I lost my temper (mildly, but still lost it) with my 19 month old daughter because she threw her entire lunch on the floor the second I put it in front of her.
    I need to serve Jesus MORE in my day to day Mamahood! Thanks for bringing that to my attention!

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  6. Thank you for commenting on my blog today, otherwise I may not have found yours.

    Thank you for being honest. I appreciate this particular post a lot.

    Looking forward to reading more….I'd write more but our three old seems to be threatening us with a knife. Parent of the year award for me?

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  7. Part of me likes to assume that every mom would rather be home with her kid, but that's not the case. I have friends who just can't stand to spend that much time with their offspring, either because it's boring to them or they just don't seem to “get” their kid and would rather have someone else deal with it.

    Really. That was an explanation I got. I'm not making that up or trying to generalize. A mom said that to me.

    So on the days when it feels like a chore to be home with my son, I remember all the other days that it's not a chore, and it helps me remember that God specifically picked this job out for me right now. I'm sure I'll go back and have another outside-the-house job one day, but we're where we're supposed to be right now. Even when we feel lousy at it! 🙂

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