I grew up in a home that valued work. My sister and I learned not to waste time, and that working hard was one of the most important things we could do. Following the examples of my hard-working parents, I believed I could achieve anything—as long as I worked hard enough.
When my son was born, I was not ready to return to my previous job after just three months off. So I took a new job: motherhood.
I had worked hard building my career as a professional musician and arts administrator. Yet I believed spending time with my son during his most formative years was important—even if it meant leaving a job I loved and had worked hard to achieve. I now wanted to work hard to train up my child in the way he should go.
However, I often found myself longing for a different life. I grew jealous of friends and colleagues as they achieved professional success, some even having children of their own along the way. The past three-and-a-half years have been a struggle to find my place—as a mom, as a freelance writer and musician, as a Christian, as a driven and hard-working woman.
One year ago, I took an audition for a job I very much wanted. All summer, I worked hard on the repertoire, willing myself to practice during every nap, after every bedtime. Everything non-essential was put on hold, and even those seemingly essential things were sacrificed as the audition neared. Laundry piled up and we ate chicken fingers, take-out, and salads.
I worked hard—unbelievably hard, looking back on it—but did not win the job.
This devastated me. I put so much into auditioning for that job, thinking it was the right job for me. I felt worthless as a musician and argued with my husband that my training and all the sacrifices made that very summer had been a waste.
What was the point of a summer filled with hard work—with years of hard work—if I didn’t get anything from it?
The pain, resentment, doubt, and anger eased month by month. I worked hard to find joy in the work I had. I read books on faith and work and tried to be patient with God. I had conversations about the meaning of work, and looked into my Bible to see how God defined work. By February or March, I noticed a change in my perspective. I felt thankful for the work I had—raising my kids, investing deeply and daily in their growth and development and education. I planned projects and set up Montessori-style activities in our home. We took family field trips during the week and studied the weather and wrote songs. We had a great spring. I had a few performances, and was thankful for them. The bitterness was not absent from my heart entirely, but it was dissipating.
In May, I was invited to give a series of performances with a prestigious ensemble. I felt overcome with gratitude for this undeserved gift. Even though I had less than a week to learn nearly one hundred pages of music, I was elated. I dove in, and did what I know how to do best: work hard.
The shows began, and I was exhausted. Performing a two- or three-hour show every night forty-five minutes away from home would be exhausting for anyone. It’s especially so when your kids don’t always sleep through the night and, regardless, are up at six a.m. every day, ready for you to entertain them, cook for them, schlep them around, read to them, and play with them for the next thirteen and a half hours.
The month of work was a multifaceted gift. The performances themselves were a gift. The doors that have opened because of them are a gift. The empathy and understanding I now have for my husband, who often plays eight shows a week, is a gift.
Possibly most important of all, the way I now see my life is a gift.
During that intense month of work, I cooked less, cleaned less, planned fewer projects, and spent less time and energy on our home and family.
It was not good for us.
I felt the kids suffering. I missed them. I missed eating good food. I missed being 100 percent there for my husband and for the kids. I realized something important about that job I had so longed for: if I had won it, I would have been unhappy.
Thank you, God, that I did not win that job.
In my twenties, I thought work was valuable only if it earned a paycheck, came with a title, and grew my prestige. I scorned full-time motherhood and never in a million years imagined myself doing it, let alone choosing it.
But now, I know this: the work of motherhood is hard, hard work. Some days I’m at the end of my rope and the kids throw their food at me and I lose my temper and I wonder why I even bothered going to college—let alone graduate school—if I’m spending my days cooking meals and folding laundry. But I’ve experienced the pendulum at both extremes, and I know this crazy life of balancing motherhood and performing and family and writing is the work God has given me. And I will work hard at it.