As I type this, I should be grading papers. However, that is always what I “should” be doing. The first three days of my Christmas break I took off completely. Friday Adam and I went out with some friends, Saturday we spent time with his family, and Sunday we spent time together – it was so enjoyable. However, there was this guilt, or more accurately dread/anxiety, in the back of my mind about all the work that was piled up at home waiting for me. It kept me from truly being able to enjoy everything I was doing.
I know I’m not alone in this struggle. I’ve heard other teachers say things like, “I went out to dinner with my husband last night. I know I shouldn’t have, but we just needed some time to ourselves”. How is it that we have convinced ourselves that our priority should be on something other than our family?! Isn’t that the entire reason we work in the first place?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love what I do. For me, there is a fulfillment in teaching that I doubt I could find in anything else. In fact, I enjoy my job so much that I have the tendency to become a workaholic. However, the things that I want to spend all my time on are not the things that my job requires me to spend my time on. I want to spend my time pouring my heart and soul into creative, interactive, and engaging lessons that will stick in my students’ minds and create in them a love of learning. However, as I stated at the beginning of this blog, I should be grading papers. I realize that because I teach language arts, I probably have a bit more grading than some other teachers. Most teachers probably didn’t bring half their classroom home for the holidays, but I think most of us struggle, no matter your profession, with balancing work and life.
Currently, I’m reading “Addicted to Busy: Recovery for the Rushed Soul”, a devotion within the YouVersion Bible App. I must confess that, ironically, I’ve not read it in a few days. It deals with the idol of busyness and there’s a quote in it that I think accurately sums up part of the struggle for me. Tim Kreider says, “Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness. Obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.” I feel more important when I have work to do. However, again, that brings me back to essentially the same question: What type of reality have I created for myself where I find my importance and fulfillment in work? Yes, it is my calling. Yes, through teaching I honor God. However, my fulfillment should never be found in anything other than Christ.
At the same time, the reality is that I have a certain amount of work that has to be done. Plus, there is that verse about doing everything as if you’re doing it unto the Lord. So, how can I be a teacher (especially a language arts teacher, with ALL the papers to grade), do that to the best of my ability, and still take time to rest, renew, and spend time with my family. Because, while yes scripture does support a strong work ethic, Jesus also invites us to find rest in him. I’m pretty sure He wasn’t referring to the ten minute power nap type of rest either. This is real, genuine, life-renewing rest we’re talking about here.
Scripture also supports again and again the idea of one’s family being the top, earthly priority, which I will tell you is not the case for me most of the time throughout the school year. I don’t know how many times I have said to Adam, “Honey, I’m sorry, but right now I just have to get this grading/planning done. Once I finish it, I’ll be able to focus on you then”. The problem is when “then” comes, there is more work to do. Besides, how have I justified this? When did it become okay for me to flat out tell my husband that my work is a higher priority than him? I think somewhere, subconsciously, I realize that Adam is going to love me and be there for me no matter what. However, as wonderful as my job is (and it truly is wonderful) there are real consequences for not doing my work – there are deadlines to meet, kids need to have feedback on their papers, emails require a response, etc.
This a real and constant struggle for me, and I realize that there are probably many other careers that have the same struggle of balancing work and life. However, what do I do about it? Well, I don’t really have an answer. I listened to a video Andy Stanley did once about how when he first started his church, he committed to only working 40 hours a week. If you’ve done much church work, you know how impossible that seems, especially in a church plant. However, I think he had/has the right idea. My first thought, though, when I heard that is, “well, that is impossible for teachers”. Plus, there is the whole not working as much during the summer that has to be added to the balance. So, I’m okay with working a little extra during the school semester, but I’m not okay with allowing work to dominate my time, my priorities, and my life.
I’ve always heard it said, and I wholeheartedly believe, that you make time for what is important to you. So, that is what I’m going to start doing. I’m going to make an intentional effort to set aside specific time during the week and on the weekend for Adam and I. If I don’t plan this ahead of time, I know it won’t happen. There will always be more work to be done. However, my priority has to be, and will be, my family. I can’t continue to just say that this is true; I have to start to live this truth into existence.