This post is a part of “my story” which begins with the post “Finding Purpose”
Division can take on many forms when we feel stressed and under pressure. When things start to get hard, we all point a finger of blame and many times we point that finger at ourselves. Blaming yourself for your problems is natural, but it only makes things worse.
At first, Michigan was exciting, full of potential and possibilities. My husband was to attend law school, a career change with great promise, and I was starting a new job as a research assistant. This was a return to my college dream, and what I thought the Lord wanted me to do.
I wanted a Ph.D. when I was an undergraduate but I put off graduate programs three times before my mother’s death. Once to serve a mission and again to get married. By the time my husband and I began a Ph.D. program together, my mother was becoming increasingly ill from cancer. I was so torn about what to do. Should I put off graduate school to have children, or put off children for graduate school? If I waited too long to have children, would my mother see them? Would I have to enter motherhood without my own mom?
While in the temple praying for guidance, I desperately wanted the answer to be my family. However, during the ceremony I felt an undeniable impression with the words, if you want to fully consecrate your time and talents to the Lord, you need to get a Ph.D. It felt amazing. I was honored, I was special, I was the best.
After I left the temple, as soon as I entered the parking lot, I thought of the children I couldn’t have. The astounding mission the Lord had given me now seemed to have come with too high a price.
I started my Ph.D. program and most of the people were smarter than me. My contributions were not special. I am nowhere near the best. I fought with the Lord and became pregnant. I still felt the Spirit prompting me to continue my program, but I quit and stayed home with my baby and spent time with my mom.
When we arrived in Michigan, I did not regret the two years I had with my mom and my daughter, or the next two years I stayed at home with my daughter and had my son. I thought I could get back on track with a slight and understandable detour. However, nothing was like I expected.
I think I was good at my job. I liked my co-workers and my boss was brilliant though difficult. I know she liked the progress I made on my projects and the amount of data I produced. But she hated the number of sick days I took and wanted me to hire someone else to stay home with my baby boy when he was ill, which I was not comfortable doing.
I missed the time I used to spend with my kids. My son was still learning to walk and talk and I was always worried that I wasn’t doing enough for him. We would find through the course of time his allergies and asthma which led to many doctors visits and sometimes to the ER. My daughter was doing well at pre-school but in my exhaustion, I would lose patience with her and I felt the loss of quality time. The mommy guilt was intense.
Now I know that I wasn’t different from any other working mom, but I complicated things by berating myself. I compounded this guilt with a bunch of “what ifs.” If I had stayed in my Ph.D. program, could I have a better job with more flexible hours? My daughter was always more independent and outgoing than her brother. What if she had been the one to be in daycare while I did my Ph.D., then could I be better at giving my son more of the time and help that he needs now? If I had obeyed the Lord, what blessings would he have given me that could have averted this situation?
Ultimately, every problem I had felt like my fault because I had lost faith. In the temple, when I had the Spirit, confidence was mine. When doubt assailed me, I crumbled. I was not strong enough.
There were no promptings from the Spirit or answers to any prayers. I thought this too was my fault. The Lord had called and I had answered, “not right now, this is more important.”
I was frustrated and angry at a lot of things and a lot of people in Michigan. None more so than myself.
You might think that unity with your own self would be easy, after all, you’re only one person. But, we beat ourselves up all the time. Loving yourself, your whole self is easier said than done. It doesn’t mean that mistakes don’t matter to you. It doesn’t mean that you ignore your faults. It doesn’t mean arrogance and a refusal to grow. It means you’re in love with the process of growing. You give yourself the space you need to grow completely.