This I Believe: Community Begins at Home
I believe loving and caring for myself and my family is the most important job God has given me. I say this after several years of not putting this job first. Let me clarify: I wasn’t abusing my family in the common ways, but I was misguided by giving too much to others. This is where things got tricky and my conscience got a workout.
As a young adult, I set a lifelong goal to avoid many of the mistakes my parents made. I wanted a healthy marriage and children who wouldn’t need years of therapy to find their way into adulthood. Once I had children, I found myself volunteering for field trips, baking cookies for Teacher Appreciation Week, and serving on the PTO Board. At church, I helped with Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and mission projects. All were worthy of my involvement, and I saw them as an extension of providing a loving environment for my family.
When my children were 3, 8 and 12, each attending a different school, I began to crumble under the weight of my commitments. I was down to about 4 hours of sleep nightly, and I slid into the holiday season on the brink of an emotional breakdown. For several weeks, I dug deep to untangle the web of my various work, volunteer, family, and personal responsibilities. I had become a workaholic with the attitude of a martyr – an unpleasant combination!
I was miserable, but knew that my pain would push me towards change. Everything seemed important, but some things had to go. I felt guilty resigning from several school and church-related activities. Some of my volunteer co-workers began to distance themselves, as I was no longer ‘on the team’. It was awkward and some days I questioned my decisions, but I did not turn back. Into the spring, I concentrated on nurturing myself and prayed for guidance.
Finally, I remembered my deep desire to give my spouse and children the loving time and attention they deserve. My husband and I are not overly possessive of one another and we don’t want to spoil our children. But, I felt like we had been nibbling sprigs of parsley at the banquet of healthful life experiences, while I was handing the meat and potatoes out the back door. So, I gave myself permission to put more smiles, more fun, and more rest into my days. A year has passed now, and some days guilt nudges me, asking “Is going to bed early (or writing an essay or playing a game with the kids) really the best way to spend your time?” I reflect for a moment and know that it is. My daily attempts at a healthful balancing act have made me a happier person and that permeates everything we do as a family. This I believe: While community service is important, community begins at home.
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