There was a day when I hated my life. The credit cards were maxed out and the bank account was zero. I didn’t know if my marriage would survive, and eerily, there was another baby on the way. I dreamed of escaping and starting over and maybe I married the wrong man? Maybe this wasn’t supposed to be my life.
I drove and I prayed and blasted the music and surrendered. Maybe this was all wrong, but it was mine. And what could I do? What could I control? What little did I possess in my hands that I could turn around for good? I did the only thing I knew how—I grew my little side business. I poured my heart and soul into creating classes and lessons that people would love. I focused on giving them value and meeting a need. And it worked. And slowly we climbed out of our pit of debt and despair and the light broke through the clouds and the sun began to shine. I never took my eyes off the goal—the mountaintop that seemed so far away. I only looked down to find the next foothold, the next step in front of me. I kept pressing on, even when my foot slipped and I was face down in the mud and the mire. I pushed myself up, forced myself to enjoy the view while still pressing on forward. This is real life and this is hard. But it’s not worth lying down and surrendering. I won’t give up. What good would that do? What then?
The tears squeeze out of the sides of my eyes. This life is hard. It just is. But I have so much to be grateful for. I can always find a little glimmer of thankfulness. And my God is my rock and my anchor. He is the one to whom I run and find shelter. He leads me on my path and lights the way. He hands me a flashlight and says, “Go that way,” and I do.
I’ll never fit in anywhere I go. I remember one business conference I attended. I presented a short segment about advertising using social media, won an award, and was walking to dinner with some friends. I casually mentioned that I homeschool my four kids and my friend beside me halted at a dead stop. People behind her almost crashed into her. “What?!” she said, incredulously. “You do what?!?” I downplayed it, brushed it aside, and went changed the subject to more common ground: marketing and hiring and liability insurance. I’m fluent in that language, too, and it’s like I’m from both countries: the stay-at-home-mom world and the working mom world and yet I’m not at home in either.
Both my roommates in college, ironically, were missionary kids. They struggled with fitting back into the American culture, asked me about which socks were appropriate with which shoes, asked how to pronounce words they had only read in books, and couldn’t laugh at pop culture references from our childhood (they didn’t have the same cartoons that we did growing up). They belonged to both countries, and yet neither. And that’s how I feel.
When I’m at the pool party with the other stay-at-home moms I can laugh and contribute to the jokes about potty training and nursing and getting teens to do their chores. When we talk about homeschooling, I know all the various curriculum choices and exactly what to say to encourage a new mom starting out. But when my phone rings and I step away to take the call, what do they think? When I check my email on my phone every hour, do they glance sideways and wonder why I’m being rude? When I arrive at the park day dressed up more than they are, do I make them feel badly about their yoga pants and messy ponytail? Do I explain that I have a meeting after this or just let it slide and commiserate about Band-Aids and making dinner? I’m fully versed in both worlds, yet a foreigner as well.
I was driving down the freeway when I asked my girls, “Would you rather I hire a nanny to take you to the pool? And when I’m off work, I’m done working?”
“No!” they exclaimed. We want you.”
“Even when I’m busy and distracted and doing a phone call right before we go swim?”
“Yes!” they chimed.
It was unanimous.
They like their mama home, even though she is a bit frazzled and has a computer on her lap a lot. Granted, they don’t know life any other way, but I like to think we picked the perfect blend of our life for our family.
And I’m not asking for approval or understanding—I don’t need anyone to give me permission to live this life we’ve crafted and I won’t judge you for sending your kids to daycare or public school or going back to work. You do you, and I’ll do me, and although I feel that I have my feet in both worlds, I’ll figure it out and walk it out, because I love both worlds.
When I feel like I have multiple personalities, living multiple lives, I console myself that I’m just “multi-passionate” and I’ll let my soul soar because I get to be both business-owner-Jen and homeschool-mama-Jen.
I truly love both lives.
And when awards get handed to me and I don’t feel quite worthy?
When people clap for my accomplishments and I think to myself, “I’ve only just begun, please stop clapping” I smile anyway and look ahead.
There’s another mountain to climb and I’ll never quit.
I’ll keep pressing on. And if my journey inspires anyone at all to climb their own mountain and keep pressing on, I’ll consider that a little pebble in my pocket—a little souvenir that made this journey a little more worth it.
I don’t feel inspirational and I don’t feel worthy of any titles or prestige. I’m just me, climbing this mountain, making the climb. I’ll accept the challenge because it was what I was put on this earth to do. It’s my purpose. It’s just who I am.
I don’t pray for an easier path—I pray only for just enough strength to keep climbing.
Hi, I'm Jen Hickle!