The last couple of days I have been wrestling with the feeling of failure. It’s more than mom-guilt*, even though that is part of it. No, it’s more than that. It is this overwhelming sense that I have accomplish far less that I would have liked and am not where I thought, or hoped I would be by now, all the while feeling tired and wishing I had as much energy as other people, who I perceive to be in the “place” I want to be.
*the guilt that comes with this idea that you aren’t doing enough with or for your kids. It might be a result of them being on screens for too many hours in a day or that you haven’t taught your three-year-old the alphabet. Usually, there is no good reason for it and it is often at it’s worst when you, yourself, spend too much time on FB or Pinterest or Instagram.
I knew that I would encounter this hurdle once we were “settled”. I knew that more than adjusting to British life, the greater adjustment would be to overcome the impending existential crisis and to find a new role in a new place. We all need to feel a sense of purpose and when that purpose is taken away or changed, we often feel shell-shocked or even naked. This often happens to women that go on maternity leave. Suddenly, they go from being in a work environment where, hopefully, they are respected for their ability and possibility sought out for a particular service or advice and thrown into domesticity. Possibility they were a leader in their field and then BAM! The office has been replaced by piles of laundry and instead of clients coming with a problem and going away satisfied they have a baby, who seems to never be satisfied.
In Canada, I felt as though I had made great strides not only as a graphic designer but as an inclusive education advocate. My advice was sought out and welcomed. I had a chance to make a difference in school culture, in the lives of families and in government policy. “This is Ella” was well received and acted as a tool for starting these conversations.
Then we moved to a small little village in the English countryside where nobody knows who I am, what I do or what I have to offer and my gifts are left idle. Jean Vanier, a Catholic Theologian says that everybody comes to a community with a gift and a need. I believe that in effective community not only are everyone’s needs being met, but everyone’s gifts are being used. If only needs are being met, the community becomes a place of consumption instead of reciprocal offering. If only gifts are being used, participants become burnt-out and fatigued.
I think that the church is a perfect example of this. It has become a consumer-based organization in which congregants expect to sit passively while their needs are met but are unwilling to be actively involved in community.
This is ESPECIALLY difficult when you have children and volunteering is next to impossible. That being said, we also need to keep in mind that just because a woman has a baby, doesn’t mean she wants to volunteer in the nursery or teach Sunday school.
How do we, as a church, support the use of each one’s gifts while meeting each other’s needs?
Perhaps this means offering to watch someone’s children, while they sing in the choir or perhaps it means, using one’s creative abilities to help with church publications instead of putting the full responsibility on the Church administrators. We talk so much about meeting people’s needs—about the problem of isolation but I think it is more than that. How much stronger would our communities be, church communities especially, if we also respected the God-given gifts and talents of each member? I certainly know from experience that my greatest times of growth came from serving, not from receiving. As the old saying goes, “you get out what you put in”.