If you missed these posts,
Part 1: Seminary and Babies
Part 2: Seminary and Babies
Part 3: Ways to "Make Time Matter" During Seminary
Part 4: During Seminary, I Did Not ...
Today, I'll conclude this portion of the "Making Time at Home Matter" series with a few thoughts about the way seminary affected our parenting and relationship with our children.
Though I was beyond grateful to attend seminary, I did my best to always remember that my first obligation was to my children. We continued in the direction of finishing seminary as long as doors were open for it. However, my completion was never guaranteed. If circumstances had arisen that would have required me to stop, we were okay with that.
(This is part of the reason that I was so excited to finish! The Lord is good.)
Not only were my children my number one obligation, but they are my number one ministry. It does not matter a whip that I can perfectly explain sanctification to PhD's if my own children are not being introduced to the love of Jesus on a regular basis.
Thus, our first "home" goal was for seminary to be more than academic. We wanted the material to penetrate our hearts and effect our lives.
Sometimes we were successful. Sometimes we failed.
There were occasions when it was difficult to understand how memorizing church history dates or parsing Greek verbs connected to raising our kids (or to life in general). But overall, I'd say our studies had a huge impact on our home life. Most importantly, we were shown a thoroughly Biblical worldview and taught just how all of life fits into that framework.
Our second "home" goal was to engage in focused time with our children. Time when they got our full, funny, silly attention. Time when we were just ourselves, just parents, just a family.
Again, sometimes we were successful. Sometimes we failed.
There were definitely days when I built block towers absentmindedly with a book in my hand. There were mornings Samara spent hours happily splashing in the bath tub, while I sat nearby ploughing through Eusebius.
There were days when my children got straight up ignored.
Sometimes I felt guilty. Sometimes I felt justified.
They learned the valuable lesson of playing by themselves. They learned to engage in games and activities without my intervention. They learned some indepence. We saw this as a positive, rather than a negative.
They also learned a love for learning. Samara was "studying," "doing homework," and "going to school" as long as she can remember. For a mama who values education, this pleased me.
They learned to interact with grown-ups. Samara and Hudson were some of the only children in our group of seminary friends, especially at the beginning. This meant they received lots of positive, constructive attention from adults. During a youth ministry seminar this past weekend, an expert in the field demonstrated how vital healthy adult-child relationships are for the well-being of children. I can whole-heartedly say, these babies were well-loved!
In conclusion, I will say the juggling act of seminary worked for our family. Mark and I were open to sharing household responsibilities, willing to make sacrifices to complete work, and honest about the stress everything had on our family.
I will also say we are glad life has a more normal flow to it these days!
We are grateful for the time our family had to grow during seminary. We were surrounded by exceptional examples of godly parents. We asked a lot of questions, and we learned so much. We are still learning.
We received an incredible amount of love and support from our friends. We were able to get through those first dark years (where you hide in your house as a new parent) with relative ease because of them.
Finally, we were somehow able to maintain the perspective that life outside of our own family bubble exists. From the moment we found out that I was pregnant with Samara, Mark was certain that the Lord had given her to us, because He knew that we needed her in order to accomplish his will in our lives. Our ministry, for whatever reason, would be lacking without Samara.
Thus, we did seminary with babies, and we were okay with it. We knew nothing else.
It's interesting. Our seminary friends have
graduated, are beginning new jobs, and are having babies! They are all
in the process of learning the work / family balance. I think at the end
of the day, having children requires that you figure out how to make a
whole lot of moving parts work together. It happens to everyone at one
life stage or another.
We simply had to learn a little before the others.
Lesson Learned: Seminary + Babies = A Beautiful Mess