Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft tries to balance her traditional Mexican-American cultural heritage and Catholic identity, personified by her grandmother La Lupe, with her roles as a young wife and mother.
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When I think of feeling free, I see the stereotypical scenes of me on a beach somewhere, enjoying a drink with a little umbrella in it. That feeling of carefree-ness, no rush, no worries, no impending deadlines.
Honestly, I rarely feel this way.
Sometimes being a wife and mom (a very pregnant mom at that) can feel pretty burdensome. Most of our friends do not have kids so we always miss out on a lot of events: parties, birthday dinners, and pretty much anything that takes place after 6pm. Of course, we get a babysitter for more important things like weddings, but on most regular days I see nightfall through my window. This is suffocating sometimes. Especially right now when anything I do is seriously hampered by the impending birth of our next one. I’m the size of a house; my movements are very slow and need to be very calculated. It’s nearly impossible to find a comfortable position sitting, standing, or lying down. Sleep is such gift when it finally happens uninterrupted for several hours.
Sometimes I look at our married friends without kids and get jealous of their freedom. They can go out to dinner at 9pm without a second thought. They can go for a run whenever it moves them. They can sleep in on Saturdays and spend the whole day lazing about. They can travel at the drop of a hat.
Last Sunday, Olivia pointed at our iPod and demanded music. Brandon went over and randomly chose a playlist. It happened to be one of my old college playlists. I frequently drove between South Bend, IN and Chicago and I loved the drive especially if I got to drive it alone. I would crank up the music and sing at the top of my lungs for hours.
This playlist reminded me of that. It made me think about how much freedom I enjoyed in college. Away from home, old enough to be on my own, and still financially supported by my parents. I didn’t have to worry about finances; I didn’t have to worry about finding a job; I didn’t have to worry about what I was going to make for dinner; I didn’t have to worry about a lot of the things I have to worry about now. Man, I remember those moments where I felt like I didn’t have a care in the world except belting out the lyrics of some Kelly Clarkson song.
As I was sitting in my living room thinking about that “free” feeling, I started to remember that I didn’t really feel that way all that often in college. I frequently felt overburdened. If I wasn’t staying up all night to write a paper then I was staying up all night working on the mentoring program that I coordinated, or the mission trip that I ran in the summer, or wondering why that cute guy that worked at Starbucks hadn’t asked me out. I wasn’t “held down” by finances, marriage, a husband, a child, or anything and yet there were still things that made me feel not “free”.
The playlist popped up some Guster song. It was unseasonably warm (like 75 degrees) so our windows were open and I was enjoying the breeze coming in. I watched Olivia on the floor dumping out all her blocks, then looked at Brandon who was sitting reading a book and I suddenly felt it. Freedom. The feeling that I was in the exact spot I was supposed to be in. A feeling of thankfulness for what may seem like a burden sometimes. For that moment, my back didn’t hurt and the baby ceased kicking for a second. It was quite a moment. One of those rare ones that clarifies that we are living out our vocation. One that affirms that God has continued to bless us in ways that surprise us. One that confirms that marriage and children are not the ball and chain that society tells us they are.
Every life circumstance that we find ourselves in is going to include things that we don’t want to do, things we feel burdened by. I forget that true freedom doesn’t mean the freedom to do whatever we feel like doing every second of the day. Freedom doesn’t mean carefree. Freedom is choosing to do God’s will and knowing that there is no better choice to make. Hopefully God sends us little moments like this where we can feel unburdened and “free” for a bit, but really, we know freedom will always require sacrifice and suffering.
I suspect if I had nothing to be accountable to, nothing to worry about, nothing to care about, I would be pretty unsatisfied and unfulfilled with life. I remember why it’s important to be thankful for even the “burdens” or sacrifices we have to make now because we don’t know what will be asked of us in the future. It’s easy for me to wish for the freedom I had in college, or before I was married, or before I had a kid. But this could go on and on. I have to appreciate what my freedom brings me now. Even if that freedom requires me to change a diaper at 3am or have an overnight bag ready to go in case contractions begin…