Competing Aims

Competing Aims

by Carolyn Roncolato

I am racked with worry that my one year old is sick yet again, for what feels like the one-millionth time (but I think is actually the fourth in six weeks). All of this illness-a cold, the flu, an allergic reaction, a trip to the emergency room, a week of diarrhea, and another cold seems to come from going to daycare.

As parents know, starting daycare brings an onslaught of illness. Even though I know it’s normal and inevitable, I feel guilty that my working means Ben is in daycare and is getting sick. In this moment, I am grateful for the women who have warned me of the danger of sacrifice. I am tempted to follow that great siren right now and were it not for this brain of mine who has listened and read and asked and noticed I may follow that call and abandon something that gives me great life and energy to give it to another.

In the midst of my spiraling worry and guilt, the process concept of competing aims called me back to my center- reminding me that this is the reality of life not a sign of my failings as a mother. Competing aims mean that in our world there are many living beings with many needs and sometimes those needs compete with each other such that all cannot be met- for example I need to work but in order for Ben to be healthy all the time he has to be away from other kids which competes with the need for his socialization and activity, etc.

Our family is made up of three embodied human beings with lots of needs, which means there are lots of competing aims. Ben’s needs normally trump Mike’s and mine (as it should be with a baby) but there are increasing ways in which all three of our needs have to be negotiated.

I believe that God wants us all to flourish and delights in the layers and intensity of our lives. As part of this, I believe God calls me to not only parenting but also to a fulfilling job. Being working parents requires constant negotiation of all of the needs. God is in that negotiation not as a force telling us there is one right answer and if we don’t do it we are bad parents but rather as a presence who sees the complexity of our lives and works with that reality to helps all three of us be as healthy, whole, and free as possible.


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  1. Colleen Hartung

    Hang in there. Our struggle with the ebb and flow of competing aims across a lifetime is what makes our lives interesting, fruitful and worth living. Ben will not know how to do this without you and Mike as good role models.

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