“What if you wake up some day, and you’re 65 or 75, and you never got your novel or memoir written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools or oceans because your thighs were jiggly or you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen.” ~Anne Lamott
I’ve wrestled for years with this need to do “more.” To fulfill my dreams apart from motherhood and chase big ole things. That feels noble right? When to step out and when to stay home. When to allow myself the freedom to do something in addition to being wife and mom, and when to say enough is on my plate, I’m ok right here, right now. I’m in a season of evaluating what’s working and what isn’t. What I can take on and what I can’t. And it’s hard and has required some cutting lose of things I love.
I chose to get certified to be a personal trainer during an insanely crazy season of life. I was running 6 days a week putting myself through an intense marathon training program. I was wife to a traveling husband and mom to 3 kids. Blogger. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Elementary school volunteer. It seemed as good a time as any I suppose.
I was inspired. Inspired to have dreams and meaning and aspirations. I wanted to do more than wipe peanut butter off of counter tops or clean pee off the floor or clean out closets. I wanted to explore what I might be good at as a 30 something, well into my “leggings as pants are perfectly acceptable” kinds of years as Jen Hatmaker might call them. I wanted to see what I was made of. To ask my mind to think about deeper things such as slow and fast twitch muscle fiber’s and Golgi tendons. So I went and got my certification. And it was good.
Here we are over a year later. I still have this blog, though I’ve not been able to put as much into it lately as I would like. I still have a traveling husband who has added training for an Ironman to his busy schedule(and for the record, manages it remarkably well. He’s wise and level headed and somehow manages to do all these things and still make us feel like his #1. We are. But not many men can carry that load well). I’m still a mom of 3, even busier kids. I’m a personal trainer whose been teaching multiple classes, one that meets at 8pm during peak “mom” hours. I co-teach a book study at my church on Wednesdays. I’m still a runner but half what I was a year ago. I’m a personal trainer, baseball mom, pee wiper, peanut butter sandwich maker, driver, homework helper. You name it. A mom does it. So how do you handle your dreams and goals apart from motherhood while still maintaining mothering as your top priority? Here are a few things I’ve learned as I’ve tried to do both the dreaming and the mothering.
- It’s ok to do both. You can dream of stuff. Go on. It’s healthy and good. Dream and aspire. But don’t view motherhood as settling. It’s not settling. It’s a noble and worthy calling. Yes, you may also be a super talented artist or a decorator or a photographer, but if you aren’t any of those things and you are mom, then that is awesome. Be ok right where you are.
- Drop something when you need to if it’s compromising your sanity as well as your families. Recently I had to hand over my 8pm bootcamp class, the very class that got me into Texas Fit Chicks, over to another trainer. You guys. It was GUT WRENCHING. This class was my baby. These ladies mean the world to me and letting them go was HARD. But home instantly became more peaceful. And my kids were happy and Lila has told every single person we see that “mommy doesn’t have bootcamp at night anymore!!!!” and Josh has lit up at the thought of me making it to his games now. As much as that class and those women mean and meant to me, my family has to mean more and their well being has to be mine to assess. And when it suffers, somethings gotta go. So, does that mean I never should have tackled a night class with a traveling hubby and 3 busy kids? No. It means I tried. We did it for a season until it no longer fit. And then I had to be ok with letting it go. In so many ways I think it was good for my kids, and IS good for my kids, to see me doing something I’m good at and enjoy. They need to see us shoot for the stars and chase our dreams and use our gifts and talents. But, when they start to suffer or the family life starts going down the crapper, it’s time to re-evaluate. Cut back. Cut one or two things off the list and see what happens. It might not take much. One small change could make a huge difference.
- Use wisdom in deciding when to “go for it.” Going back to school when your husband is working over time and you have a 6 week old baby may not be the best move. Life ebbs and flows. There is plenty of time for you to go after things you want to do apart from being a mom. If now isn’t the time, it’s ok. Be patient.
- Enjoy the season you’re in. This is a biggie. I know parenting is hard work. It’s mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting. You, and I , are responsible for the next generation of HUMANS. People, that is no small task. Don’t diminish it. If you are at home 24/7 try celebrating that season by reminding yourself you will never have that exact time again. Before you know if you’ll be preparing for middle school and considering a deodorant purchase for your oldest. Lord be with me. So, yes, the days are long but the years are short. Regardless of where you are, enjoy it. It’s all in your attitude and your perspective. Before you know it the family years are gone or coming closer and closer to an end. And you will cry in the fetal position and want nothing more to spend more time at home soaking it up. Oh, and drink lots of coffee and maybe a margarita or two. But not at the same time. Gross.
- If you have a full time job or career and are chasing those things, plus balancing home life and kids and school and IT ALL….bless you. I have so much mad respect for you working mom. I work very part time and sometimes I feel like I’m coming unglued. How you manage to go to work and come home and do the dinner, night time, clean up, bath time, story time routine is beyond me. You must be exhausted. However, if this is where you must be or choose to be. Own it. Do your very best mom when you are at home and your very best professional when you are at work. You’ve got this. And maybe it’s wearing you down and you feel as though you just can’t do it all. Don’t. Don’t do it all. You don’t have to. You can’t be wonder woman in all things. So give yourself some grace and cut yourself some major slack.
I guess the point of all this is to encourage you momma’s out there to be mommas. I’m not saying you can’t work or shouldn’t work or have hobbies. I literally have only taken one thing off my plate. But it was the one thing that was making the biggest impact on my stress level and our family, so it had to go. And as much as I miss it, I’m 20 lbs lighter because of it. So don’t diminish being mom as a reason to cut back if you need to. Your family is your #1. And missing out on a few things because you need to be home is ok.
There are many high callings you guys. Many noble ways to spend your life. Many career paths you can and might take. Many people to impact and a world to change. I get that. I’m a dreamer and a doer. I love new things and challenges and adventures. I’m sort of a free spirit and have to reign myself in at times. I love trying new things and chasing dreamy dreams. I’d love to write a book. There. I said it.
However, there are times when I’m not doing any of those things and I’m simply at home, folding laundry while I watch HGTV or running carpool or going to Costco or holding Lila’s hand while she skips and hops down the sidewalk. And that’s where it starts. That’s where big things happen and that’s where my soul is stirred and my spirit moves and God puts things inside of me that He wants me to do. At home. So rest in the season you are in. Being “just a mom” is a gift.