Motherhood vs. My Personal Goals
Earlier this year, there were a few weeks that presented many schedule challenges. Inclement weather caused cancelled school and activities. The kids were home. The kids were bored. The kids were needy.
That meant the mom’s schedule changed, too.
Worse, my daughter with autism didn’t understand that icy roads meant we couldn’t go for a drive. She didn’t understand why the bus never picked her up. She didn’t understand why we couldn’t go get ice cream.
I kept up my attempts to make her understand while I worked on my computer—I had things to do, words to write.
So, as you can imagine, my daughter’s mood skidded down an icy slope and landed in a puddle of screaming and kicking and head banging. Her tantrums set off Eldest. The dog hid under the bed. As for me? I kept trying to complete my chapter without losing my mind.
I completed nothing except a few yelled sentences. Sigh…
As mothers, many of us face this dilemma. It seems as if everyone’s needs and desires pile onto us at once like a laundry avalanche. We might not know what is most important in the moment, but one thing we do know is that we don’t feel as if we’re getting anything done.
I struggle with my own aspirations. I want to write books. Not just write them, but sell them. That takes work and time and focus. But at the same time, my kids are growing up. Every moment they change. Eldest is almost finished with seventh grade. I wonder how we got here and what happened to those endless days of preschool when going to the bathroom by myself felt like a vacation.
So what to do?
On several occasions, I’ve had the honor to hear Barbara Rainey speak. I hope to never forget what she said about her own struggles with aspirations versus motherhood. As a talented artist, she enjoys painting. When her six kids were little, she worked hard and long on a commissioned painting, but the constant demands of motherhood did not mix well with painting. Instead of enjoying her art, she wound up stressed. She felt like her work kept getting interrupted. But after some prayer, she decided her painting was the thing interrupting her life as a mom. So, she packed up her painting supplies and put them on a shelf, not knowing when or if she would use them again. Once her kids were out on their own, she did pick up her artist supplies and God blessed her through her talent.
It doesn’t matter whether we homeschool or public school or have aliens from purple planets privately tutoring our kids, we all struggle with priorities and making things fit into our schedules. And sometimes that means saying no, or at least slow down, to dreams. Even dreams that seem quite important.
Does that surprise you? Anger you?
It’s hard for me, too. I struggle with irritation when I feel like my kids interrupt my work. But maybe I should ponder the opposite: Is what I want to accomplish for myself today interrupting my few years with my kids?
Lesson learned the hard way
Several years ago, I almost died from a staph infection after cancer surgery. In those dark and painful moments I didn’t think about the stuff I’d written or about the messes on the floor. I only thought about my family and the people I loved. I begged God for more time with them. I wanted to see my daughters grow up. I didn’t care about my career aspirations.
For months after that incident I did very little writing. It’s not that my writing was or is a bad thing. I’m not saying it’s wrong to want to achieve something, or to have occupations. Not at all. But I found a need to balance my desires with those of my loved ones, and sometimes—most of the time—love is sacrifice.
And in the moments before we leave this life, our dreams won’t be at the forefront of our minds. Our loved ones will.
As moms, we have an opportunity to cherish what stands in front of us—precious little lives waiting to be molded, shaped, and beautified.
As moms, that amazing job is ours.
The Long View
So, after that long snow day of my younger daughter screaming while I tried to do my own thing, I realized I’d gotten out of balance. I had lost sight of what I held most important. It was time to open my fisted hands and let my own agenda loose.
The next day I planned numerous activities with my little one. I had a few things of my own I also wanted to accomplish, but I approached them differently. They were my bonuses. If they got checked off at the end of the day, I’d celebrate. But if not, I wouldn’t worry. And after lots of playing, my little one took a nap, so I had some time to work.
I’ve chosen to take the long view when it comes to my dreams.
I rarely open my computer when my girls are home. They need my focus and energy. That means it might take me twice as long, or longer, to reach my own goals. It also means my blog isn’t updated constantly, and I don’t stay up-to-date on social media sites. But that’s okay. For me, it’s better. I think when I look back, these are the choices I will not regret.