I often ask moms what they dream about. “If you could do anything and know it would succeed, what would it be?” I often hear things like:
- Teach cooking classes
- Design websites
- Make custom jewelery
- Write a book
But, when I ask another moms about when they’re going to take steps to fulfilling their dreams, I often hear stuff like this:
- After the baby is weaned.
- After the toddler is potty-trained.
- After my kids are in school.
- After my kids are out of school and off on their own.
Is it possible to achieve our dreams and be a mom? Will one aspect of our lives suffer? Will both?
Probably (just trying to be honest here). If you are following your dreams, you might not keep your house as neat as you like. You might miss watching “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” for the 20th time. You might bring home more take-out than you’d like. But you also might fulfill something rewarding and be a good — no, make that great — example for your kids.
My journey to becoming a published author started when I was 22 years old and pregnant with my third baby. A former teen mom, I’d never considered being an author until a friend from church told me she was working on a novel. I love writing. Is that something I could do professionally?
I started reading books on writing, and then I had an opportunity to attend a writer’s conference. It was three weeks before my baby was due, and I attended with great expectations. I was sure the year would birth a new child and a new career. The child came a week early, but the career took a bit longer. Yet, I didn’t give up. Sometimes I woke before the kids to write. Other times I wrote while they napped. I wrote about things happening in my life, and although only one thing was published during the next three years, I learned a lot — mostly that I could balance writing and kids. All it took was motivation and a little time management. (Yes, prayer helped, too!)
What I didn’t realize when I first started writing was how much I would benefit as a writer from having my kids at home. Parenting put me into the “real” world. I dealt with kids, with neighbors, with preschool groups, and with people at church. I chatted with other moms about their struggles. I faced struggles of my own.
Mommy authors cannot sit at a desk all day and just write. We fix meals, change diapers, say “no” a hundred times a day (and many “yes’s,” too), and give lots of hugs. Yet it’s in living in this real world that we discover stories.
In fact, the “real struggles” I had became the inspiration for articles I wrote. If I was struggling with picky eaters, teaching my kids to share, or dealing with a reluctant reader, I figured other parents were, too. Knowing this, I queried magazines and proposed articles about those topics. Then, once the editor said he or she was interested, I’d contact parenting authors or other professionals and get advice. Yes, that’s right; I’d get free advice from the pros for the very things I struggled with … and then I’d get paid to write about it! How cool is that?
What about you? Is there one way you can use the “real struggles” of mommying as inspiration for your dreams?
Another benefit of following my dreams, while having my day job as a mom, was my production level. Believe it or not, writing with kids at home has taught me how to produce more. When my three oldest kids were small, I’d sit down and write, knowing I only had 30 minutes. I didn’t dawdle. I focused. I worked. This get-to-it-ness has helped me as my career has progressed. And, yes, it has progressed.
You see, the cool thing about following my dreams in the hands-on mothering years is that I started seeing my dreams come true. I got articles published, then books. I started speaking for groups and being interviewed on radio and television shows. Sometimes I even traveled for research, visiting amazing places.
And you know what? My kids were with me along the way. They saw me work hard, but they also saw the results … and got to enjoy the results. They enjoyed reading about themselves in my articles or taking my books to church and showing their friends. My kids have traveled with me through the years, too. Vancouver, Canada, St. Louis, Seattle, California … those are just a few of the places they, and my husband, joined me on “business” trips. (And after a little business, we had a lot of fun!)
My kids have met amazing people that I connected with in my work: missionaries, fellow authors, models, World War II veterans, and even musicians. In fact, the day they first told me having a mom as a writer was “cool” was when I was able to get us free tickets and backstage passes to see the Newsboys. I remind them of my coolness when I’m under deadline and bring home Taco Bell yet again.
So is it worth it to follow your dreams while raising kids? It has been for me. If you ask my kids, I’d bet they’ll tell you it’s been worth it to them, too, but you have to track them down first. You see, as they’ve gotten older, they’re not around as much. They’re off living out their dreams, following their hearts’ pursuits. They didn’t get that from me nagging them; they learned it from seeing me struggle and strive, and that’s been the best result. I created a family of dream-seekers and didn’t even realize it. Another dream fulfilled!