For one of my besties 4 life: Mary*
A good friend Mary* from grade school asked me recently: “Why is it that when I want to follow my dreams, I always default to mommying and putting my stuff on hold? It almost seems like I am incapable of doing something just for myself, but when someone is lording over me or I am accountable to them, I will do it?”
I said, “I need some time to process this because there’s a lot I think about that.”
So this is what I’ve come up with:
Being a responsible adult, being the mom and primary caretaker for your children is simply a BIG ASS JOB.
Everyone has definitions of productive. If you’re a mom, that could look like a clean house, fresh laundry, organized cupboards, and everything off the floor with ten emails you’ve meant to send off and finally did. It could mean you made appointments for all the kids and your husband, submitted insurance cards, filled out all the online paperwork, and washed both cars and the dog. Applause applause!
These tasks, as I call them, will never go away. These are what I call evergreen tasks. Someone in your household will always need something from you if you are a primary caretaker or secondary caretaker. I’m going to talk specifically about moms though.
Where does that leave us mothers time to pursue our passions confidently?
Sometimes it helps if Dad is confident and supportive of mom’s pursuits. No naysayers allowed. Does Mom want to try painting? Let her try it. Mom wants to start a blog, go for it. Mom wants to start a business, go Mom! Sometimes a little dabbling leads to bigger things and sometimes it’s just enough to provide a creative release so Mom won’t be yelling so much and instead make little pleasant notes in our lunchboxes? Oh wait, this isn’t autobiographical…
But tiredness is real, especially as you get a little older. I’m not making excuses but if the little dreams you take to school and pick up, the dreams you help with homework, the lunches you pack, the sports and clubs after school — you know the ones you have to hear online chatting instead of helping set the table — yeah THOSE dreams of yours — if those guys know that Mom needs some time for her own pursuits outside of family, that helps tremendously. Communicate this necessity.
Catnaps help too — I sneak them in whenever I can. I’ve also stayed up too late on a school night to finish pages of a manuscript. I don’t recommend losing sleep to anyone, just to be clear. Just make use of the time you have — replace time-sucking things that don’t nurture your heart and mind for other pursuits if you must, including time bandits. I’ve replaced screen time and reading the latest so and so’s book club pick for devoted writing time. You can only cheer yourself on well if you are doing the work and sometimes the sacrifices are part of the work.
So now you’ve got your cheering squad. When the guilt for not being the perfect mom of our own dreams (because yes, we tell ourselves we’re being good or bad moms often) creeps in and takes hold; it means so much to see our family holding a thumbs up and encouraging our journey to passion and discovery.
Get your bases covered. Set up the expectation and reiterate this is your time.
Then pursue away. Your family wants you to be happy. Your family wants you to never feel bad about not following your other hearts and dreams.
But now you’ve told everyone you need time to yourself, and now that you have it, your feet are dragging. The laundry festoons the hamper, the dishes literally filling up in your sink as you sit in front of your Mac, but wait, an email with a new mac and cheese recipe that’s half the fat! Oh, a friend on FB just said a new limited series needs to be binged. We’ve all been there.
You’ll pursue your dreams just as soon as all these other things are done. The floor doesn’t stay clean by itself; you know, and oh, a party you have to plan for next Christmas — that’s a big deal too even though it’s 6 months away! Yes, chores are real and ever-existent and once you firmly acknowledge that these things are evergreen, the less they’ll distract you. Sometimes a different way of looking at these things that fill our day is what we need.
Everything in life is a risk. You can risk big or risk small. Getting married, a risk. A divorce, a risk. Having kids, same. Moving into a new neighborhood — you get it. Taking a calligraphy class and sucking at it was a risk. I call it “cursigraphy.” There I go again, autobio. I digress. Distractions are real.
Not all pursuits will be fruitful financially and leave those expectations out of it. Do you raise kids because one day they’ll “pay off” for you? I hope not! You don’t donate to charities because you actually think they’ll get the cure tomorrow, right? You hope so and you’ll help and anything that happens positively, as a result, is a bonus. That’s how you should be “raising” your passions as well.
You can parlay your passion into something more if you want to. Something generating income does help convince some spouses that our dreamtime can be lucrative. Money talks but the bottom line is this — do something for yourself. Embroider kitchen towels with phrases you like. I’ve always wanted one that says “Not today Satan!”, but don’t want to spend the time looking ofr it.Take lessons on a craft. Volunteer at the homeless shelter and check in with some retired vets. Be useful to others outside of your family if that fills your passion bucket. Passions make us more passionate after all, don’t they?
There is a reason they say no pain, no gain. Most of your pursuits will cost something in time or treasure, but one thing you will never have to do is pay the cost of regret. Regret is a debt to yourself you can never payback. So you have a choice: you can either learn something and put the rewards of knowledge into your life journey piggy bank or you can never do it and pay the mental and emotional cost of regret.
Having a failure to launch due to fear of failure? Any failure if you can call it that gives us valuable lessons. Many failures equal success in life. Did you know most business owners have failed many times before turning a profit? Do you know the average start-up has a 90% failure rate? The good thing about failure besides education is, at least you tried. I for one am a try hard. I once passed the corrections officer physical exam just to be a good candidate to work in a prison. Yes, for the sake of research!
You may not see “trying” or “taking a risk” directly translate into your banking account, but you will get experiential magic in your life. Who else can say they almost worked at a prison?
The magic of your intention regardless of outcome works in mysterious ways. I’m not trying to be mystic here, but I believe that good comes out of good intentions, in whatever way the universe wants to show me. Have faith in your intentions to be a well-rounded mother and therefore person for the sake of valuing your identity apart from your children. Despite what some people think, sacrificing every minute of your day aside from sleep to do for others is not what we were put on this earth to do. Here’s an excellent article I found on such parents whom I’d love to have had myself but wonder, as the author did, about their true identities; their entire persona: Do I Have to Sacrifice Everything For My Children? Simply, today, you don’t. The judgers will always be there, giving you a side-eye or a wag of a finger. Let them. Their kids will remember them for that as well.
Some days, I envision myself as a much older grandparent, when I’m stuck somewhere and having trouble focusing on the moment. I tell myself to settle in and look for the beauty of the present. Some days when I see a mom fussing way too much, I want to put my envisioned grandparent's hand on her shoulder and say, “You’re doing great. They know you love them, it’s okay to say no, or, it’s okay to say yes!”
So say yes to yourself, stop saying no. Stop with the distractions, stop with the excuses. One day it will be painful enough for you to say, “I’ve had enough of saying NO to me.” Until then, you may need an accountability point guard. Ask around. Don’t ask your husband or your mom. Ask a friend who you trust, most likely someone who is on the journey already. They can’t play point guard forever, but they can check-in and see what bumps you had and why. If you can afford a professional, that’s an option that may be worth trying for a month or two. With a habit of getting you more accountable to yourself, you’ll need them less. You’ll feel your FLOW. Or, you will be so successful and need them more because of a massive response. You can dream!
So if it’s truly painful for you to step out of your comfort, maybe a baby step or a little push is all you need? Maybe you need a different mantra in your head about what failure looks like and if it should matter to you at all. I agree with Brene Brown on failure being another word for education. In this Inc. article, she gives 3 Tips from Brene Brown on Failing Brilliantly, and it should help ease any fears you have about taking that chance on yourself.
It’ll happen one day. Might happen while the kids are still at home in a messy house with crap all over the counters and it may happen when the kids are gone and there’s still crap on the counters but you have a crick in your back and varicose veins. Better late than never. So my advice to good ol’ Mary: Don’t wait too long because you don’t know how many days we actually have.
*Mary you know who you are. Carpe Diem dear girl. xoxo EJ