A Purpose Beyond Motherhood?

 

When our kids are young, is motherhood supposed to be our sole pursuit?  Is it OK to have other things we’re also spending significant time on?

I recently read this article in which Tiffany Gee Lewis talked about how she struggled while trying to focus entirely on raising her children and how she finally arrived at the understanding that she truly needed a purpose beyond motherhood – something she could call her own and a chance to develop her own interests.

The article made me think back through my own years of motherhood and realize that while many of the things I’ve done besides motherhood may have felt more like necessary extra burdens than blessings at times, they were what I needed.

I waited quite a long time for motherhood and since having my first child, I’ve thought of motherhood as my foremost occupation and pursuit.  But I’ve always had other things I’ve worked on simultaneously.  Often, we needed extra income and I was able to find jobs that paid me very well for a manageable (though often stressful) number of hours of work each week.  I evaluated school programs with a baby strapped to my back and set up training conferences over the phone and through email while my babies were napping and my little kids played quietly.  Other times, I had major commitments to my church or to community organizations that kept me very busy with meetings and on the phone and computer.

When we had three preschoolers and found out we were expecting twins, I had to go on partial bed rest and finally became “just a mom” for a while. I found my little kids and my pregnancy and later my two newborns alongside the preschoolers to be entirely and completely consuming.  I sometimes found time to shower.  I read a little sometimes.  I wrote weekly updates on our family’s adventures.  But mostly, life was all about motherhood and all it’s magical moments alongside all its grueling grunt work.

But after about 3 months of total motherhood focus, we jumped into the huge project of building a new home.  For the better part of a year, researching possibilities, making plans, working with subcontractors and doing work ourselves on our new home became almost a full-time job – alongside the full-time job of motherhood.  It was stressful and sometimes I wished I could just give up the “extracurricular” activities and be “just a mom” again.  But I got a chance to delve into the field of design – a desire I’d always had.  And we were able to create a wonderful home for our family without spending a ton of money.

Once we finally moved into the new house, I found myself helping with way too many projects at my kids’ school (hard not to when the school needed the very types of programs I knew so much about through previous jobs I’d had and anything I could do to help the school would help my own children) while still taking care of quite a few preschoolers, getting involved in the neighborhood association – all things that totally supported my kids’ and family’s needs – but also all things that took lots of time.

And then I met April Perry and The Power of Moms became a serious pursuit. Our website helps me be a better mom in so many ways – but it also takes a lot of time and thought and effort and perhaps some of that time, thought, and effort could be put towards my family if it weren’t for the needs of the website.

So I guess I’ve almost always had a purpose (or several) besides motherhood.  I’ve sometimes bemoaned how things have worked out and expressed that I wish I could “just be a mom” and enjoy motherhood more.  At these moments, my husband is always quick to say “You’d go crazy – you need other things too.”  He’s probably right.

But I know moms who are able to focus entirely on motherhood and derive great pleasure from this focus.

Or do I?  As I think about it further, the totally-motherhood-focused moms I was thinking of do have pursuits and purposes that aren’t completely child-rearing focused.  One mom keeps an immaculate house and does a wonderful job working with the youth organization at church.  Another keeps up a beautiful blog complete with wonderful (and surely time-consuming) photography.  Another homeschools her children and spends lots of time planning lessons and mentoring other homeschooling moms.  Another is really into cooking and spends many hours each week trying new, complicated and delicious recipes.

So is there any such thing as being “just a mom”?  Don’t we all have various purposes and pursuits alongside motherhood (that change and evolve as our motherhood needs change and evolve)?

Don’t all moms need an outlet, a chance to develop their personal interests and talents?  Is it OK for moms to admit that they want and need something besides motherhood?  And is it even possible to be “just a mom”?  Who would do the laundry, the cooking, the errands?  Don’t we all have some purposes beyond motherhood?

Along with taking care of the supporting activities that generally come with motherhood (and deciding how much effort and time to put into each), I think that we need to pursue our own interests alongside pursuing the interests of our children. I think it’s great – and very important – to pursue some non-specifically-motherhood-related things that matter to us while our children are young.  Plus, I think it’s great to get our children involved with our interests as much as possible.  My children know a ton about home design, event planning, website building and many other pretty useful things because I’ve involved them in many of my interests and pursuits.  I think that rather than detracting from my mothering, most of the “extracurricular” activities I’ve chosen have enhanced my mothering and have helped me develop myself as a person in the midst of helping my children develop into who they’re supposed to be.

Question: What purposes do you have beyond motherhood?  Is it OK for moms to have interests and pursuits of their own while their children are young or is that detrimental to children?

Challenge: Make a list of purposes you have besides motherhood right now.  What do they add to your life?  To your kids’ lives?  Add some new purposes/pursuits if you feel you should.  Subtract those that don’t seem to be adding much to your life.

 

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Comments

  1. Joanna says

    I love this article! I love being a mom, I am lucky enough to be a stay at home mother now and I love it! A few years back I decided to go back to school to complete my education, not because I needed to do it for financial gain, but just for myself. I loved much of it and feel like I accomplished something important. Now it is easier for me to explain to my children the importance of education.
    Now I have moved onto new interests including exercise, health, easy/healthy meals, and small craft projects. I love to create, so these things along with my family make my life happy and complete.

  2. says

    This is a great article and my hubby and I were just talking about this yesterday! I absolutely love being “mom”! I have seven children and my first 3 were spread out so pursuing interests and being involved were much easier for me then. I chose many pursuits that benefited my children too. These past 5 1/2 have been so amazingly wonderful and challenging and with 4 children under 3 years at one point my total and complete focus has been on raising them as I stepped back from all church service related activities as well. With my twins entering kindergarten next fall and youngest one will be 3 this summer, I am asking myself what my next step is and not in the way of abandoning my love for being a stay at home mom and all that comes with that but in rediscovering what I am interested in and want to pursue. It’s exciting and also a bit overwhelming for me as my day to day life has been so mapped out for me for years, literally the days have just flown by, that considering other options was just not an option if that makes sense! Thanks for sharing your insights and I loved the comment above as well!

  3. says

    YES! This is EXACTLY my passion and what I’m planning on working with moms and helping them realize: it’s OK to have other purposes in life, not just motherhood! It isn’t selfish to think about this, it’s actually HEALTHY!
    I just absolutely loved this post! Thanks!

  4. Rosebriars says

    Before the birth of my very welcome first child I wondered who I would be once I became a mom, whether there would be any me left after caring for someone else all the time. And 5 years later with a total of 4 small people counting on me, it seemed as if the best of me was indeed used up. I felt less like a person than like a milk machine. Writing book reviews for a friend’s blog and training for a triathlon helped me become a person again. I often say, Mom is not my name. It’s my title. A beloved and blessed title, true; but I refuse to disappear beneath motherhood any longer. I and my entire family deserve to love and be loved by a self-fulfilled woman.

  5. Heidi Wincek says

    I enjoyed this article very much. I am at the opposite end of most of the mom’s who will read this. My daughter’s are both adults now. I homeschooled my girls and had the opportunity to spend a lot more time with them but I also had outside activities. Sometime, I would bring them along and let them help in whatever I was doing. At other times, I would get a much needed break and go out with friends or head to B&N to look at magazines. I’m fortunate because I have a really loving and generous husband who knew I needed regular breaks and would jump right in and take over. These days I’m contemplating getting into weddings/parties/corporate events and am excited about my future outside of the home.

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