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.