Rarely does a story stick with me for 10 years, but this one (told to me by my friend Pam) has: One day, a boy walked into a room where an older man wearing head phones was dancing like crazy. It was almost embarrassing to watch as he waved his arms, bounced his knees, and wiggled his body with incredible enthusiasm. The boy noticed a second set of head phones in the room, and since this man was obviously enjoying himself, the boy put the head phones on his own ears and tried to replicate what the older man was doing.
He shook his arms, bounced his knees, and attempted to wiggle his body exactly like this man, but after a few minutes, the boy got tired (and a little disgusted), threw the head phones onto the ground, and stomped out the door. What was the problem?
He hadn’t turned on the music.
Can you relate?
I often look around and see “perfect” mothers dancing it up, but when I try to recreate their “dance,” I end up frustrated and exhausted, just like the boy with the head phones.
If you’re like me, you desperately need to dance. There’s something inside you that’s itching to love your work, love your life, and spend your time doing what you were meant to do.
Does that work with motherhood? Yes it does–and since learning to dance and teaching others to dance is one of my main purposes in life, let’s begin.
Part 1: Create your dance floor.
There’s a reason why your Senior Prom wasn’t held in the midst of a crowded warehouse. You’ve got to have space to dance. I’ve spent the past three weeks creating that space in my life, and for me, it involved de-junking my house (and creating a new system to keep it de-junked), spending some serious time doing Mind Organization for Moms, and building reliable (but not unattainable) systems into my life so the everyday routines and responsibilities aren’t such a drain on my dancing energy. For more on that, you can join our Mind Organization for Momscommunity, and I’ll tell you all about it.
Part of this dance-floor creation also involved letting go of unrealistic expectations I’d set for myself. Anna Quindlen, in her book Being Perfect, describes it as “carrying a backpack filled with bricks every single day” (p. 11). Let’s unite here and unanimously agree to set these bricks down.
I’m not the type of person who ever wants to settle for mediocrity, but honestly, some things aren’t worth stressing over (Saren has a great article on that HERE).
Tonight, we’ve invited a family to our home, and the mother is a concert violinist. My husband arranged for her to bring her violin so she could show our children how she plays it. He also arranged for me to play a duet with her (me on the piano), and he’d like to videotape it for our children.
I have been a mess all morning. I’m not a concert pianist. I’ve practiced this piece more than 50 times in the past month, but I keep stumbling over the last two pages. I’ve rehearsed dozens of explanations in my head that I can use when I mess up. I’ve even considered purposely draining the battery on the video camera so my embarrassment can’t be recorded.
But then I realized that it doesn’t matter if I don’t play as well as I’d like. I’ll enjoy the experience, smile when I make a mistake (or 40), and even let my husband videotape the experience so my children can know it’s okay not to be perfect.
“The perfect mother (the toughest of all the ideals to imagine!) makes other women feel like failures simply by showing up and showing off” (Quindlen, p.35). We can help each other so much more by showing our imperfections (and how we try to improve them), than by trying to show everyone how perfect we are. And letting go of this desire to be perfect at everything is giving me space to dance.
Part 2: Hear the music.
Head phones aren’t necessary to hear the music of motherhood, but an open heart is. Too many voices are out there screaming that women are oppressed by motherhood or that the life of a mom is boring, mundane, and only suitable for the uneducated woman who doesn’t know any better. That’s simply not true. It’s just that the women who feel that way are trying to do the “head phone dance” without hearing the rhythm and melody that compels a woman to live and mother deliberately.
Our goal at The Power of Moms is to broadcast the music. I think of the website as a radio station, playing songs meant to strengthen the hearts and homes of women who want to have an incredible motherhood experience.
Reading and listening to resources from The Power of Moms, inspiring blogs, websites, books, movies, and other places, helps me hear the music every day–because I need it every day. I also connect to God each morning and ask Him to help me hear what I need to hear.
The music isn’t that hard to find, but just like a radio, you’ve got to be tuned in to hear it.
Part 3: Develop your core.
“Someday, sometime, you will be sitting somewhere. A berm over-looking a pond in Vermont. The lip of the Grand Canyon at sunset. A seat on the subway. And something bad will have happened: You will have lost someone you loved, or failed at something at which you badly wanted to succeed.
“And sitting there, you will fall into the center of yourself. You will look for some core to sustain you. And if you have been perfect all your life and have managed to meet all the expectations of your family, your friends, your community, your society, chances are excellent that there will be a black hole where that core ought to be” (Quindlen, p. 47-48).
I meet far too many women who say that the moment their last child starts first grade or leaves for college, they look around their empty house and say, “Now what?” If our cores are not being nurtured from the start, there won’t be anything left when we finally have the time to do something with it.
I have to invest some time every day developing the person inside the mom, but that doesn’t mean simply imitating what everyone else is doing because “nothing important, or meaningful, or beautiful, or interesting, or great, ever came out of imitations. What is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” (Quindlen, p.15)
I like to write. I like to organize. I like to study and learn and then teach others the ideas that have inspired me. I like the energy that comes from gathering large groups of like-minded people together. I like to help mothers change their thinking. I like to do things that leave others feeling surprised and delighted. That is how I take care of my core.
Anna Quindlen suggests this: “look, every day, at the choices you are making, and when you ask yourself why you are making them, find this answer: Because they are what I want, or wish for. Because they reflect who and what I am.”
Certainly, not every part of my life will be fun, but it will have purpose. I clean bathrooms because I want a beautiful home. I get up at 5:37 with my three-year-old because I want him to feel loved and cherished. However, there are a thousand things I simply don’t do because they don’t reflect who I am. I only post a blog when I have something specific to say–even though daily blogging is a “rule.” I don’t sign my children up for lots of activities because it leaves me stressed and anxious, and I don’t think that’s the kind of mom they want to live with.
When we live beautiful lives, reflective of who we are at our cores, we give the world a powerful gift.
Part 4: Dance with everything you’ve got.
Trying to conform to this image of what is perfect “requires a kind of lockstep. Look at the word; imagine it in your mind’s eye, the forced march of the fearful, the physical opposite of the skip and the jump. Doesn’t it sound like something to avoid at all costs?” (Quindlen, p. 35).
I’ve been in this lockstep for too long.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of articles, books, programs, and breath-taking ideas inside me right now. And as I looked closely at the cause of my recent angst, I could see that the pain of not dancing is driving me insane.
I don’t know the “right” way to blog or the “right” way to build a website that’s destined to gather and strengthen deliberate mothers all over the world. However, I know that I am much more valuable to myself, my family, and the world when I listen closely to the music and let myself dance.
George Eliot said, “It is never too late to be what you might have been.”
I’m starting again today.
QUESTION: What does it mean for you to “dance”?
CHALLENGE: Start today with Step 1 and begin creating space in your life that will enable you to live the deliberate live you’ve imagined.