Recently I stood in the mother’s lounge waiting to change a diaper and caught my reflection in the mirror. I was taken aback…was that ME? Sure enough, behind the bulging diaper bag, smudged shirt, and with both hands on the stroller, was the very same girl I’ve always seen looking back. Motherhood has changed my life, but underneath it all I am still me. It isn’t necessary to forget about ourselves and all that we used to enjoy when we become mothers. I still love running, books, and traveling but I am more selective in what I pursue with my limited time and energy. I don’t have to choose between my personal interests and my family- I strive for a balance that benefits both. I have realized that when we continue our personal development we have even more to give as a mother.
We would all like more time to spend on the things we love to do. But with the various roles we have it is difficult to make time for ourselves. You may not have as much time to spend, but choose a few things that you can enjoy in your current situation. Look for ways to learn while going about your daily schedule. Sneak a book or some knitting into your bag for times you are stuck waiting. Keep books on CD in the car, or around the house to listen to while cleaning and working on other things. Give yourself a few minutes daily to devote to your personal development.
Do the things you love with others! I have seen book clubs, cooking clubs, crafts, service, walking, gardening… etc. Get a group of friends and learn together. Look for organizations in your community and join in. Take or teach community classes or local community college courses- this is a great way to meet people with your common interest. Over the years I have taken night classes to learn Spanish- sometimes with a baby in tow. My Spanish is less than perfect, but because of my efforts I have made friends I otherwise could not have spoken to, shown my children my desire to continue my education, and most of all- had fun learning something new!
The best group to involve in your pursuit of knowledge is your family. Your children may or may not share the same passions, but giving them the opportunity to work alongside you exposes them to new things. It also helps them to see that you are indeed a person with likes and dislikes. As you share your interests with your children they see that learning doesn’t stop when they leave school. I love to take my sons on individual “dates” with mom to the theatre, to try new foods, or to just go for a jog or bike ride. All are things I enjoy and I can see that my sons’ willingness to try new things is greater when they see that it is something their mom likes.
You can reciprocate this by taking an interest in their passions. I remember hearing of a mother who had no interest in sports taking the time to learn the names of players on her teen son’s favorite football team. She learned how football was played, watched games with him, and would save newspaper articles for him. After the son was grown and out of the house, the mother still followed the team!
Do whatever you do with a passion! Find learning daily in your role a mom. Learn about child development, enrichment activities in your community, different ways to clean, read cookbooks, try coupon clipping and bargain shopping. Know what your children are studying in school and learn with them by reading together. Volunteer at your children’s school, go on field trips, and visit the library. There is so much to learn in the midst of daily life.
I have had a variety of learning opportunities while living with three young boys. They are particularly keen on asking questions that I don’t know the answer to. But I refuse to let “I don’t know” be my final answer- instead our motto is “Let’s find out!”. Curiosity is vital for a love of learning and I want to foster that by showing my children the myriad of ways to find answers to their questions. By helping my children research answers to their questions I have learned so much- about rocks, electricity, insects, and countless other things that otherwise I took no previous interest in. I have gained better insight on how my children learn, how I can better teach them, and ultimately about the world around me. Learning is an adventure we regularly take together and we have fun!
The biggest challenge is finding the right balance. The amount of time we have to “spare” changes with the different stages of our lives. There is no perfect day where we squeeze everything in. Something usually has to fall to the background while we focus on something else. It takes a conscious effort to maintain an overall balance in how we spend our time. It would be tragic to tip the scale so much that we forget to enjoy the stage we are in now. Find joy and learning in the simple things everyday.
As only a mother knows, time goes by so quickly and before you know it babies are all grown up. Motherhood has changed my life. I have learned to appreciate the time I have to be a mom. I am more curious about the world because my children teach me to wonder. I have learned that some of my past interests aren’t nearly as interesting as the things I experience with my children. I may be chasing a toddler and sticky with glue, but underneath it all, I am still me- and happy with who I see!
CHALLENGE: You’ve received lots of challenges here in this essay–choose where you’d like to start. Your mind deserves some attention.
QUESTION: What is one way you can start learning more today?