The path to motherhood is varied and diverse. Many of us arrive here after what feels like a lifelong marathon, trying to carry the promise to term after many failed attempts. Some of us arrive at motherhood with intentional strides, purposeful and well-planned. Others of us arrive with surprise on our lips and unpreparedness in our hearts. Some of us choose motherhood by the embracing of personhood, even if biology does not. We love the lives of other people’s children with the same passion and intensity as if they were our own.
Whatever the path, motherhood captures us in a whirlwind of highs, lows, wonderment and downright confusion. It drives us to balance life with precision in hopes that we don’t completely ruin the lives of our future decision makers. We do our best with what we have – and in the pursuit of that, we can lose ourselves in the process. We put every ounce of our being in the development of our children. Those of us whose careers or passions were once the focus, slowly slip into the recesses of our minds. We work to pay the bills, to keep playdates regular, to provide what we can to the welfare of our children. We quickly forget what it’s like to be a woman with a dream, with our own goals and aspirations that are separate and unique from being a mom. The days, months and years go by as we raise our children – and with each passing day, the hope to actualize our own dreams gets further and further away.
But then children grow up. They become more independent and self-reliant. They learn to dress themselves, maybe even cook their own meals. The kinds of hands-on attention we once provided to babies, toddlers, and even young adolescents eventually loosens its grip and we find ourselves with children who can actually do things for themselves without much help from us.
Who would have imagined?
I’m raising an 11-year-old daughter who is pretty self-sufficient. Most mornings she’s up, face washed, dressed, and working on fixing her breakfast even before I get out of bed. I thank my genius idea to put a bowl, spoon, and open box of cereal on the counter every Saturday morning so she could make her own breakfast, giving me an extra two to three hours of sleep. She was 5.
But as children age and gain their own independence, we regain some of our own “independence.” As they mature, we mature into the idea that we can actually pursue the dreams we may have put on hold for the sake of being fully present for our children.
I always wanted to live in New York City. When I was a senior in college, I had the bright idea to go to journalism school in New York and become a full-time journalist for a major publication. I also wanted to be a New York Times bestselling author (I still do!). Soon after, I’d learn I was pregnant with my daughter – going to New York to pursue my dreams as a writer was no more. For the next decade or so, I’d make a couple attempts to move to New York (once as an English teacher who couldn’t afford the $10,000 price tag it would cost to move to the city). The truth of the matter was that I didn’t think taking my then 6-year-old to the Big Apple was good for her. Though it was my dream, I had to assess if moving away from family during important formative years was the best thing.
At the time, it wasn’t. The younger she was, the more afraid I was to make any major leaps of faith.
But as she got older, I found her growing independence from me created room for me to pursue my own dreams. I went to graduate school. I traveled for work. And, as life would have it, an opportunity opened up for me to move to New York City to work for a faith-based nonprofit doing the work I loved. My daughter, entering the seventh grade, was in her own life transitions – and a move to a new city, though difficult, has proven to be a good thing for her too.
One of the most impactful things I believe we experience as mothers of older children is that we see how our willingness to pursue our dreams encourages our children to do the same. As they learn to navigate the world through their own experiences, they look over their shoulders as we finally take the leap to earn a college degree or start a business. They overhear our conversations with girlfriends and confidants about “doing something we’ve never done before.” They notice how intentional we soon become to protect our time to write, read, research, build and pursue our dreams. As our children grow, so does the capacity for our dreams to be actualized.
We are called to live full, robust lives. While the seasons for a focus on family take priority, God also calls us to remember the dreams and passions that lie deep within us. And, by his grace, he has given us the ability to shape and nurture the lives of others, given us a community around us who will be committed to helping us shape and nurture our own. Mothering often feels like an “either/or,” where we must choose either our families or our dreams. As children age and seasons shift, we are grateful for the spirit of “both/ and,” where we can both raise children and follow our dreams.
Alisha L. Gordon, M.Div. is a sought after writer, ministry leader, and speaker whose global impact has reached many for Christ through thoughtful preaching, beautiful worship, and socially conscious writing. An Atlanta native currently in New York City, Alisha’s work has helped re-shape the stories of the marginalized and challenged people in both sacred and secular spaces to embrace new ways of seeing God and God’s people. She is the mom to fun-loving, 11-year-old, Ashli. Find her at www.alishagordon.com, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of Hello, Dearest. If you didn’t get a copy and would like your own, you can subscribe to get Hello, Dearest in your mailbox every season. If you subscribe, forward your receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll shoot a copy of the current issue in the mail to you for free … just because we like you.