I have a frequently repeated conversation with moms in my circles. It starts on a neutral topic like the cost of soccer cleats, which then moves us to family budgets and then to a mom increasing her hours at work. Or a mom laments how the dishes never seem to be completely done, which moves us to the mundane parts of our days and then the hopes of doing something more, at least something different.
And somewhere in that transition from ordinary to meaningful, I see my friend begin to blink back the tears. She swallows, trying to gulp down the fear and not let it overflow from her heart through her telling eyes. This fear that she doesn’t realize is common, somehow her family will suffer by her choice to do something that doesn’t center around them.
What if something happens and I won’t be able to be there for them because I’m off doing my thing?
What if my husband doesn’t get what he needs from me because I’m distracted or busy?
What if I’m being selfish?
All spin off questions of the bigger fear:
What if … my family suffers as a result of me following a dream?
And this is my response. One I know by heart because I’ve said it so many times to the woman in the mirror:
You are a woman.
Likely your favorite people in the world are your husband (if you’re married) and children. Being a wife and mom are noble, beautiful and meaningful roles in your life. But there are other parts of you too, and it’s okay to acknowledge those. Remember that woman you were before you had a family? She’s still a part of you. She likely has been changed for the better because of those lovely people, but she wants to be remembered.
Your family will benefit when you thrive.
Children with mothers who are depressed suffer. Children with mothers who live vibrant, interesting lives in the midst of the mundane responsibilities will reap the benefits of a happier home. You may not need to do anything drastic to feed that dream in your heart. But making some small steps now while your children are little will give you more energy and enthusiasm to care for your family.
You are modeling to your children what it means to truly live.
If you want your children to follow their dreams, now and when they get older, you must demonstrate what that looks like. They are learning from you how to balance what must get done with what makes your heart skip a beat. Point out now the things you are doing to take care of yourself so they know what healthy living looks like. That race you’re training for or that class you’re taking are real life’s Exhibit A for your children.
You have a gift to offer the world.
Whether it’s tutoring or Taekwon-Do or travel, follow that nudge to do that one thing. Because you were created for it, and if you don’t pursue it the world will miss out. We don’t want that. It doesn’t have to mean ignoring your family. This isn’t an all or nothing choice. There are 24-hours in every day, and it’s okay if a few of those reach beyond your family.
You can still mother well, and if you’re married, be a supportive loving wife, while pursuing a passion of your own. And get this, your family will win because of it. And the world will win because you are offering your own unique version of beautiful.
There is a larger What if … we should really be asking when considering our dreams in light of our families:
What if we don’t …?
As a mom to four girls, ages 3 to 12, Alexandra Kuykendall’s days are spent washing dishes, driving to and from different schools and trying to find a better solution to the laundry dilemma. She writes to capture the places where motherhood meets everyday life to remember the small, yet significant moments in the midst of the blur. She is the author of The Artist’s Daughter, A Memoir , a contributor to this year’s Be you, Bravely, An Experiment in Courage and acts as the Specialty Content Editor for MOPS International. A city girl at heart, she makes her home in the shadow of downtown Denver. You can read more of Alex’s everyday thoughts and connect with her at AlexandraKuykendall.com.