Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Purpose Beyond Motherhood?

I loved this article by Tiffany Gee Lewis.  So much of what she said resonated with me.

In her article, Tiffany talks 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, 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.

Since having my first child, I've thought of motherhood as my foremost occupation and pursuit.  But I've always had other things I'm working on simultaneously.  I worked 1/2 time from home while my first baby slept, finishing a training and consulting project I started before I got pregnant.

When that contract ended, I was due with Isaac any day and was feeling excited about being "just a mom" with two little boys.  But then I got another consulting project offer that was extremely flexible and would offer some great income during a time when we really needed it thank to a "slow down" at my husband's work (they'd cut back his pay and given him extra vacation time at work).  I said yes to the opportunity and spent several hours a week on the computer or visiting schools to do observations with a baby on my back or left the kids with their wonderful dad while I went off to do a training for a few hours.  It was stressful - but it was also rewarding.

Then, before that project ended and while I was pregnant with Eliza, the bishop showed up at my house and called me to be the Relief Society President (head of the church women's organization). We had almost 400 women in our ward, many of them with serious needs.  And I worked part time and had 2 preschoolers and a baby on the way.  I asked the bishop if he knew we were expecting.  He confidently said, "No, I didn't know that but the Lord surely knew it when He gave me a very strong feeling that you're the one for this job.  But don't take my word for it.  Please go to the Lord yourself and pray and see if you feel this is the right thing.  You have a right to your own inspiration and I'll thoroughly respect whatever you feel is right."  Jared and I prayed about it.  It was right.  I said yes and spent the next two years serving and stretching and learning in all sorts of ways.  

Then when we found out we were expecting twins and I was sick and had to go on partial bed rest, I finally became "just a mom" and found my three preschoolers 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.  And all those wonderful women I'd had a chance to work with and serve in Relief Society helped me make it through.  I saw how "full circle" can work.

But after about 3 months of total motherhood focus, we moved from the Bay Area to St George, UT.  Packing and designing the new home my brother was helping us build became a serious occupation alongside motherhood.  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, teaching them Joy School, 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 and The Power of Moms kicked in. The Power of Moms 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 often 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 with her calling 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)?

Do 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?


Myrnie said...

Haven't the prophets said to constantly learn? I think it's so important for our kids to see us working on big goals. I teach piano in the home about 7 hours a week, and I've always felt it's a good experience for my kids to have mom "unavailable" for an hour or so...they HAVE to entertain themselves. At the same time, I'm telling myself daily that I'll have different seasons of life to do the things I can't right now.

Sydney said...

You hit the nail on the head!

Hilary said...

Well, I think you HAVE to have your spoon in a few pots... in order to stay sane.
Since we're considering moving I've thought a lot about if I'd work or whatnot... it's creating a lot of interesting coversation in my head. :)

Pitterle Postings said...

I have learned that it is not just having an outlet, it is feeling like I am contributing and making a difference. Sometimes it is a simple as recognizing my own small successes

brittanimae said...

I started to leave a comment, and then realized it would be too long. But YES, definitely. The three years that I didn't work at all (by work I mean an average of 2-3 hours per week, lol!) were hard for me. I think having daughters watching me really made me appreciate how much I want my children to know what I contribute to the world (no matter how small), and to feel a desire to contribute themselves. I feel grateful that my husband works hard to "provide" for us so that I can choose to do what I like and only as much as I like, but I also feel confident knowing that I could make up the difference if the need arose. said...

Don't all moms raise their kids in the hopes that they'll be great contributors some day? If kids don't see it first hand, how can they know how to do it? The biggest problem is keeping things in balance which we all struggle with. Nice treatise on that stimulating article1

Becky said...

I love this post. I was just thinking the other day that to be "just a mom" means we would need a maid, bill payer, cook, etc. :)


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