A couple of weeks ago on my blog I wrote about the experience of accomplishing a lifelong dream, and more specifically, what it truly takes to make a dream come true. As I explained in that post, there is a whole lot of hard work and sacrifice involved in pursuing a dream. It means making difficult choices and a willingness to believe in yourself even when no one else does.
As excited as I am about reaching this milestone, as a mom of two young girls, the unspoken question that often remains in my own head is this: Does pursuing my own dream make me selfish?
I don’t think I’m alone. Honestly, I think many of us struggle with that very dilemma. How do we balance our ambition as people with our responsibilities as wives and mothers? When is it okay to push towards our own goals, and when should we hold back? When is it okay to be selfish, and when are we supposed to be selfless?
If only there were an easy answer.
The truth is that motherhood often comes with a strong dose of guilt. We feel guilty when we don’t spend enough time with our kids. We feel guilty when we spend too much time with them and not enough time on things like housework or meal-planning. We feel guilty for working. We feel guilty for staying home. We feel guilty for being too strict. We feel guilty for giving in. And sometimes we feel guilty for pursuing our own dreams and ambitions because it might mean we can’t also meet standard of the perfect mom we’ve set out to be.
But here’s a little secret we all need to know: None of us are Superwoman.
The reality is that nobody can do it all, and the ones who pretend they can are probably lying. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day. We all get the same 24 hours, which means that no matter what we do in life, we will be faced with choices.
So how do we make sure we have chosen the right path? How do we know our priorities are in order? Ultimately, I think we are all a work in progress, subject to continual re-assessment and self-reflection, but there are a few things that have really helped me along the way. They might just help you too:
Start with prayer
It always comes down to this doesn’t it? The amount of time spent in devotion and prayer, in reading the Bible and developing a close personal walk with God is directly correlated with making better choices. In my own life I have found that whenever I start thinking I can do things on my own is exactly when I get myself into trouble and things start to go horribly wrong.
If you’re truly not sure where to go, try to spend more time simply listening and less time talking. We often ask God to tell us what to do, but then forget to wait for an answer. The gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit comes in a whisper during those quiet moments, often when we least expect it.
Listen to your husband
This is SO HARD! I am a natural born leader. I love being in charge and I have no trouble taking control of a situation and bossing people around. My husband, on the other hand, honestly has no desire to tell people what to do, and never has. Even so, in eight years of marriage I have realized that while his spiritual gift may not be necessarily leadership, it is most definitely wisdom.
I have learned am still learning that he has a lot of valuable insight when it comes to my own dreams and aspirations. No one knows every part of me as well as he does, and no one will fight as hard or cheer me on or genuinely want me to succeed as much as he does either. On the other had, my husband is also the only person who intimately understands the specific needs of our own family, and who cares as deeply for our children as I do.
Your husband is the only one who will be totally honest—at times brutally so—about whether or not you are on the right path. For the sake of your marriage and your family, you owe it to him to listen.
Redeem your time
Because pursuing a dream may mean more time away from your family than you’d like it is that much more important to make sure that your time together counts. Give your husband and children the gift of fully engaging when you are together. Turn off your phone or computer or whatever other distraction has captured your focus and give them all of you. Be intentional about setting aside time that is just for them.
On the other hand, be wary of giving into the “mom guilt” that sometimes tempts us to want to be overly permissive, or to give our kids a bunch of stuff they don’t need to make up for the times we’re not there. More stuff doesn’t make up for less time, and trying to be our child’s friend instead of their parent won’t work either.
It is easy to look at our friends and think their life is somehow better or more worthwhile. We watch our career-minded friends rushing off to work each day, looking all stylish and put together in their tailored suits and high heels. While they move right on up the corporate ladder we’re still wearing yesterday’s cheerio-encrusted yoga pants. They, on the other hand, would do anything to be able to stay at home with their little ones and worry constantly that they are missing out on the most important things in life.
Comparing your situation to someone elses' situation serves no purpose except to make you crazy with self doubt, so just don’t do it. Your path is your path and no one elses.
Own your choices.
Every action has it’s own set of consequences, and every time we select one thing it means we are not choosing something else. So own it. If in your heart of hearts you believe that you have been called to a certain path, don’t waste time on regretting the things you can’t do. Understand that when you make a choice to pursue a dream, you are also making the decision to leave something else behind.
And that’s okay.
Because none of is can do it all, but we can make peace with the choices that we’ve made. And in the end, I think that’s good enough for me.
Ruth Soukup, Living Well Spending Less