People often ask how I have time to pursue any personal endeavors while rearing small children. Certainly there is the feeling that becoming a mom means postponing, if not completely forfeiting, any personal ambitions. I attribute my pursuit of being a practicing artist and present parent to appropriate doses of tenacity, perseverance, improvisation and intentionality with the cherry on top of a supportive spouse.
Honestly, some days are a wash and require me coming to terms temporarily with letting any personal ambitions go. Other days present themselves more manageable if I just take the effort to proactively switch some things around in the schedule, humbly ask for help from my family and be disciplined enough to follow through.
Being that it is humanly impossible to be on top of it all, there are days when something has to give. This slack might land with the state of the house, the piles of laundry waiting, or the intentions of making a gourmet dinner. My inclination is to accomplish these things first; but, as the familiar saying goes, “A woman’s work is never done”. Therefore, I have learned I must be wise in deciding when to step away. This strategy has been the key to making the time to pursue other things. I also try to take into account what the expense of this time will be on my family, for some things are more costly and disruptive to them than others. Cancelling a promised excursion or missing a meal is much more detrimental to them than having to wear the same pair of shorts two days in a row. And certainly, it doesn’t hurt to communicate with my husband the day’s expectations and discuss the most important things to accomplish. By doing this, he isn’t surprised if dinner is wimpy and an hour later than usual, instead he feels informed and looks for ways to graciously pitch in.
Now that my young children are in school, this daily discipline means that as soon as the family steps out the door in the morning, I go to work… in my pajamas. I don’t even take the time to get dressed some days. I admit it! I find that too often as I head to shower and dress, my mind is overrun within minutes and plans are derailed by the tyranny of the urgent. Therefore, this act of dressing defiance seems to be a practical solution for avoiding the takeover altogether, cutting it off at the pass. (Of course this is a perk to having a guest room converted into a work space with no need to go out in public.) I have come to gauge every endeavor by asking myself, ’Can I do this with kids at home, or not?’. This question has become a very effective filter for when to attempt what. I used to spend that first hour in the morning putzing around the house, recovering it from the morning rush. But then, I realized that cleaning the house is something that can wait to be done while the children are around. Now, I take that hour to do something best accomplished alone and free from interruption; which for me is creating art or writing.
Making such simple decisions throughout each day has helped me to continue pursuing my dreams while also striving to be the most present mother I can be. I don’t want to trade one for the other. Sure, it is messy and convoluted at times with ambitions developing a lot slower than imagined. However, I have adopted the mantra, ‘Slow and steady’. This simple phrase keeps me pressing on, foregoing the need to rush at the world’s pace while also saving me from the very real temptation to give up. However sporadic my accomplishments might be, I’d rather live an honest legacy of engagement and creative inspiration in front of my children, challenges included, than one of forfeit, discontentment and bitterness.
Making such simple decisions throughout each day has helped me to continue pursuing my dreams while also striving to be the most present mother I can be.
I must overcome succumbing to the lie that things in my life will never change; that being a mom will be an endless abyss of work and martyrdom. Rather than seeing it from the perspective of someone trapped and enslaved, I prefer considering it from a steward’s position. If I have learned anything by having and rearing children, it’s that things change constantly. Finding and stewarding a rhythm in whatever season we are in, is an ever-present reality. While there are those seasons when my ambitions need to take a back seat, I can more likely submit them without a fight, knowing that soon enough a time will come allowing me to pick them back up again. Until then, my dreams can percolate, like brewed coffee, making the waiting period still rich and engaging while I invest in my other ambition, a thriving family.