Wisdom//

The Best Lesson I Can Teach My Kids is That I’m a Whole Person Without Them

One woman shares the importance of making time for things that are important to her — outside of being a mother.

Courtesy of Studio Romantic / Shutterstock
Courtesy of Studio Romantic / Shutterstock

For us moms, nurturing relationships with our partner, friends and, of course, our children is important not only for our — and their — health and wellbeing, but also for our happiness. Spending good quality time with our kids, making space for our friends, and stoking the romance flames (with or without date nights) is a recipe for a life well-lived, right? Right. But — possibly especially for moms — it’s also vital to cultivate our own passions and chase down that ever-elusive self-care.

Trying something new, taking a different path, conditions our brains and our confidence, and gives us something to look forward to. Even if that newfangled interest takes us away from our comfort zones, our families, and what we’ve come to know as a constant, showing our little ones that we have our own curiosities, our own lives outside of parenting, teaches them that they should go after their own hungers as well, and grow into independent and strong passion-seeking adults.

You might have a million justifications for why you are unable to pursue a passion — too many little kids to take care of, a demanding full-time job, insufficient funds, elderly parents that require care…the list goes on and on. Thinking outside of the box, then, might be required to make space for the things that are important to you. If you like working out or practicing yoga, for example, and you don’t think you have time to drive to and from a gym or studio, you may need to carve out a corner in your bedroom to make these activities happen. If you want to learn how to paint with watercolors, and you can’t afford the expensive art classes offered at the local workshop, check into taking a class at a community college or park district, or sign up for online instruction. Find your bliss and seek out ways to add joy to your life, even if the logistics seem difficult or the steps seem many or your list of responsibilities seem stacked too high.

If your hobby turns into something more, and you decide that you want to make a living or contribute to your family in an additional way, then take your passion to the next level and give it a spin. It’s a risk, I know, but in the end, you will have learned something, sprouted a verdant garden out of the initial planted seeds. When you have children, your time — however limited — is super important. Pursing a new career, developed out of your passion, is a worthy endeavor and one that packs an extra punch as you’ll be dedicating your valuable time and energy to something that might take your attention away from your children.

For me, having three babies in under four years was quite the challenge and to say that I was living in a thick-as-marble baby bubble is an understatement. My husband was away at work, often traveling for several nights each month, while I was knee-deep in diapers and ooey-gooey snuggles. I wouldn’t trade places — I loved being at home with our boys — but I did want more, outside of the nest I had created. I wanted my own life. My husband would come home from work and I would pounce on him, telling him the day’s happenings with the kids in rapid fire, unable to talk about anything else outside of the house, which prompted him to ask, “Can you just pick up a newspaper?” He was right, I had no idea what was going on outside of my kids’ lives and my existence was day-in-day-out 100% one-track minded. I know I’m not the only mom to have skipped showering, doctor’s appointments, and even eating, during the new-mom phase — self-care is often not a priority. 

Finding a way to re-ignite my passion for writing and travel helped me immensely in those days. Pre-kids, I had a career in the travel industry, writing itineraries and learning about destinations across the globe, so I knew that I wanted to figure out a way to do what I loved but with flexibility and on my own terms. I started off freelance writing for newspapers — mostly about parenting topics — I was, in fact, well versed. I worked at night, when my kids were sleeping, during the day when they were at school or napping, and often on weekends when my husband could take over. It certainly wasn’t easy, and I was exhausted nearly all of the time, but it was a step in the right direction.

I’ve since created a full-time career for myself, writing about global travel for various magazines and travel sites — I’ve contributed to nearly 50 different outlets in the last decade. Going after a dream is never easy, especially with limited support or resources, but if you want to do something bad enough, you’ll find a way to do it—even if you have to change the dream or timeline a bit to fit the reality.  

My boys — newspaper peddling husband included — have listened to me talk about: interviewing a pod of skydiving mothers; searching for pachyderms in Sri Lanka with REI Adventures; how surfing in El Salvador was really scary because I had never been that far out in the ocean on a board; how lonely I was circumnavigating the globe on a solo adventure to Hong Kong, Bali, and Dubai; how train travel on the Rocky Mountaineer through Banff was a great way to slow down and enjoy the mountains; how swimming with whale sharks in Mexico made me feel a child-like joy and so much more. 

Following my passion has not only taught me about myself and what I’m capable of, but also, it has given me the opportunity to live out loud. Fervently creating a life full of passion, rich experiences, and adventures to write home about is something that makes me feel proud. I’m thankful that I’m able to show my boys that there is a smorgasbord of different ways to live, love and exist. The overall message I’m constantly sending to my children is that if you work hard, live with enthusiasm, and are kind — always and to everyone, amazing things will happen. So, if my youngest still wants to be a “dinosaur bone hunter” when he grows up, or my middle a guitar player or my oldest a veterinarian — or if they just want to learn about these things for fun — and they go after their passions, I will feel like I’ve done my job as a parent. 

Originally published on SheKnows.

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