I am a writer, a photographer, a woman. I am a friend and a neighbor and a homemaker. I am many, many things besides a wife and a mother. Parenting is not my only “thing.” Having children does not define me as a person.
I have made it my mission to find purpose in raising these little people, and believe me, sometimes it’s like mining for diamonds under the coal. It’s exhausting, but the moment that they began to exist inside of me, my needs and passions became less important. They’re not diminished, and it’s not forever, but honestly, I can’t do all of the things I want to do while also being a mother. And there is nothing wrong with that.
This isn’t about feminism or anything of the sort, though I do think sometimes in the pursuit of being women who can do it all, we forget the people that should win out over the tasks. It’s about love. It’s about, as I heard in the sermon last Sunday, how sometimes love means choosing to exist less so that somebody else can exist more. It sounds really lovely, but in reality, it’s hard, minute-to-minute work. It’s choosing to say the same thing for the thousandth time with grace and patience, just so that they can understand. It’s reading up on how to discipline strong-willed children without breaking their spirits. It’s paying attention to their individual personalities and needs. It’s setting aside some (or lots) of my things so that they can have what they need.
You will hear me say at some points that I think children need to understand that they’re not the center of the whole world. It’s true. I want my kids to learn patience, and I want them to prefer others above themselves. They won’t always get what they want, and they will hopefully (someday) learn how to cope maturely with that fact.
I am their only mother. The only one. They learn from me and repeat my actions and feel secure based on how Billy and I build up their surroundings. They’re very small people, and they can’t take care of themselves. They can’t teach themselves how to treat others with kindness, and they can’t kiss their own boo boos. They don’t yet understand how to balance making mistakes with grace and pursuing excellence with vigor. They don’t know that you should pick up after yourself before you leave someone’s house, and they don’t know naturally that sharing keeps friends. I am their mother. These are things that I can/get to teach them.
Parenting is not my only “thing.” But if I neglect my children in light of my other “things,” I don’t get a do-over. I won’t get these years back. They won’t be this impressionable again. Sometimes, I get to exist less so that they can exist more. It’s a privilege, not a burden. It’s a gift to be able to invest my life in somebody besides myself. There is purpose in parenting, there is purpose in doing less of the things I love in order that they may thrive, and there is purpose in choosing to make being a mom one of my “things.”