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SALT LAKE CITY — My mother always told me, “you can be anything you want to be if you put your mind to it.”
It’s probable your mother told you something similar, and we say the same thing to our children. As mothers, we tell our children to dream big and work hard — and we mean it. But the reality is we often don’t believe it because we have little evidence of it in our lives.
Sure, we became mothers, and we always wanted to be a mother. Motherhood is a dream come true. But then — after we reached motherhood — so many of us stopped following our other dreams and passions. Our role as mom does not disqualify us from following our other dreams. We can do both. There doesn't have to be an "or" — we can be a great mother AND anything else we want. We can thrive at both.
Deciding you can be a mother AND...
Many of us artificially limit ourselves as mothers, often afraid to do anything else other than motherhood. Holly Richardson of Pleasant Grove, Utah, is a political blogger and busy mom of 24 children — 4 biological, 20 adopted. She is a great example of blending our passions and parenthood. She has regularly made time for her children and herself, even serving in the Utah State Legislature in 2011.
It seems there are things that are culturally OK for us to do as mothers. Among that list are book clubbing, scrapbooking, blogging, gardening and even photography. “Other choices are less OK," Richardson said. "But if that is the direction your heart is pulling you toward, you don’t have to ignore it.”
Richardson continued, “As moms, we are so busy we can’t even find time to shave our legs in the shower, right? But even with a house full of lots and lots of kids, I still had things I did outside the home that I loved. I noticed other women fitting other things in their lives too, and it’s totally possible — even healthy and good.”
We can be great moms AND great at other things too. I loved this piece of advice from Richardson: “Stop judging other moms when their ‘and’ doesn’t match yours.”
Thriving as a mother AND a person
I was moved by images in a recent Huffington Post article of three prima ballerinas balancing both their professional dancing careers and motherhood.
(The ballerinas) became better dancers after they had children and were better mothers because they kept dancing. ... Both sides to their lives fed the other.
–Lucy Gray, photographer
I slowly scrolled down the page, carefully looking at each candid black and white image taken by photographer mom Lucy Gray over the course of 15 years. The series of images have been published as a book called "Balancing Acts: Three Prima Ballerinas Becoming Mothers." Looking at an image of a ballerina mom balancing a toddler on her tutu, I felt both the passion and the love that these women portray — dedicated passion for their trade and deep love for their babies. But mostly I loved that they were mothers AND ballerinas.
How could these women have room for both loves? In the article Gray said, “It was the fact of doing both simultaneously that made them better at both occupations — work and child-rearing. This was possible because of supportive husbands who were also working but doing the lion's share of child caring. They all brought the children to the ballet, which kept the mother's connected through dancing seasons until they were off and could spend more intense time with their children."
I loved Gray’s insight when she said, “(the ballerinas) became better dancers after they had children and were better mothers because they kept dancing. They needed to work to support their children, but they also knew that having careers kept them more interested at home. Both sides to their lives fed the other."
Setting an example for our children
Pastor Charles R. Swindoll said, “Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.”
Last December, I knelt with my 10-year-old daughter on the family room floor with a rectangle box between us. The box was from my publisher, and inside were the first 20 copies of my new book. Though I was screaming with excitement inside, I opened the box ever so carefully.
It had always been a dream of mine — for as long as I can remember — to be a nonfiction author, and there I was with my book in my hands. I could hardly believe it. I flipped through the pages and showed my daughter her name in the acknowledgements. Then I held the book with confidence in front of her and asked, “Do you know what this means?”
“That you’re famous?” she asked.
I laughed at the thought. “No, not at all. I’ve always dreamed of writing a book and here it is! This book means that you can follow your dreams too. Baby, you really can do anything you want to do, if you put your mind to it.”
Our children watch us and they learn. They watch us dream and fail. They watch us dream and succeed. And they learn from it all.
In her book "Dare, Dream, Do," Whitney Johnson writes, “Attending to multiple dreams at the same time is certainly harder than attending to one or the other. But if by multitasking our dreams we can enable our children to keep theirs, isn’t it worth doing?”
Nicole Carpenter CEO of www.MOMentity.com and creator of Define Your Time training program. She is a speaker and author of "52 Weeks to Fortify Your Family." Nicole and her husband are raising four kids in Syracuse, Utah. Follow her on Twitter @momentity.*