You are a person too. Develop YOU.
A few years ago, as I hurriedly went about my day, I suddenly stopped and asked myself a question.
Who am I? Am I even a person, or am I 'just a mother'?
I had seven children whom I homeschooled and cooked and cleaned for. We spent almost 24/7 together.
Nearly everything I did during a 24 hour period I was doing for them. And I wasn't doing it cheerfully.
From the moment I was woken up in the morning by my children until I fell into bed exhausted, and even through the night as I rose to comfort someone with a bad dream or who was sick or scared, I had a 24-hour job.
Of course, that's normal for a mother. We give our lives to our children. We make sacrifices of time and energy. During some seasons (like when babies are small) it's all we do and all we can do.
But on that day, I stopped mid mother-hustle and wondered, What happen to ME?
Except for brushing my teeth and showering, I couldn't think of one thing I did for myself because I wanted to on a daily or weekly basis.
Sure, I'd taken mommy breaks or had an occasional day off over the years.
But was I developing myself as a person? Was I developing my own interests and passions?
So being the ambitious woman I am, I set out to change that. I rarely 'settle' for what is, but strive for what could be.
Of course, the biggest obstacle was that there was a lot of time-consuming work to be done. And I was doing most of it. (My husband is super helpful and does a lot around the house, but he also works :)
Letting it go undone was not an option for me, mostly because I'd tried that in the past and didn't like the outcomes. I like to have things organized and neat and systematic.
I could hire someone to take over my jobs -- laundry, cleaning, maybe even cooking and homeschooling (tutors?). I had done that in the past while living in developing countries and was a big fan. :)
But hiring help is a costly luxury in the United States, and was not in the budget at the time.
That meant the only option available was to train my children to take over some of my responsibilities.
Over the next few years (and even to this day) I created and implemented a plan that gave my children more responsibility and me more time to develop my interests.
My children at the time were 14, 13, 12, 10, 7, 3, and 1. Many of them were certainly old enough help out.
I won't go into all the details of my plan here (I'll save that for another post if you're interested), but I can say that my plan worked.
To date, it's been almost two years since I've done the laundry. My older children do their own laundry, and my 14-year-old son does the household laundry (I've been training him since he was 12).
It's been at least that long since I've cleaned a bathroom. My 17-year-old daughter is an expert in that.
All the rest help with dusting, vacuuming, daily pick-up, emptying garbages, bathing and caring for 'littles', and preparing meals.
We all work together after every meal to clean up the kitchen (which we do three times a day since we work from home and homeschool.)
My biggest jobs are charts and scheduling, accountability, and quality control, along with regular 'training' on how to do/improve jobs.
Since asking myself those questions and implementing and tweaking my training plan, I now have hours per day available to pursue my passions and interests -- like writing this blog, planning trips, building our business, and working on my own education.
And the best part? I'm actually a better, kinder, more patient mother than I was.
My house, kids, and my systems are not perfect. They don't work 100% of the time. And I still have to defend my time by reminding them it's their job to take care of the younger ones while I work on my projects.
Yet despite its imperfections, it's a HUGE improvement from where I was a few years ago.
At church on Sunday I taught a lesson to the women.
I shared part of this experience (as it related to 'trying' your faith through action to create the desires of your heart').
Toward the end of the lesson, a wonderful, wise older woman rose her hand and said,
"You're a mother of seven. You're not supposed to self-actualize. So just give it up. There will be time for that after your children are gone."
I guess I wasn't clear enough that I'd already accomplished much of my goal. But I wasn't about to argue with this woman in front of the class.
And I think what she shared is a common conception from a generation ago. They didn't have the same time-saving conveniences we do. (My iMac and iPhone are tools I use daily to organize my family life).
Moms from one and two generations ago gave their lives to raising their children and there was NOT time for anything else. I applaud and honor them.
But what bothered me was the message being sent to today's struggling moms currently 'in-the-thick' of things.
Times have changed. It's a different world. And self-actualization is NO LONGER something you have to wait to do until your kids leave home.
In fact, I believe it can't wait. It needs to happen now, or as soon as possible.
Yes, there's not much self-actualization when you just had a baby or the kids are sick or you have four children under the age of four.
But that doesn't mean you have to wait 20+ years until it does happen.
And making it a priority actually helps you to be a better mom!
My husband always says:
You can't draw from an empty well.
That's the biggest challenge of too many moms today. That was my challenge a few years ago.
I was empty. And I was trying to mother from an empty place. I had nothing to give.
And when you have nothing to give the best you can do is often not good enough to meet the demands of the most demanding job in the world.
You have to self-actualize. Not only for your own sanity and sense of 'personhood' but for your children's sake.
What example are you setting for your children if you tell them to follow their hearts and to be happy when you're not doing it yourself?
Show your children how to be happy and how to follow their hearts by doing it yourself.
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