Late at night, just as the children were finally going to bed, my eight-year-old daughter came up to me and said, "Mommy, can we spend some time together tomorrow? I haven't seen you very much." She tried not to let her lips tremble as she gazed up at me with sea-blue eyes. I told her yes, hugged her tightly, and sent her to bed.
I'd talked to the children about this, that Mommy felt very strongly she needed to do this writing contest thing, and that I'd be holed up typing a lot for a week or so. They were supportive, but I knew it would stretch them a bit because they were used to having me around almost constantly. I figured it would be a good experience.
After all, it would only be for a week or so. Not forever.
We made it work. After the more time-consuming school subjects in the morning were done, I headed downstairs to my corner of the office and pounded away on my laptop. The kids came in as needed, but only if it was important. Occasional hugs were classified as important. Now and then I read them part of what I was working on and basked in their smiles and giggles. Late one night my four-year-old son snuggled with me in my office chair for a bit, then curled up next to me in his beanbag and blanket and fell asleep to the sound of my typing, and my daughter sat with me another night. We were with each other a lot, even though I was more inaccessible than usual.
The interesting thing is that the whole setup felt very comfortable. With a little tweaking (and set writing hours), I'll be able to keep on doing this--working on my writing career and teaching my children. Between that and what I need to do for my health (which is a whole other post, but vanity is very much the least of it), I will have precious little time for anything else at all, but I am all right with that. I've been feeling the push to write and to take care of myself for a while, but when you have the rest of your life screaming at you that your talent is just a hobby and you should sacrifice it for other things, then you don't always listen. However, when you receive spiritual nudging that begins to feel more like shoving, you'd be pretty dumb not to.
I think this experience has helped the children learn that Mom needs to be respected more as an individual. That I have thoughts, feelings, dreams of my own. I talked to them about how being their mom is the most special thing I've chosen to do, but that I also have this deep desire to work on my author dream. They nodded their sweet heads and were very supportive. My daughter even hoped I'd continue on working on a story I'd started for her a couple of years ago. It's good for them to see me as not only Mom who cooks dinner and makes them clean their rooms, but Mom, a happy person with talents and a fuller life.
Here's where I could start out with saying, "if you are a mom," except this applies to everyone. Mothers notoriously neglect themselves, but they aren't the only ones. If you are a person, you need to take care of you. Otherwise you become an empty husk of a soul because you've neglected yourself until that husk is so dry it begins dissolving and floating away on the breeze.
I know. I've been there.
After that exchange with my daughter, I tried thinking of what I could do to make her feel extra loved. Then, the other day, I was sitting on the couch, on the phone with my mom, when my very tired-looking, chilled daughter came into the living room. I motioned to her to get the BYU fleece blanket and come over to me. She snuggled with me, and I stroked her hair as I chatted with my mom.
After about twenty minutes, she had fallen asleep. My chest filled with warmth. I remembered being young and listening to the soothing sound of my mother's voice as she talked on the phone once in a while. I remembered feeling loved and taken care of just because she was there. The lesson was very well-driven home to me as I snuggled with my sleeping daughter and listened to my own mother's soothing voice.
So, there is, indeed, room for both things. It is a difficult thing for me to stand up and claim a block of time for my own dream every day, but it is necessary. The time I spend with my family will be a lot better overall if I don't neglect what I need to do, and I will be a lot more present for them the rest of the time.
Last month I read a book that made me realize I had not only been shortchanging myself by putting my talents dead last, but shortchanging God. If you are a person with a dream--no matter what that dream is--you need to read Drawing Out the Dragons by James A. Owen. I don't read many inspirational books, but this one was absolutely life-changing. As in there was the me before reading the book, and the me afterward.
So, there you have my deep thoughts for today. It's difficult to change, difficult to make hard choices to change your own life, but those changes are critical.
Make a hard choice today. (And read that book.)