It’s easy to feel the need to be everything to your children. But when you can’t fill your own cup, you run out of energy to fill others’. Find your joy in motherhood without letting it define you.
At this point, we’ve been quarantined for months and I’ve spent more time at home with my kids than I ever thought possible. There have been some joyful, fun moments and there have been some struggles. Y’all know the drill. All this together time has actually helped me focus on myself: I’ve been thinking a lot about how I define myself and what brings me joy. I’ve also been thinking about how this applies to women, particularly moms, in general, and how important it is that you don’t allow motherhood to define you.
What happens when we let motherhood define us?
Please don’t get me wrong. I looooove my children. I would quite honestly do anything for my children. But they are not the end-all-be-all of who I am. Bless it.
When I think about who I am, independent of my kiddos, I’m able to hone-in on what lights me up and brings me joy. And for me, that’s photography. Being able to use my creative skills and expertise to capture timeless, emotional images of couples, families, and new babies. That’s what lights my soul on fire and gives me the energy to deal with the less-than-joyful moments of life: Homeschooling when I never signed up to be a teacher, endless laundry, and making sure my three children are fed every day.
Does being a mother mean you can no longer fit in your creative pursuits and passions? Absolutely not. But does being a mother mean you have to prioritize, sometimes ruthlessly, in order to find time for the things you love doing? Absolutely.
When my youngest child was born, I had to take a step back from photography while we got our feet back under us as a family of five. I couldn’t do both at that moment. But as soon as things were manageable, I was back to my photography business. And honestly, adding another kid to the mix really forced me to make some important changes and find ways to be even more efficient and profitable without spending any more of my time.
Managing my three kiddos and a business pushed me in a really productive way.
Stop and think about your life. What lights you up inside? What makes you feel like you? Maybe it’s volunteering at your church, writing, creating, taking pictures, serving your community, sewing…it could be any number of things!
But what matters is that it’s something you want. Not something you feel like you should be doing or something that is centered around your kids. What is it that brings you joy that’s just for you?
I can see it happening. You’re shaking your head and feeling guilty for even entertaining the thought of doing something for yourself. But here’s the thing: When you take the time to pursue your passions, when you aren’t defined by your motherhood, when you fill up your own soul with joy and fulfillment…you become a better mom.
Do you know what happens when you deny yourself for too long? You start developing really unhealthy habits and your mental health falls off the ledge. Anxiety and depression creep in when you allow yourself to be so depleted that there’s nothing left to fuel you.
When you start identifying as a mother and stop identifying as yourself… you lose your way. You can’t run on empty and your identity cannot sustain only serving others. You’ve gotta spend time on the things that fill you up and make you YOU.
Finding joy and passion in things outside your kids (and it doesn’t even have to be something creative!) gives you the confidence and fulfillment to be a more present, more patient mother. Your kids will only benefit from you prioritizing your joy and passion!
And if you’re raising daughters, it’s especially important to show them that mothers are multi-dimensional people. Yes, mothers love their kids and care for them – and this can look any number of ways – but they are also people themselves. Mothers are also artists, project managers, readers, authors, data analysts, gardeners, painters, crafters, doctors, and anything else they want to be.
As a mom, you spend so much of your life caring for others. It’s a worthy, noble, and holy calling. (Read this post I wrote all about the sanctity of motherhood. I believe it deeply.) But it’s not ALL of who you are.
I get so frustrated when I see beautiful, creative, joyful women become trampled down and defeated by the weight of mothering. When you become a mom, you open up a new part of your heart that never existed before. Your heart is bigger and deeper and can contain this new love and responsibility you’ve created.
But your heart doesn’t shut off the parts that existed before your kids. The part that’s full of your hopes and dreams and passions and joy. You still exist as a being outside of your role as a mother. And your heart will suffer dramatically if you stop feeding your own individual joys.
Being a mom is one of the best jobs I can imagine having. It’s also not my only job, and it’s not all-consuming. Outside of my motherhood identity, I’m a passionate photographer and a successful business owner. I make time to pursue my passions because they are who I am.
These joyful pursuits are not more or less worthy based on if they’re income-generating. You don’t have to profit financially for a passion to be “worth it.” I’ve been blessed in being able to turn my joy of photography into a successful business – but even if it had never become anything more than a hobby, I’d still be doing it. Practicing. Taking classes. Shooting for fun. Filling up my little joyful bucket outside of my mothering responsibilities.
My biggest hope for you is that you can tap into your own passion projects and find those things that light up your soul. That you can make time in what is undoubtedly a hectic, busy life to pursue the things that make you who you are. I hope that we can all start identifying ourselves as a mother AND…
“I’m a mother AND a gardener AND a reader.”
“I’m a mother AND an adventurous traveler AND a project manager AND a spa day enthusiast.”
You deserve joy and you deserve to feel passionate and you deserve to pursue your whole-hearted identity, motherhood and beyond. Once you do, I think you’ll find that every aspect of your life works and feels better.
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