So You Think Being a Mom Means Personal Development is on Hold?
I'll admit that one of my biggest pet peeves is people implying that you somehow need to put your own life on hold when you have kids.
Don't get me wrong – things are going to change. If you've been out on the town every night and you have a child, chances are that's going to change. There will be, and should be, differences in your life.
But the idea that you somehow stop growing and developing as a person while you're parenting is dead wrong. Personal development “gurus” make it sound like you need to spend intense times focused only on your own growth to become a better person.
I've often heard “I give some time to my family, some time to my work, and I always get time for myself.” They say things like “I need a weekend retreat” or “I require an several hours a week to myself” or “I need to spend time intensively focused on my own development.”
The implication is that all of those “special times” take place away from the kids – away from your responsibilities for and with your family.
Let me just say “get real.” That just doesn't happen for moms. If it does, it often ends up being a more hollow experience than you thought. You get stressed because you need that “me time.” If you don't get it you're, you're not a nice person because you're so stressed out about not getting a break, or not having time to yourself. You get irritated, grumpy, maybe even angry – which is exactly what you don't want.
Personal development gurus may have the luxury of a wife or nanny to take care of their kids while they're off discovering who they are and how they can become better for the kids they've left behind. But chances are, you don't have that luxury.
Guess what? You're the lucky one. That's right. You, plain old Mom (or Dad) have the upper hand.
Why? It's because you're growing while you're living life. The reason you want to become a better person is to make your life better, and most likely, to make yourself a better person for your children.
We want our children to look at us and see somebody worth modeling. We want them to see us feeling confident, happy, even joyful. We want them to see us work through problems calmly and decisively.
What we don't want is to make them think they need to run away to solve a problem – or that they need to spend sulky, moody introspective time to grow as people. Even if you don't need to be moody or introspective during your “away time,” it's much better to show children that personal growth can happen in the midst of family life.
I think there's a big myth out there – a myth that we need to “get away” and that if you don't get away, there's something unhealthy going on. Most women are told that they're being unhealthy if they don't desire to be away from their small children. I know that even my own parents have told me that they worry that I never “get a break” because I'm not away from my kids very often.
I disagree – my kids do have an early bedtime, which I think benefits them and me. It keeps them rested and energetic (maybe that's not a good thing ;p) – and it gives me “kid free” time every night. But I don't need to shuffle my kids off to school or daycare to have some time alone. Do I sometimes wish I could shuffle them off and have some peace? I sure do. But do I really need that? No.
So what's the bottom line? The bottom line is you can grow and develop as a person during the course of your real life – while you're really busy with your kids and family. In fact, they give you infinite amounts of practice at being just the kind of person you want to be.
There will be times when you want some quiet moments to think about how you're doing, to develop goals, or just to enjoy some quiet. You want to be able to read some books and have time for writing. All of that is natural, and you will find time to do all of that. Many moms find that getting up earlier than the kids works really well – they have still, quiet time in the morning before the thunder of little feet begins.
But on the whole, you can rest assured that you'll be growing, learning, and rebuilding yourself into the person you want to be while you're raising your kids.
You don't need a vacation from life to create a better life. Decide who you want to be and start living as that person right now, today, with kids in tow.