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Beyond Mommy: Knowing Who I Am

Annette Lyon is the mother of four children ages six to thirteen. While thrilled to be past the diaper and sleep-deprivation stages, she’s a little freaked that her kids are growing up too fast. Tower of Strength, the fourth novel in her historical temple series, is Annette’s sixth book, now on shelves. She blogs at The Lyon’s Tale.

“But I’m proud to be known as Steven’s* mom,” Laura said, shutting me down.

I’d explained that I wanted to develop talents and get an education so that when I became a mother, I’d have an identity beyond “mom.” Being known as my kid’s mom wasn’t the problem—not knowing myself anymore would be.

Laura made it clear in no uncertain terms that once you had kids, wanting to be anything but their mother was selfish, wrong. She was thirty years my senior, a mother of ten. I was an 18-year-old college freshman. What did I know about motherhood and womanhood?

Maybe I was off my rocker. Maybe losing yourself was something good mothers did.

I struggled with the issue even after becoming a mom. I’d carved out a “me” area but worried it made me an inferior mother.

Then I got Lily as a new visiting teaching assignment. She and her husband each had one night a week to themselves while the other tended the kids. He spent his nights in the basement, working on his paintings.

Lily said had no idea what to do on her nights, so she watched whatever was on TV. Not a favorite show, because she didn’t have one.

My jaw dropped. She couldn’t come up with anything she wanted to do? I could have listed a dozen ideas off the top of my head.

Chatting at our visits was painful. Lily rarely had an opinion or preference about anything if it didn’t involve diapers or sippy cups. Politics? Current events? Books? How about the school system? Don’t even bother—Lily was practically a robot.

Laura was dead wrong.

My three daughters will someday grapple with these same questions. I want them to have a mother with opinions, preferences, hobbies, and passions. I want them to know I love Rocky Road—and that it’s okay to like Cookies and Cream instead. That I enjoy reading Kingsolver and Piccoult and McKinley. That I laughed myself silly watching Better off Dead. That I love to write. That I will write, because I’m a better mom when I do.

I’m already “so-and-so’s mom.” I beam when I hear that. But when the night stillness settles in and my children’s breathing evens with sleep, I’m still me. My identity doesn’t go to bed with them, to rise in the morning when I start mothering again.

One of the Young Women values is Individual Worth. It’s not “Mother’s Worth” or “Worth You Have Serving Someone Else.”

It’s Individual Worth. It’s who you are, sans spouse, sans children. You, alone—daughter of God.

Laura is an empty-nester now. I wonder if she’s found Laura. Or does she flounder, not knowing who she is without children in the house?

I adore raising my kids. I don’t want an empty nest. But I don’t anticipate that inevitable day with dread, either.

‘Cause I’ll still be me. And I kinda like me.

*Names have been changed.

42 thoughts on “Beyond Mommy: Knowing Who I Am”

  1. I just don't understand women who aren't opinionated and have a rich inner life! My own mother is fascinating and clever, so I suppose I grew up thinking that's what it means to be a woman. I hope that's the message I'm sending my daughters. If they grow up to think that being a woman means being a simpering, dull doormat I'll be furious.

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  2. While I certainly respect women who find fulfillment in being mothers, homeschooling, and having their lives focused on their children, I've realized that being a mom isn't my "thing." I adore and am continually amazed by my children, but spending my life searching for sippy cups and changing poopy diapers doesn't define me as a woman. I teach a class two nights a week and race in triathlons, and while these activities make my life significantly more busy than it would be otherwise, I NEED to have something outside being a mom. I know some women who LOVE being home with their kids, spending afternoons doing craft projects or baking cookies with them. Good for them! I want to give my kids the best home environment possible because I can't bear to think of a daycare environment raising my children and teaching them values. But, as soon as they are in school, I'm going back to work full time. Crafts and cookies aren't my thing. I think it's important for women to figure out what is best for them — if you find your joy in being "somebody's mom," great. But if you find your joy and passion in things outside being a mother, by all means, go for it.

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  3. This hits home really hard with me right now!

    I am newly married, and will be 50 this year. Wonderful, yet Big Change!
    When we were dating and the first part of our marriage I was in school at his encouragement. That is no longer a financial option. We also have given up things at night etc that take us from each other. Sometimes I go days without leaving the house, and am overwhelmed wtih what it takes to keep a house. ( do you ever get used to what to fix for supper?)
    Carving out me time, and especially without guilt is very hard. Part of me misses school etc, so I have to find anoother outlet. Last nite I gave up bells, which was a nite activity. How can doing the right thing feel so empty at first sometimes?

    So…..I got cd's to learn german. I got a calculus book and I have added to my scripture study. (i am trying to learn a scripture for every letter of the alphabet for lent). I used to teach music and art, now I struggle to find time for my own.

    Last nite we had a date nite. It was wonderful! He is an attorney so his hours are never the same. Either he is surprisingly not there or surprisingly all of a sudden there. (what is the physics that you can not get the same amount of stuff done if they are in the house?)

    Writing makes me better and I really work at carving out the time. We met at a writer's group in the library. He writes at work, i need to find more time to do that at "my work".

    My mom used to have us in bed at 8 pm. Then she would work on her correspondence classes, do needlecraft etc. She carved it out.

    Thanks for the topic, it encourages me to put out more effort.

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  4. I distinctly remember being 23 with 2 1/2 kids and asking "This is it?" Not that I wasn't happy, I was happy, but I had realized that my expectations that motherhood was going to fill all those nooks and cranny of my life was wrong. It was a very empty feeling as I looked at the next 20 years and wondered how I would survive it. I remember thinking that it would probably be best if I could find a way to turn off the part of me that wasn't satisfied, because there didn't seem room for that part. And then I was put on bedrest . . . and then I started writing a short story which became a pinnacle shift in my own story. But it took me years before I stopped feeling guilty about it–and I have to say that Annette is one of the big reasons that I could finally look at my writing as something that made me MORE, not less, of a mother. Annette is a fabulous mom; it's a big part of who she is but it's only part and she never justifies that. GREAT post, Annette. And wonderful to wake up to.

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  5. I'm really struggling with this right now.

    My husband is in grad school and I live in a neighborhood with 15 other young LDS mothers(also spouses of students in this program). Our lives revolve around the men's schedules…we're talking classes, clinic shifts, work, weekend seminars, etc. Most of us have 2 to 3 young children and stay at home full time. A good 1/3 of them are on antidepressants and many are unhappy. One sweet sister came to my house at 10pm the other night and sobbed while explaining how lost she felt. "I can't do this! I feel like a single mother! I don't have any ME time. I can't even go to the bathroom by myself!"

    I let her cry it out, suggested she talk to her husband about scheduling some time for her, and suggested a good book for them to read together (His Needs Her Needs–I love it). She felt even more hopeless because one of the sisters who appears to have it all together confided in her that she is slipping into a deep depression and doesn't even feel like she can care for her children anymore. It's rough going here.

    I am very lucky. My husband is particularly interested in helping me have my own identity apart from him and the kids. It started about a year ago when he learned that a family we are close to back home had fallen apart. That's putting it lightly. When the youngest child turned 18 the mother basically said, "I put in my time, put my life on hold for 30 years, now it's my time to live my life how I want." She left her husband and the church and is now a practicing lesbian.

    This shook my husband to the core! He spent a week being very introspective (quite different for my extroverted husband) and then sat me down for a talk. He insisted that I have one night a week for "girly time" and vowed to support me in any endeavors or pursuits I have. Now he regularly asks me how much time I'm spending on my hobbies and interests.

    It's still difficult because of our situation in life, but like I said in the beginning, I feel very lucky.
    Even though I am one of those women who wants to home school my children and love baking and crafts all afternoon, I don't feel like I have to put myself on hold for those things. I just have to be smart and continually re-evaluate my motives and my schedule.

    About the other young mom's I'm surrounded by…what do I tell the next sister who comes to me wondering where her identity has gone?

    P.S. My visiting teacher actually lives in a single wide mobile home with four children under the age of 5 (she just had twins!) and her husband has the same schedule mentioned above, but he's also getting a master's degree in the evenings! I couldn't believe it when she called me to see when a good time would be to come visit teach me! I laughed really hard and told her that I would come to her house whenever she had a free moment. 🙂

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  6. Thank you for this post! I have dreams of owning a small bakery someday. I know it can't happen anytime soon but in my down time I'm constantly perfecting my recipes. writing down marketing ideas, budgeting, designing kitchen layouts, making lists of equipment, sketching wedding cakes.
    It's makes Mothering so much more satisfying knowing I can still plan my future as well as help my kids plan theirs.
    Maybe someday when it is "my time" I'll be ready to open shop right away.

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  7. Amen.

    I traveled a painful road to finally realize this concept; pain, tears, clinical depression- my therapist called it the 'marytr mother syndrome'. Now that I do know, I can be a better mom and myself at the same time- AMAZING. It is sad to attempt to share this pearl with others only to have them look at you with disdain and reprimand you for leaving your children with- "gasp" – their father!

    Now that I know it, the eternal struggle is to actually accomplish it. Husbands' overtime, sick kids, and a surprising slap of self-consciousness, and more, can make getting out there difficult. Please, keep reminding me how important it is!

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  8. I love this.
    I am so not looking forward to the empty nest and leaving this part of my life behind. I already miss my little baby stage!
    I think the important thing here is to work on finding or developing–if you've already found– you, and not forgetting to neglect that "Individual Worth" value. Trying to teach our children to do it without doing it ourselves teaches our sons that maybe their wives shouldn't expect any different, and teaches our daughters that their individual worth maybe ends (instead of continues or becomes enriched) with motherhood.
    Every woman owes it to herself AND the ones she loves to find the balance that is right for her.
    Great thoughts, Annette– thanks!

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  9. I've seen children who disrespect their mothers who have devoted every waking minute to them. The children reach an age where they think their moms are not intelligent, thinking, passionate humans. I think that is beyond tragic. Annette, you're right. We are better mothers if we have our own dreams and pursue them independently of our children. I expressed this thought in R.S. and had a woman call me on the phone to thank me.

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  10. I hate when this becomes an either/or thing–either you love being a mom or you need me time. I don't buy it.

    I love being a mom AND I need my own space/time/stuff too. I know having my own space/time/stuff makes me a better mom and helps show my kids that I am not their servant, but an actual person with ideas and passions. SO SO SO many stay at home moms, perhaps especially LDS moms, take on the role of servant to their families. Offering service is not the same as being the one who does the dirty work. Unless you are yourself sometimes (and not just Mom 24/7), the work you do for your family is not service, but servitude.

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  11. I was cutting a grapefruit yesterday pondering this same topic. Are we the only creations that resist change? And consequently avoid development?

    I think of when I was a single, invovled, working person in college… before marriage, before 3 kids. An identity? Sure. But why is that identity coveted over the one I have now?

    Why do I get a flush of embarassment to tell people I'm expecting my 4th? Because I think they identify me as "that woman" who gave herself up; wasted her degree and aspirations to be just a mom. A lost identity.

    In more logical, and less defensive moments I'm proud of this identity. I relish every little thing about it. But mostly because I've managed to incorporate new interests and talents that complement my role as a mom. Why would we want to stay the same forever? Change is good when we embrace it with purpose.

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  12. Thank you for posting about this. I adore being a mother. I adore being myself – my opinionated, passionate self. I think it is an essential part of my role as mother to exemplify my individual worth to my kids. I am so grateful to have a husband who finds my individual worth valuable, and gives the space and support I need to cultivate that.

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  13. as a daughter i always found it fascinating when i would find out little things about my mother as a woman, not just as a mother. i loved it when she would tell me about her dreams as a child, her friends in high school, and especially how she lived as a single woman before she became so-and-so's mother. to think she was her own woman, that she came home at night and did whatever the heck she wanted to, tickled me beyond belief. still, i love it when that woman pops up at random times, and as i get older, that woman has become my friend.

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  14. Annette, this is so well put and so true. I really struggled at with redefining myself when I became a mom. It's not the same "me" as before because I am now Hayden's and Rebecca's mom, but I've learned to (sometimes forcibly) take time for myself. (Premom me and mom me have a lot in common as far as interests go!)

    Thank you for this post!

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  15. I so completely agree, Annette. I am a better woman and mother when I cater to all of it. There is a painting by James Christensen called "Balancing Act" Where the person is balanced on a round ball and juggling all sorts of wonderful things in the air. For me I look at that painting and can relate most of those juggled items in my own life. Sometimes the juggling is crazy, but I'm grateful those can be juggled. I'm grateful my daughter has watched me evolve as a writer. She's watched me chase my dreams, get rejected, get accepted, and all this while still making dinner. It's good for her to know her dreams are important and that she is an individual and that individual DOES have worth. Beautiful article. Thanks for sharing it!

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  16. Annette, this was perfect. I love it because this is exactly what I've tried to do over the last 8 years since becoming a mother. I adore my kids, but I adore me, too –so I give ample of time to both (although one could argue that during my depression, it was more about me, but that was medical!).

    The funny part, is it's been so much about me lately, that I'm making steps to become a better mom and be a little more available to them –but that has more to do with continual adjustment and following the Spirit rather than "sacrificing" myself. 🙂

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  17. I think there are certainly times in our lives when we are required or asked to sacrifice everything for our children (I'm thinking of the first year of any child's life, for example). But those times really need to be offset by time to be our own person.

    I agree with esodhiambo, though, and want to make sure my kids understand that I love being their mother. But if they never see me say, "No, I cannot sacrifice that for you right now.", they will never see anyone setting boundaries. I want my children to know that sometimes it's ok to say no, that sometimes it's ok to take care of themselves.

    And many times taking care of myself doesn't exclude me being a 'mom'. There are many activities I do that I include the kids. I often take them running with me, we play the piano together, I help them develop their own writing skills, we all climb into the master bed and read read read. So while I do many of these activities alone, doing them with my kids doesn't necessarily negate the benefits for me.

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  18. Justine spoke my mind.

    As I have embraced sacrificing my "needs" (about 98% of the time) over these last six years, my understanding of individual worth has truly blossomed. I compare this time to the mission I served. It is not forever, yet the byproducts of choosing to sacrifice are so precious. I'm happy giving almost all I have for my children. Like Justine, I often include my children when there is something I need to do for myself. I think it is important that they are involved and understand how my time is spent and what brings me happiness, so that they are able to find happiness as well.

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  19. I love what President Hinckley had to say on the topic of self-knowledge and fulfillment as a woman:

    "Find purpose in your life. Choose the things you would like to do, and educate yourselves to be effective in their pursuit. . . . Study your options. Pray to the Lord earnestly for direction. Then pursue your course with resolution. The whole gamut of human endeavor is now open to women. There is not anything that you cannot do if you will set your mind to it. You can include in the dream of the woman you would like to be a picture of one qualified to serve society and make a significant contribution to the world of which she will be a part.”

    I know that one of my purposes in life is to be a mother, and to try to be a good one. But I love how President Hinckley says "you can include in the dream of the woman you would like to be" aspirations that also have resonance with society as a whole, the world outside my doors. I think that's what God wants from us. It's what he *needs* from us.

    But I also think it's important that women don't think they need to have externally validated "talents" (a painting to hang on the wall, a graduate degree) in order to prove that they "know" themselves. For me, it's not necessarily hobbies and kudos and accomplishments outside the home that prove a woman knows herself. More, it's a willingness to engage with the world somehow–a willingness to serve, an openness in friendship, a curiosity about life and people, a certain confidence in her own mode of self-expression.

    For example, there's a woman in my ward who's every inch the homemaker. She makes all her own bread, she has kickin food storage, her house is well-scrubbed and sparkly (and so are her children). But she seems extremely content to me, as if her best self finds true fulfillment in all these ways. I respect her for that. She's being herself.

    Okay, to sum up, one last quote I like:
    “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde

    Thanks, Annette, for a great post!

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  20. I've been asked the same question over and over: How do you write books and be a mom at the same time? My question back is how do I NOT? It's who I am. Why would I give my kids any less of my true self? They are important enough to me that I want them to see me productive, happy, busy, and active in what I believe in. I want them to be independent and if mom has a deadline, my 14 year old can stir up the mac & cheese for dinner. Like Annette, I have three daughters and one son. I want my daughters to know that motherhood is the most important thing in the world to me, but I am also a writer (among other things). Sure, I'm years behind in scrapbooking, but that's something that my kids and I can do on lazy summer days. One thing that I've given up almost completely (which I haven't regretted) is watching night-time tv. I'll catch the news a little, but other than that, something had to go–for me it was tv. My son will know that his mother is college-educated, yet continues to read books every week, write and publish, and believes nothing is impossible. My children also know that I chose to stay home with them when I could have gone out to have an awesome career. I decided that I wanted to develop a career that I could do from the house. The best days for me are the ones that I'm busy and keep everything balance, while leaving room for anything last minute.

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  21. I hope I am not speaking out of turn, and of course I respect your right to choose whatever you want for yourself. Having said that, I can't help reading your post and wondering why you gave up the bells. I understand wanting to carve out time together with a busy spouse, but surely not every night needs to be spent together. After all, your husband is getting stimulation and satisfaction from being out in the world working, but if you are in the house for days at a time, you are at very real risk of becoming too isolated. It's good for both of you to be out in the world a little bit so that both of you have something new and fresh to bring back to your relationship. Just my opinion, of course, but it is possible to "lose yourself" too much in a marriage too, not just as a mother. If you love your bells, keep it up! The two of you can only benefit from you filling your cup by honoring your artistic and social needs in an outside activity. It's a good thing!

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  22. I always kept active with my interests, even as a young mother. I never stopped writing something or other, and my children were well aware of my passion for many subjects and pursuits besides mothering. My talents found numerous outlets at church, in the community, and (once my children were all in school) in a master's program in counseling. Having said that, being my children's mother was and continues to be my favorite pursuit. Nothing else fills me as much…not writing a play, directing a program, or publishing a book.

    I mention this because something happened to me when my children left the nest that I did not expect. I thought I would feel a lovely yet slightly bittersweet "release"…a liberating feeling that now I could spend as much time with my writing and other interests as I wanted. My friends all agreed with me that, because I was so active in my pursuing my individual interests and developing my talents while I was raising my children, I would reap the benefits as an empty nester in that I wouldn't go through all that sadness, longing, and sense of being "lost." What a shock it was to me when I did go through exactly those feelings…in spades!

    What I realized was that my personal pursuits and interests didn't fill the same place in my heart that mothering my children did. Yes, my heart had many mansions, but one of them (apparently, the main one) was standing empty after they left home, and boy, did I feel it! As if a central molar had been extracted from my mouth, I experienced the hole that was left as a gaping one, my tongue constantly going back to "check" the place as if doing so would somehow speed the healing. I even tried to replace the "molar" with various implants, but nothing else I implanted seemed to fill the space. Instead, I had to go through a complicated adjustment to being a different incarnation of "mother" now and come to peace with that. As one of my friends once said, "It's hard to be the hub of a wheel and suddenly become one of the spokes…or even the rim." (So true, Lynna.)

    I've made the adjustment now. My youngest is 26. But I will never stop missing those days when all of my children were together, in my home, and I was the center of their "wheels." What an opportunity for creativity it was…I was blessed with the opportunity, as all mothers can be, to create the entire atmosphere of that home as if it were a blank page…or a piece of canvas, and my little audience was mine to captivate. What a fun job it was, despite the sacrifices. After all, true art involves sacrifice, right? And mothering is definitely an art. In fact, it remains the most satisfying medium I've ever worked in.

    One of my favorite quotes applies: "The most visible creators I know of are those artists whose medium is life itself…the ones who express the inexpressible without brush, hammer, clay, or guitar. They neither paint nor sculpt—their medium is being. Whatever their presence touches has increased life. They see and don't have to draw. They are the artists of being alive" (anonymous).

    (Sorry this is so long, but it's one of my favorite subjects.) =)

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  23. My heart is simultaneously aching and rejoicing as I read all of these. . . this is a string that is plucked, sending a hum across space; we are recognizing it as music we've always known and we want to hear it swell up in in full beauty so we remember the whole melody!

    I think my favorite statement about mothering EVER came from the son (and only child) of Maya Angelou, when he was interviewed as part of her 70th (I think) birthday celebration. Given his mother's full and active life– even when he was young–as a playwright, civil rights activist, poet, speaker, etc., he was asked, "Do you feel like you grew up in your mother's shadow?" He smiled broadly and shook his head. "Oh, no. No. I grew up in my mother's light."

    Maya beamed and cried and had a peace on her face that I will never forget. What more could any of us ask for than to know our children feel that way about us?

    She has said that the best thing she did in this world was raise her son, that her greatest joy and pride is in knowing that he is a good man and a good father and husband, "So says my daughter-in-law," she adds.

    I could carry on and on, but I'll end with my final three thoughts and not elaborate too much on them:

    —Inspired friends have recently shared 2 remarkable talks with me: (1) Sheri Dew's "Knowing Who You Are–And Who You Always Have Been," from 2001 BYU Women's Conference [http://ce.byu.edu/cw/womensconference/archive/2001/dew_sheri.html], and (2) Wendy Watson Nelson's (Elder Nelson's wife) talk from a 2007 Women's Conference, titled, "For Such a Time as This." [http://ce.byu.edu/cw/womensconference/archive/2007/pdf/WendyWatsonNelson-2007.pdf] Both gold.

    —God has said that we are all purposefully created with beautiful differences. We are not different just from "the world," but even from each other. Truly good women aren't good because they have achieved "sameness" with other good women. Beautiful diversity exists in the highest spiritual orders. ("Sameness" as a goal was, of course, actually Satan's plan.)

    —And Annette, I think there's a book here. The idea of exploring this subject isn't a new one, of course, but I suspect you will have a new approach that could resonate in a different and beautiful way!

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  24. Wow, great post, Annette, and excellent comments as well.

    For me the hardest thing has been finding a balance. I went through a time when I was completely mommying. And then when I discovered something I loved, I feel like the pendulum has swung the other way, and I need to rebalance it again.

    I love the Maya Angelou quote. And Sue, I love your comment. I want to savor what I've got right now, my sweet little kids. That's so hard for me sometimes, but I read comments like yours and it makes me want to do better.

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  25. Poor Laura probably didn't have a mother who was a good example to her. I am so grateful to my mom (and my dad) who helped seven daughters grow up to be people, not merely women (you know what I mean).

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  26. I think the balance will look different for every woman. I also think it's too easy to justify one extreme or the other.

    Something else that has been interesting for me as mom, and as I try to give more of myself to my kids (the "developing myself" part comes more easily for me than the mothering part) is that I have discovered MORE about myself as I have made those 'sacrifices.' I think part of 'who I am' is really becoming a mom, learning to nurture with more of my heart, but that has been a process, and that part of my identity has come more readily when I have been willing to let my own stuff go a bit.

    So, anyway, I don't know that anyone can draw these lines for others.

    There was a point in the early stages when my husband actually felt impressed to encourage me to go do something 'for myself.' He watched the kids for a couple of hours a week while I volunteered to help a guy with his company that was right up my professional alley.

    That was the exception, though. Most of the time, I'm working hard to pull back my own pursuits to not miss the moments with my kids (and the growth — because again, my own personal development has been richer when I have embraced the monotony and repetition — as well as the precious moments — of my life).

    Sue, I love what you said, btw, about how personal pursuits don't ever replace motherhood. I also think that we will never stop being mothers. I haven't stopped needing my mom (or now mil too) because I'm a grown-up.

    It's too easy, imo, to divide our lives rather than consider that our identity includes ALL of these things, and always will, and the trick is learning to balance each day all the parts of ourselves. Each day will be a little different, each stage will be a little different.

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  27. I'm glad, Emily, just so I haven't encouraged you to put undue pressure on yourself! Why not start from the other side of things? Just remind yourself to enjoy the wonderful things about motherhood more. In that environment, "doing better" will come naturally. (On second thought, maybe we moms should simply do away with that "doing better" bar entirely. I like the idea of suspending our "self-rating/judging" systems and just enjoying those mothering moments!) It's organic. All that good stuff multiplies and spills over on everyone within spilling distance, if we "make a space for it." (Now I'm channeling Anne Morrow Lindbergh…) heehee

    PS. I also love the quote from Maya Angelou's son. What a joy for her to hear that.

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  28. Wonderful article, wonderful comments.

    As has already been broached, there is a time and a season for everything. There are times when we need to focus completely on our families and times when we can let go a little. One lesson I have learned over the last year is that I was simultaneously enabling and ignoring my children – I was doing things for them they could do for themselves, while forgetting to take care of some of the emotional needs that they really did need me to take care of. I sat down with them and reassigned their chores to give them more responsibility, and then I asked them, "What do you need most from me?" As I concentrate on giving them the things on the list they gave me (all of which, by the way, revolved around relationship-building activities) we are all much happier.

    Women were given talents and abilities by God, and it's part of our mission here on earth to develop those talents. If women weren't supposed to be smart, educated, and interesting, don't you think we would have been created to be a little more like dogs? Why give us brains if we weren't meant to use them?

    In addition, I have a daughter who, like me, loves to write. Because she sees me do it, she knows she can do it. I don't ever want her to feel like she can't because she saw me give it up.

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  29. "It’s too easy, imo, to divide our lives rather than consider that our identity includes ALL of these things, and always will, and the trick is learning to balance each day all the parts of ourselves. Each day will be a little different, each stage will be a little different."

    Well said, m&m. I love our complexity as women and as people…all the shades and colors and textures that make up the beautiful, constantly evolving whole.

    Perfect.

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  30. This was beautiful, Annette. And Sue, I loved your comment.

    I am standing right on the divide, almost an empty nester. Weird. I am looking forward to it with excitement and trepidation. I hope I have taught my daughters to always be themselves first. I still feel like I am trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. And yet, I am grown up. I am the one they look up to, ask questions to, want advice from. It is strange. I still want my mommy to fix everything for me. It is so odd.

    One of the best things I did when my children were little was insist on an early bedtime. Usually by 7pm they were down. Then I felt like I could let go of Mommy time and have Me time. It saved me during those hard, but fun, years of toddlers. Knowing that I could get to my projects later was all that saved me from going crazy some days.

    Now no one really needs me anymore – well, scratch that, they need me – just not every second. I have alot more Me time. I am finding that I waste alot of time. I have not quite figured out how to organize myself yet. I have too many things to do, so some days I do nothing. And that's okay.

    Isn't motherhood crazy?!?!

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  31. Great post Annette–thanks!

    As opinionated and selfish as I was BC (Before Children), I understand and remember how easy it is to lose oneself.

    And I will forever be grateful for the friend who helped me find myself again.

    Her name is Jane. She's about 8 or so years older than I am and an amazing mother of six. When I met her she asked me very specific questions about myself and she helped me remember my life BC. From then on she would always introduce me by saying, "This is my friend Dalene and she's a great writer." (This before she'd ever read a single thing I'd written.)

    Her reminders encouraged me to take time for myself and make time to do the things I enjoyed doing.

    Perhaps it is because I rediscovered ways to be proud of me and I found friends who know and loved me for me, I also take sincere pleasure in being referred to "Shane's wife" or "Luke's (or any of my other children's) mom."

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  32. I learned the same valuable lesson several years ago from a wonderful sister that I had the priviledge to visit teach. I was a young SAHM with 2 small children, and my husband was working long hours at a difficult job as he started his career. My friend had 7 kids, the oldest on missions and in college, the youngest in grade school. Due to some financial difficulties, she worked two part-time jobs. When she learned that we had both participated in the drama department during our time at BYU, she insisted that I help her with a musical that the institute from the local university was putting on. One evening, as we drove downtown to rehearsal together, she was telling me how her husband had told her that adding this play to her schedule was too much–that she had too much stress in her life to handle one more thing. Her reply to that was "but this is the one thing I really WANT to do…so I will." She reminded me of parts of my own personality and talents that had been pushed to the side during "busy" times, and helped me rediscover myself and make time for the things that I wanted to do, instead of just the things I had to do. That keeps me sane. And hopefully allows my children to grow up in "my light". (I love that story!)

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  33. Thank you, Annette. I love the way you write. And it's the first time I actually know the poster here!

    I suppose I've never thought too much about this. Growing up, I always wanted to be a mom and a teacher. I thought I'd go on a mission, too. God had slightly different things in mind, and I was okay with that. I have always enjoyed being a mom, but also knew that wasn't all there was to me. For a time when I had a newborn and another child not quite two, I was pretty harried. But I think I was so busy then, I didn't even have time to realize how harried I was! They grew, husband was out of school, he got a "real" job, we bought a home, and things have slowed considerably. Honestly, a big part of that is having TV and internet. I am so much more aware of what's going on in the world outside of my little bubble. I'm also connecting with women all over the world, and finding that I'm not alone.

    I don't have "plans" for my future outside of children. And that's okay with me. I am content to develop myself and my personal interests while raising a family. (Like you, Annette, but probably not published!) I am confident in my ability to be myself, and be a mom, and let my children know there's a difference.

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  34. Thanks Angela. I think it's important to remember to allow our sisters to choose what fits best for each of us. You really don't have to go get that Masters or write a book to be your own person! But you can if you want to.

    I watched my Mom miss out on raising her children because she became very involved with "being herself." It's tough to find a balance, and isn't it better to err on the side of the children? You only have one shot at being there when they need you most.

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  35. Loved this post and all the comments. I have gone through much of the same experiences as many of you. I find as I near the empty nest, that I have lived a wonderful life as my children's mother – but how grateful I am that I also grew and developed my self as an individual.

    If you haven't seen the new video put out by the RS check it out. We were meant to create – which to me is all part of exploring and developing our selves.

    http://broadcast.lds.org/video/create/RS_2009_02_00_Create_HD_eng_.wmv

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  36. SO many good comments!
    I think I am like esodhiambo and feel like I love being a mom and love being me, and I can do both.
    I both agree with and disagree with the "seasons" idea. Sure, there are seasons, but don't let that be a reason to do nothing except mothering during any season.
    I think I am lucky in having such a great mother. She was a SAHM who did it her way. She didn't sacrifice everything that was her in order to be our mother. I would come home from high school to hear her discuss the interesting political articles she had read. Sure, there were a few times in her life where she was overwhelmed with six kids and a household to run, but most of the time she had a well balanced life that she enjoyed and used many of her talents. Like Rebekah, I loved hearing my mother tell about herself, her past, etc.
    Except for the first few years with two little kids, my life as a mother does feel balanced. I love how Tristi points out that we need to raise children to take responsibility for themselves. I feel like the older two need me for some stuff, but I have taught them how to take care of themselves in many ways so they aren't just sucking my energy all the time.
    It reminds me of talking to my daughter about future relationships. If you treat yourself with respect, others around you pick up on that.
    Your children will pick up on how you expect to be treated. You can train them.
    I feel like parenting should be done with the end product in mind–the big picture. You can't just try to get through the day every day or you will always just be putting out fires.
    My kids get to see that I do things that don't have anything to do with them but are important.

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  37. Beautiful!

    I turned 30 last year, and while I never planned on being single and alone this long, I can look around and be grateful that I've been given this time to really find out who I am and what I do and to create a real identity for myself, something that will only be added to when I do become someone's wife and someone's mother.

    An older brother in the ward asked me a few months ago if getting a Ph.D. wasn't a lot of education for being a mom. Being a mother certainly doesn't require a graduate degree, but being me does. When I do get married and have kids, my identity will include my schooling, my travels, my attempts at theater, my random love of belly dancing. And all of that will only augment the me that will be a wife and mother.

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  38. To me this issue is not necessarily about finding myself or having me time, but about becoming who Heavenly Father wants me to become. Part of who he wants us to become involves developing all sorts of talents. Me personally, I'm interested in birth, it's my profession, but I've also felt like it has helped me as a mother. I think the same thing goes for other interests.

    I think we have to remember that being a mom goes beyond runny noses and changing diapers….this is an eternal job…something that is meant to be a part of us in the eternaties….being a mom means reaching out, being creative, bringing joy to the world. It means using our talents to help others fulfill their work. How can we do that unless we develop other aspects of who we are.

    Choosing to develop talents beyond the stay at mom home thing, in my opinion, is a necessity to becoming who we should become. Sometimes as mom our time needs to be spent looking after the kids and helping them, but other times it requires that we create something beautiful within ourselves. What I really think is that when the end of this life comes and we look around for our roles…we will discover that what we have done in bringing up our children and what we have done to better ourselves and those around us will all role together into what we call a mother…

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  39. I just found out that my quote, given in an earlier comment (no. 25) is not anonymous, but is by Jane Stone. I wanted to give her credit for her beautiful words.

    “The most visible creators I know of are those artists whose medium is life itself…the ones who express the inexpressible without brush, hammer, clay, or guitar. They neither paint nor sculpt—their medium is being. Whatever their presence touches has increased life. They see and don’t have to draw. They are the artists of being alive.”

    Thank you, Jane Stone!

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