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Going For Goals (without the annoying drone of the vuvuzela)

By Brooke Benton

When I was 24 my life changed forever.

I wanted to be a poet. Well, a poet and a mother. And one of those things had finally come to fruition: I had a baby.

Now this baby left me blindsided and sputtering, a swimming-type gasp for air, as I realized the impossibility of doing anything by myself or for myself (first and foremost) ever again. Eventually, this was a wholehearted blessing—a real gift. The sort of thing that was good for me in the way vitamins were good for me and joyful to me in a way I had never understood joy before.

Ten years (and four kids) later I’m all about my present circumstances and not so much interested in my possibility. I’m often troubled by my seeming lack of drive and feel blessed but worried by my utter contentment with motherhood. What will I do when my kids are grown and gone? Will I finally be that poet? Or will I be a new something else?

And what happened to my dreams? To lofty goals?  I have to be convinced that they’re still there, somewhere. Like the full moon or the stars in a night full of cloud cover: I see light enough to know they exist beyond, but the actual contours of a milk-saucer circle and pinpoints of light are invisible to me. Am I without celestial navigation? And should this worry me? Because rather, I’m pleasantly adrift on sublime waters and want for no destination.

Still, I know eventually I will shore up on something. Eventually things will change. Eventually I will be empty-nested and face to face with a 24-year-old girl, pre-children, and she and I will have to reconcile ourselves to each other and figure it out. Will we?

How did you? How have you set and achieved goals for yourself? Do these goals feel exclusive from motherhood? How have you balanced writing careers and books and college and other pursuits with raising a family?

And, if you could achieve one dream without failure, what would it be?

About Brooke Benton

(Blog Team) is attempting inner om with this writing stuff. Proud to claim four loud children, a patient husband and a fat black cat as family, she feels blessed to be their mommy-- their giver of kisses and baker of cookies. She is ever seeking a good novel and wishing for the sand between her toes, palm trees, the ocean.

18 thoughts on “Going For Goals (without the annoying drone of the vuvuzela)”

  1. I struggle with the exact opposite problem: how do I set aside everything to be a mother, everything? How do I reconcile this ceaseless drive so that I can be present? Incredibly difficult.

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  2. I feel that one doesn't exclude the other. Your post here shows that. The way we pursue personal passions may change with children, but the passion should never be gone from our lives. What would that teach our children about life?!

    My path was visual art. I've done a little here and there but, like you, I find it too difficult to pursue with children. So my artistic passion has changed to creativity in parenting, in writing, in problem solving, in loving.

    Now that I'm further down the path I don't want to go back to my dreams as a 20 year old without children. I am a different person, richer for life's experiences. So while I might paint again, it won't be the same art career I would have had at 20 – thank goodness!!

    The dream I'd like to acheive without failure? Motherhood (including foster parenting) It's the Sunday school answer, but true.

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  3. I admit to not having any lofty goals besides motherhood before becoming a mother. I considered going into the law, but it was more of a "if I don't get married" type of thing.

    Motherhood is actually what has prompted me to have a goal for once my children are raised (or at least older and a little more self sufficient.) Through my 4 births, plus the one coming up, I have realized I would love to be a Certified Nurse Midwife.

    I love being in the here and now with my children, but I also am enjoying the fact that I will have a new goal once my kids are on their own.

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  4. Some women face a very similar dilemma without having children. Sometimes you have to set aside your goals because of money or health or other obligations or finally admitting to yourself that your talents in the longed-for field are simply not great enough to match your aspirations.

    But eventually the ailing father you were caring for dies, or you save up the money to jumpstart the delayed dream or maturity teaches you that although you'll never be principal ballerina in a top dance company you'll be ecstatic running a local theater company.

    I lost 20 years away from working toward my goal, but now the only thing that is sometimes in my way is me myself. I have to keep bringing myself back into line, focusing on the goal again. But I'd have had to do the same thing before the loss of those 20 years. I don't think it's really any harder now than it would have been then. I just have 20 years more excuses to put behind me.

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  5. I love vuvuzelas! They're funny 🙂 Good luck with your goals, and interesting post…I'm still thinking about it. Thanks!

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  6. like many others, as a young woman i didn't actually have any dreams aside from getting married in the temple, having a big family, and serving along side my spouse for our happily-ever-after. i had no career or hobby aspirations. i really didn't have dreams beyond the large, happy, mormon family mom/wife ones. so when those
    dreams didn't transpire the way i planned and set them up to happen, i was kind of derailed for a bit.

    there is a wonderful website by a neat woman named Whitney Johnson called Dare To Dream where i've learned a lot about having dreams. i was referred to it by our own dear Leslie Graff, and it's a great resource for anyone stuck, like i have been, for having dreams to inspire, motivate and bring joy.

    i don't have any real idea what my future holds still, but i'm learning how valuable hopes and dreams can be in living a life that returns joy, and creates beauty from ashes. our dreams won't always come true, but being able to shift gears and find new ones is a vital skill to develop. great post, thank you!

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  7. I think the writing on my mother's grave says it best. It's a quote by David O. McKay:
    "Make home your hobby– he who makes a loving home with all his heart can never miss heaven."

    So much of who we are, what we are interested in, who we want to become, can be developed right in our homes with our families. I think we grow more as women, in our role as wife and mother, than anything else we could possibly do.

    Julie Beck addressed this issue beautifully in a talk she gave at BYU Women's Conference last April 29th.

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  8. I've been thinking about this question since I was a missionary in Peru twenty plus years ago. How could I simultaneously be a good mother in day to day caring of a family and a good example to them of reaching for your dreams. One of my dreams was to be to serve the poor that I taught in Peru.

    Fast forward 20 yrs and I have five kids I stay home with. I have taught yoga, learned to play the cello in a symphony, remodeled a house…but have I learned how to see my kids' needs, and look at them with love, understanding and insight? Not as much as I'd like.

    Being a great (not just good) mother is my goal (lots of work for this one). I have a long way to go.

    I think our kids need to see us doing both focusing on the family and working on our own aspirations.

    Life is a balancing act!

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  9. I didn't have any big dreams or aspirations as a young woman. I didn't even have dreams of marriage and children. I just was. It took marriage and trials for me to begin to set goals for myself in spite of motherhood.

    My first big undertaking was competing in a triathlon. I trained so hard. It was wonderful to accomplish something outside of my home. Then, this spring, I ran my first half marathon. But aside from those, I want to write. For me, becoming a writer has been a slow process. I needed some maturity and I still need confidence. But it's coming, albeit slowly and I think it's coming because of my "mother" status, not in spite of it.

    I love the saying that "To everything there is a season." The season I am in now is primarily one of mothering, but I too see the end of that and I have dreams for the other side.

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  10. Brooke,
    I love when you post~

    There is something very poetic about the way a woman lives her life. Hopefully in your quest to live in the present as a mother, you will realize how poetic you are at this very moment. Whenever you write you are poetic and you string words together, bead by bead, into something beautiful. Keep reading poetry. Keep putting poems on your fridge. Even a mother need beautiful words to make her life work. And often times, being a mother will give you new ways to look at the words. The best part about being mothers and women is that it is a constant act of evolving. The children do grow up and sprout wings, and so do we.

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  11. Thanks to all the sisters who commented about not being able to realize their dream of wife/motherhood. It's helped me remember to be grateful for what we have and that we all have unrealized dreams, but we all have realized dreams too. I think I can be patient with unrealized dreams, but I think I can also keep dreaming. Dreams can't come true unless you think them up in the first place, right?

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  12. This is something I have thought about a lot. I have always planned on getting my Master's in Marriage & Family Counseling when my kids were older and working as a therapist. Now I wonder if I still want to do that, or will the return to school be too hard on the family. I'm not the same person I was then, and I wonder if I would even like that now…..I think time will tell as I try to know myself better and decide what I want. As always prayer will be a big part of it.

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  13. I had big goals and dreams for myself too. PhD in literature, open a branch of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture here in Austin, unite the community in a search for meaning in classic literary works… That was all while we were trying to get pregnant.

    By the time we actually did, I was tired of teaching, tired of the never-ending get up, get ready, go to work, come home, go to bed, over and over and over routine. I was so grateful to stay home with my daughter.

    But I floundered a little in the beginning, after I got more grounded in taking care of her. Who am I? I'm not a teacher anymore. I probably won't be a grad student again for a long time. Am I a writer? One problem with that: While I like to write and I think I'm relatively good at it, I don't sit down and do it (maybe one day). Am I a quilter? Don't have the time and talent and resources to be amazing at that yet (maybe one day).

    But I had my epiphany one day: I am a mother. That's my title, and it's a great one. I get to focus my energies on a building a nurturing home. I get to teach my child (hopefully children one day) and raise her in the Gospel. I get to stay caught up on housework. I get to go on walks in the middle of the day the way I envied people before when I at work.

    And I'm either lucky or unlucky (however you see it) because I work a little too. I've tutored and done some freelance writing and editing, and now I've gotten a job as an online writing tutor. So I get to stay connected to that other part of me and keep building it a little on the side.

    But I ask like you did, what more is there for me? How will I leave my mark on the world? What will I do in the seemingly distant time when I don't have little ones around me? However, I feel comfortable leaving that to Heavenly Father. He has a plan for me, and His plans are plans of happiness. If I trust in that, and do what I should be doing now, I will be happy not just now, but prepared to be happy in the future too.

    The dream I don't want to leave unfulfilled is that plan for me. I want to do His work and return to Him one day.

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  14. This is such a pertinent issue for most mothers. I loved the line: "Eventually I will be empty-nested and face to face with a 24-year-old girl, pre-children, and she and I will have to reconcile ourselves to each other and figure it out. Will we?"

    That is where I am at right now. The third of my four children just graduated from high school and will be going off to college this fall. My 24 year old self assumed I would be well in the throes of an interesting, rewarding career at this point in my life – but I am not.

    I worry that I have let myself down, but I also know that my 24 year old self had absolutely no idea what it would feel like to be at this stage, to still want to be involved in my last child's life, to want time to think and create, to enjoy providing a clean house and healthy meal at the end of the day.

    Relationships – with family and friends- mean more to me now than they did when I was a goal-oriented over achiever.

    I assume I will figure this out, but it is feeling like a long process.

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  15. Brooke–it sounds to me that you have a very real gift of living in the moment, something that many of us (myself included), struggle with. Besides, it sounds to me that you have a destination and a goal–that of being a good mother and steward for your children. Artistic goals aren't the only worthwhile goals!

    For me, achieving goals has been a matter of breaking them up into small, manageable proportions that I can still do while devoting myself primarily to my children. I teach a college writing course and I (sometimes) write, but I do most of my prep work, grading, and writing while my kids sleep (so I'm using valuable naptime minutes to write this!).

    A bigger challenge for me is trying to set worthwhile goals for myself *as a mother* not as this person separate from my kids (which so many of my goals tend to be).

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  16. I like what one former Visiting Teacher said once: "I hope God understands that I had to put some talents away for awhile to be a mom."

    I've had to shelve many an aspiration because of kids, money, hubby's career, and other reasons. However, I still dream of getting the whole "balancing act" right.

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  17. My biggest dream has always been to be a great mother. All other dreams and goals and subservient to that one.

    I'm a little bothered by the idea that motherhood, in and of itself, does not count as a great accomplishment. The world outside does not value it is as an accomplishment, but I like to think I have a better, eternal view of things. I am working on the greatest and most important project of my entire life right now. In the eternities I think, "I was a great mom in a very difficult time" will be a much higher standing accomplishment than "I published a book" or "I got a graduate degree."

    I also have been working to make time each day to work on my own personal development. When I spend some time working on my own writing project I am happier and calmer and a better mom. Not that I'm just doing it to be a better mom, but it is a nice side effect. I'm not doing it to make up for being a mom, but because I want to do it and I enjoy it. Being a mother is priority #1 and I do not feel any regret about that.

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