“One day, your kids will grow up. Your kids will move on. Do not forget who you are in the process.”
Twelve years ago, as I sat dreaming of the perfect life I would create with my brand new daughter, my father in law offered a few simple words of wisdom. Then, I felt that truly, I was holding my every dream in my arms. What more could I possibly want?
I soon added to that dream again. And again. And again. In just four short years, I had four wonderful children. And I believed: What more could I want?
It turns out so much more. I love my children – they are an important part of my dream. But when my family felt whole, new dreams entered my heart. And guilt. Heavy, heavy guilt. What kind of mother was I that I could not be happy with my family as my only dream? What kind of parent wants more than those things her own children could fulfill? One night as I lay there, feeling resentful over all the time I spent in the mundane details of life, describing yet another monotonous day to my husband, he asked me, “What is it you really want to do? Because if we do not teach our kids to follow their dreams, who will?”
I stared at him, stunned. We urge them to follow their heart – to find their passions in life. No dream is too big. No dream, too small. Chase them until those dreams transform to something else. Then begin a new path. We spend our days encouraging our children, but are we showing them the way? As parents, do we live the lives we dream of, or simply allow obstacle after obstacle to block our own paths?
Having dreams is the easy part. It’s the building of those dreams that is hard. Every single day is another day with roadblocks. I have four children with eight separate activities every single week. In addition to these, we balance middle school sports, homework and the daily drama that comes with three little girls close in age, along with a little boy with autism. It would be so easy to become completely immersed in the world of swim lessons and therapies, voice lessons and gymnastics. It would be much easier to ignore that voice inside me, encouraging me to want more.
With the words of my father in law and husband echoing in my ears, I follow my passions. In addition to the many children’s activities, I add my own. Teaching, coaching, writing. My husband and I volunteer with an organization that plans an annual camp for children with autism and an autism conference, as well as helping host an annual parents conference for families with special needs children. This past year, I added pursuing my Master’s Degree to the list of dreams that I have.
Dreams that matter.
It is hard work! Following my dreams involves crazy activities like reading textbooks while working out on the elliptical machine at the gym, late night note taking and writing, reading every chance I get and trying to fit in the rest of my normal life – making time for fun, for friends, for my children. Being there at the events that matter.
While this craziness is (most days) simply exhausting, in the end, it is even more rewarding. I am fulfilling my dreams, and I am working toward goals I did not even realize were there.
For my family this means my husband and children are doing more cooking, more cleaning, more child-running. My kids are spending afternoons or evenings at Grandma and Papa’s so I can work. I am not alone in following my dreams. Every member of my family is part of this pursuit.
In the end it will be a family reward. I am a more attentive mother, a better wife, a stronger teacher and a happier person when I have the chance to pursue a world of my own.
But the greatest reward will come in the end – when my children understand that following your dreams is not always easy. It comes with work. It comes with sacrifice. It requires devotion. They will know that dreams change, that people change and that sometimes in the middle of what we pursue, an unexpected bump will come along. We have to work around it or accept the change this new problem presents.
If you are like me, if you are waiting for some kind of permission, here it is: Find what you love! Find your passion! Integrate your own dreams into your life. Show your children what it means to truly follow your dreams. Then one day, they will know what it takes to follow their own.