6 ways busy moms can make (some of) their dreams come true

The sky's the limit, but at first, it's OK to just reach the top of the grass.

Last week I asked readers: did your dreams survive motherhood? And while I shared that some of my childhood goals (like being a Solid Gold dancer) turned out not to be particularly realistic, the flames of many dreams, large and small, still flicker under the surface – some from my youngest memories, others I’ve picked up along the way.

Reconciling those dreams with my very full life as a mom and working writer has not always been easy, and a lot of my former life goals have been put on my personal back burner – or bumped off the list entirely. But these six steps have helped me keep dreaming:

  1. Narrow it down.
    If you’re like me, you have dozens of potential hobbies, careers, and pastimes you could see yourself really delving into. My list of life goals ranges from writing a NYT best-selling book, to competing in a triathlon, to living in Europe for a year, to raising goats, to being able to play Meatloaf’s “Bat Out Of Hell” on the piano. While all those goals have the potential to happen, doing all of them in my life isn’t probable, and it’s likely impossible for me to check them all off the list right now. Sound familiar? To get all those dreams from rattling around in your head taking up space, make a “do now” and “do later” list. The “do later” list should consist of everything you would like to do one day, but don’t feel equipped, inspired, or able to tackle right now. The “do now” list should be very short and include those goals or dreams that are weighing most heavily on your heart right this minute. Check out this detailed post I wrote a few months back about narrowing down unwieldy wish lists.
  2. What can you do today?
    So you probably can’t run a marathon this afternoon if you haven’t been training all along, and you almost certainly can’t finish an award-winning novel by midnight. But what can you do today? Can you jog around the block pushing a stroller, sketch out a character while keeping an eye on your toddler in the tub, or look up guitar lessons in the area on your phone while waiting to pick your child up from day camp? Can you swap child care with a friend or relative for an hour and browse art books at the library or bookstore, take a local entrepreneur out for coffee and pick her brain a bit, or spend an hour holed up writing? Can you get up a half-hour early or skip your usual pre-bed TV show in order to write, read, lift weights, sculpt clay, research law schools, or listen to music without kids fighting for your attention? Every day try to identify one thing – no matter how small – that helps you work toward a goal. It’ll help you feel inspired even on those days that seem like nothing but boogers and whining.
  3. The 10, 30, 60 list
    Under your list of narrowed-down goals, make several sub-categories: 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour. Now make lists of five in each column: 5 things you can do to move you toward your goal if all you have is 10 minutes…if all you have is 30 minutes…if all you have is 1 hour. Even on really busy days, you should be able to do something on the “10 minutes” list. And it’s amazing how having a list of prompts to look at will help you avoid spinning your wheels when an unexpected free hour falls into your lap.
  4. Be a quitter
    That Pilates class not all you hoped it would be? Feeling “done” with the cello after a few lessons? Or maybe you had decided to try a new business venture and your gut is telling you it’s going nowhere fast. Hey, mama, your time and money are precious. I know it’s drilled into us from a young age not to be a quitter, but why stick to something that’s not doing it for you, just to prove you can? I don’t know about you, but I’m not really willing to take time and energy away from my family for something that isn’t fun or doesn’t help me feed them. You’re an adult; you’ve earned the right to move on.
  5. Make connections
    One of the best ways to really stick to a dream or goal is to network with other people. Whether you join a writer’s group (or create your own) or find an online support group for moms who want to be trapeze artists, connecting with other people with the same goals is one way to keep you inspired, accountable, and in the loop even if you can’t give your dream 100% – or let’s face it, even 20% – right this moment.
  6. Sit on the sidelines
    Maybe there simply isn’t room in your life for playing in a band or becoming a chiropractor right now. Is there a way to soak up the goodness from the sidelines and keep you energized for the future without a huge commitment today? For example, you could make a point of going to see more live concerts, or maybe take a part-time job in a chiro’s office to learn the ropes while your family is needy. Remember, life is long, and there is plenty of time to work toward goals – it doesn’t have to be all now or nothing ever.

I’d love to hear what’s on your “do now” and “do later” lists! And what can you do to move you a little closer to a dream today?

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