Have your dreams survived motherhood?

My childhood dream. (And I don't just mean those leotards.)

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I had several childhood career dreams that remained fairly steady through the early years of my life: I wanted to be a writer, a singer, a Solid Gold dancer, and a third-grade teacher with a trapdoor under my desk (unknown to the cranky principal) leading to an underground water slide and pool.

So which of those dreams survived my journey to motherhood? Well, I am a writer, but write very different things from those long-ago dreams (have never finished a novel and I haven’t penned a poem since college.) I sing in the shower and the car and sometimes my living room, but besides the occasional karaoke night, I haven’t performed since my community theatre days (about a decade ago now.) Solid Gold is, sadly, no longer on television, though my lack of natural grace would probably have done that dream in for me regardless. And from what I now understand about life, teachers are generally expected to teach, not let the kids swim all day (well, it was a nice fantasy while it lasted.)

There’s one other thing I always knew I wanted to be when I was a girl: a mother. I was always really into baby dolls, and saw myself having numerous children starting pretty young. That dream, obviously, came true, eventually eclipsing the rest. I started out my life as a young mom sure I could still do it all, combining all my life’s dreams with my life as a mom. After all, as a child, I never saw myself having to choose. I just figured I’d make it all work together somehow – the dancing and the singing and the writing and the teaching and the mothering.

Well, time and experience and the pang of passed-up opportunities has shown me that it isn’t always that easy. When you’re talking about passions that require serious commitment of time, money, or energy, they aren’t always something you can seamlessly fit into life with children – particularly if you have a vision of family life that is even more important to you. For instance, it’s one thing to attend nightly rehearsals when your toddler goes to bed at 7:30 PM. It’s another when you’ve got older kids who count on you for homework help, or if you’ve committed to quiet evenings at home with your spouse, or if you simply aren’t sure you can stay up past ten and still survive the morning grind anymore. Is the dream dead, or just deferred? And how do you know the right time, the right place, the right way to revive it?

A lot of moms struggle to find the right time for their dreams: the right time to go for it, and the right time to put that dream on a shelf. We have to get good at balancing hanging on and letting go: how to keep a loose grasp on the things that are you in the very deepest parts of your soul, and how to release dreams that you’re really only clinging to because they represent some long-bygone “you”. We work to accept and embrace changes: how different the reality of motherhood is compared to our childish versions, how our priorities and preferences change as we get older and wiser, and how to stay open to new dreams and experiences that we might never have dreamed of before having children. The trickiest part of all is figuring out how to blend it all together – the sacrifice and patience, the dreaming and drive –  to help us create the lives we want for our families and for ourselves.

I want to kick off June – the month that’s all about MOMS – by talking about our dreams and how motherhood has shaped them. What did you always think you’d be when you grew up, and how has that changed? Have you found a way to blend your passions with motherhood? Has being a mom introduced you to entirely new dreams, hobbies or ambitions? Do you struggle with patience and being content with the life you have? Or, do you sometimes feel an unsettling sense that some of the most essential parts of you have been put in the deep freeze?

Please share about your childhood dreams and your motherhood realities – how you feel about it all, how you keep a grasp on your ‘old’ self, or what you look forward to as your kids get older. Over the next few days I am planning to dig deeper into all these issues, and hearing about your experiences, struggles, and hopes will give me a lot to think and write about. And tell me: I wasn’t the only kid in the world who really thought I’d grow up to be a Solid Gold dancer, was I?

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