I had the chance to spend some time with a group of women from church last night. We met at a restaraunt and most of us stayed two hours chatting and getting to know each other better. Whenever girls nights come around, I often think how much easier and more relaxing it would be to stay home and crawl into bed to watch tv after a busy day with small kids. But I’m always glad when I make the effort and just go. I need those female relationships more now, as a wife and mother. I like hearing other women’s experiences and thoughts, and I enjoy how we bounce ideas off each other and sometimes just take a moment to complain about a few things and get it out of our systems. Last night I stayed about 30 minutes longer to chat with a couple of women that I am getting to know better. They are driven and ambitious LDS women, and I identify with them a lot. One of them recently applied for law school. One of them is an aspiring screenwriter and is busy trying to make connections and edit a large manuscript. We talked about some of our lofty goals and what steps we are taking and what plans we are making to make those dreams a reality. As stay at home moms, we all feel the weight of the responsibility and duty to our children and I always try to make that my priority. But beyond the scope of our daily tasks and sometimes monotonous chores, there are inside each of us a strong, talented individual woman, who is capable of doing great things alongside the great work of mothering. I feel lucky to live in a time when mothers, particularly in my church community, are carving out space in their lives to do ambitious things, like writing books, starting their own companies, continuing their education, being artists, using their God-given talents, and a myriad of other things, right alongside living their lives as righteous mothers and wives.
I was particularly grateful to have that short conversation with friends because it made me feel a little more empowered in making brave and bold choices about what I do with my life. It made me recall something I wrote to myself in my journal around 3 years ago a little while after becoming a mom. At that time I had been feeling that my life was forever changed and even stunted a little by motherhood, though I loved my daughter with all my soul and wanted nothing more than to be with her and care for her always. It seemed that my brain was being fried by all the sleepless nights and I felt like I would never do anything FOR myself or BY MYSELF ever again. And I came across an inspirational article, which I’ve mentioned before on my blog, that suggested to write your big dreams on a piece of paper and sign it. It was kind of eye-opening for me to even acknowledge my wildest dreams to myself, let alone write them down.
Over the last year or so I think I started letting self-doubt take over, and I started to think some of those dreams were completely out of reach and that I was not allowed to think of anything beyond the care of my children. The naysayers in my own head and in the traditions of our home-and-family-church became a little overwhelming. But last night I allowed myself to think about some things that make me me, as an individual and human, and it was so much fun. I have varied interests and talents and goals and I hope to make some of those dreams come alive again along with all of the great work and challenge of raising a family.
I loved the advice Elder Oaks gave at a recent Q&A at a night for women in my stake. One mother stood (the same one who just applied for law school) and spoke of her confusion regarding pursuing her aspirations and work as a pianist and musician while maintaining a nurturing and involved environment for her 4 children. His answer was wonderful! He referenced his very talented and hard-working violinist granddaughter, Jenny Oaks Baker, who has an album and is busy performing and doing her spiritual and family duties as well. He basically said to prayerfully follow your own instincts, and that the balance would be different for different people. I appreciated that a lot. So while I may not always feel like there are a lot of options out there for women who are moms, I hope to make some new pathways, whether it be in graduate programs, artistic pursuits, charity work, part-time career work, writing, or whatever I feel like doing. It means a lot to me, as a thinker and independent soul. I have to keep dreaming!