Lately I’ve been thinking about “passion” – What am I passionate about, what are my passions in life?
As moms we hear about this a lot – Don’t forget to make room for you and your passions.
While that sounds nice and dreamy, I’ve always kind of scoffed at the idea. What mom (with young children dependent on them for basically everything) has time to focus or even think about their passions. It’s hard to think about much of anything when you spend most of your days rocking and walking and climbing and chasing and grabbing and yelling and feeding and wiping and cleaning and and and and…
So I tucked my passions aside one day, promising to come back and play when I had more time and energy. Over time and with each new child those passions got pushed back deeper and deeper into the back of my mind until I hardly even remembered they were still there, waiting quietly, patiently. It was only when I’d see a beautiful painting, hear a moving musical piece, or read a soul-stirring book or article that I would remember my first passion and yearn for my old love for art.
But now, as a mother of 4 young and insanely active children, the only thing I really long for is sleep and “alone time”. It’s the first thing I think about when I wake up and get of bed. Later I’ll take a nap. And if I get one, this is the highlight of my day and I rejoice over it and gush about it to my husband when he comes home. I took a nap today!! As if I had just won the lottery or a dream vacation.
However, somewhere, deep down in me, something started gnawing at me…gently poking at me. I wasn’t satisfied. I started to become wistful…wanting more than just sleep and showers and a clean kitchen. Where is the fulfillment? The excitement? The passion? The ugly seeds of resentment started taking root. He’s hungry again? I just fed him all morning!…Why am I always the only one cleaning up this place?…Is that all I am to anyone? A maid, a cook and a milk factory?…What about ME?
There is no ME anymore, only them. Isn’t that the holy motto of a good wife and mother? Others first, forget about me? My husband and children were not treating me like they believed this, and I didn’t believe it down deep either, but it’s how I was beginning to let myself feel. Thankfully, God is good at steering me back on the right track time after time and after time again. And He usually does this in unexpected ways.
A few weeks ago, I had the extreme pleasure of enjoying a late-night conversation with my cousin who I haven’t seen in years. We had so much fun together once upon a time in that long ago dream of childhood. I’ve missed her and it was the best thing to have time together. We talked about life – about goals and the meaning of it all and passions and living those passions out. She – the single and childless beautiful woman who looks much younger than only one year than me – spoke about the importance of developing a healthy self-esteem and self-confidence, working on your health and general shape and well-being. “Work on taking care of yourself FIRST”, is her motto.
This grated on me at first and I admittedly thought, in a somewhat I-know-better sort of way, Well that’s easy for you to say. Wait till you are married and have kids. Then they come first, whether you want them to or not.
But as I listened to her speak confidently and passionately about the importance of having something you are passionate about and to be fulfilled by, I couldn’t help but start to see that maybe she might know a bit of what she was talking about.
“Right now, yes, the kids are small and have a lot of demands. But they will grow up and leave one day and then what will you do? If you have no other interests or passion anymore…you will go crazy bored when they are gone.”
She gave me much to ponder and there’s more than one hand to this.
On the one hand, I think my husband and family do “come first”. – What I want to do or am interested in isn’t as important as what I can do for them so I put aside my desires/interests and give my time to serving the family.
On the other hand, she gave a good example –
If you see a mom and wife who says, “everything I do is for my husband and my children so they can be healthy and happy”, but then she eats donuts and junk all day and runs herself literally ragged running around doing everything for her family but doesn’t take time for herself – she really is not helping or serving anyone – least not her family as she claims.
Taking care of your basic needs and general health and wellbeing is essential. It has to be done before you can give yourself fully and genuinely to anyone. And this is what my cousin means by “Work on taking care of you FIRST”. She also feels strongly that it’s important to have something you can be very passionate about – not so you can use it to show off or gain attention and praise or recognition from it in an arrogant “me, me, me” sort of way. Everyone – including moms – needs something that FILLS them and provides daily motivation and fulfillment.
Once I understood what she meant by the “Me first, then others” attitude, I agreed that it is important to let ourselves be filled so we can fill others. Still, we both agreed that it’s important to practice moderation and self-discipline to know when it’s time to “pause” what we are doing and working on so we can care for the immediate needs of the family. So, if I’m writing or painting or reading and the baby wakes up, or it’s time for lunch, or school, or someone needs more toilet paper, or other important things of life, I have to be willing and ready to put it down for a bit (or a while). OK. Now it is time to put what I want to do away and give my time and attention to what is important for my family in this moment.
I fidgeted with all these thoughts as I looked down on the tiny trees and houses and cars from my birds-eye view in the plane ride home from my visit with my cousin in Mexico. My baby had blessedly fallen asleep so I got out my writing/journal notebook and as I flipped through it I began to see how the Holy Spirit was at work stitching together a conversation and thoughts I had at the beginning of the trip with the last conversation I had with my cousin the night before.
Before leaving for my trip, I had shared with my friend and priest that I’ve been struggling with feeling unsatisfied or like maybe I’m not doing “enough” to “serve Christ and the poor” as we hear over and over, especially from our new Pope. I’d like to give more time to volunteering or helping out but I don’t know how to do this and be a good wife and mother also. Without me saying it out loud, he was able to see what was going on. Through the gift of the Spirit, he knew the great temptation looming over me – though one I was completely oblivious to. He looked me in the eyes and very seriously and almost with a sense of urgency said, “Your marriage [husband and children] are NOT in the way of you serving God. Your marriage and motherhood IS your vocation. That is how you “serve God”.
Yikes. If that wasn’t the Holy Spirit talking to me then I don’t know if I’ll ever hear Him.
He went on to say that it is good to want to serve Christ and His Church more. But you have to go slowly, you can’t abandon your main priority (marriage/family) to “serve the poor”. [That is a lie and a trick.] In time, your family will find other ways to serve outside of the home but for now – you MUST focus on cultivating and nourishing your husband and family – TOGETHER.
When I put those two conversations together – separated by many other thoughts and experiences in between them from my journey – I saw it.
And do you know what it is?
Once I saw it clearly again I was energized and wanted to yell it out loud –
MY HUSBAND AND OUR CHILDREN ARE MY PASSION!!
If this is so, I can find fulfillment and joy in what I am already doing.
Waking up early to serve them, feed them, clean up and teach them to clean, help them with school and learning, prayer, faith, volunteering & social life, general life skills, fun and creativity and beauty, love, life!
All of that can be part of my passion if my family is my passion. And when you are passionate about something you go and learn everything you can about it and work on skills needed to do the work you are passionate about as best as you can. And you take care of yourself so that you can give fully and successfully to your passion. Taking care of myself and nourishing, cultivating me will in turn help me live out my true passion – Loving my husband and our children.
So for me, when I can find a way to manage my time with all the demands and necessities of being a wife and mother, I also need to find ways to cultivate my interests and hobbies for the sake of my passion. Art, writing, reading, learning, creating, exercise, eating and cooking healthy, working if applicable– all of these become part of living my passion, instead of separate abstract yearnings.
Instead of holding my interests and hobbies in one hand and my family and children in the other, the Holy Spirit gently took my hands and brought them together, merging them into one beautiful and passionate and whole vocation again. My family isn’t “in the way” of my passions; and my interests, talents, and hobbies aren’t in the way of serving my family.
This is also one of the important lessons I can teach my children too. They watch me and I want them to know that I love them by what I do for them but also what I do for others, including myself. How can they learn to love themselves and gain self-confidence if I do not exhibit this? How can they learn to turn this self-love out to others if I do not guide them? If I want them to grow up to respect themselves while also giving of themselves and Christ to others, I have to show them by living the example in my own life.
So now I am reminded once again – and will continually need reminding – that it’s not so much about who is “first” but rather about whom I am living my life for? Me, them, God, or ALL of us?