No one told me how hard it would be. No one told me how traumatic the birthing experience would feel. No one told me I wasn’t going to fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes on the way home from the hospital. No one told me how long I was going to have to sit in that glider every day nursing my newborn. No one told me how many weeks it was going to take for my body (and my mind!) to recover.
I loved my baby girl fiercely. There was no doubt about it. I was madly in love with her from the first time I held her in my arms and caressed her baby skin. What I didn’t anticipate was the rough transition into motherhood. I did not love my life.
I had gone from a high-energy career as a newspaper reporter and teaching at the university to sitting on a donut pillow in a glider for 6-8 hours a day nursing my baby. I was committed to breastfeeding but I questioned that decision every time I felt the knife-like pain ripple through my chest when she fed. As I sat there, all I could think about were the worst things I had experienced in my life and how I was exposing this perfect child to an imperfect world. I wept.
Let’s just say I was far from flourishing. Floundering was more like it.
I was grappling with the idea that in gaining a child I was also giving up my identity. My days were blending into my nights and every ounce of energy was spent on my daughter. Motherhood wasn’t as idyllic as I dreamed it would be.
Carving out time for mama
Fast forward 10 years, and now I have 3 girls. Between raising my kids, taxi-driving them to activities, cooking meals, doing laundry, working part-time, hosting a mama workout group and leading at my church, life is full. Through the years I have learned how important it is to carve out time to feed my soul.
Jessica M. Turner, in her book, The Fringe Hours: Making Time For You, speaks into this: “I’m here to tell you that you not only can but must take time to do things that matter to you, no matter how busy life gets…. You should use your gifts and passions not just for others but to fill you up. It is all too common today to run on empty, but I have learned that life is so much better when you make yourself a priority.”
Jessica challenges and inspires me with this idea that we all have little pockets of time that we can and should use to feed our creative souls. I know it’s sometimes overwhelming to even think about doing something for ourselves. I have discovered that I am a better mama when I give myself permission to step outside the to-do list and the responsibilities of the day and pursue something (however small) for me.
Uncovering our passions
There are many things I dream about doing in my “free time,” but only a few things that truly rejuvenate my soul. While I would love to be an organic gardener or painter or dancer or sing in the worship band, those things are not realistic for me in this season.
I have chosen three things that I do for myself regularly that are both realistic and help me venture outside my mommy responsibilities. The first activity is writing. I started writing children’s books before my oldest daughter was born, but after I launched into motherhood I seldom found time to pursue that career goal. When my daughter was a few years old, my husband and I both realized writing was life-giving for me and I had to be intentional about finding time to do it. Writing provides a creative outlet for me.
The second passion I regularly pursue is running. Through the years, I have discovered that running is a kind of therapy for me. When I’m running on a trail or on the track, I feel alive. I have space to think and process. I have room to dream and talk to God. When I am exercising regularly, I find I have more energy for keeping up with my kids. I also feel better about myself physically.
The third key for me is spending quality time with my people. I am an extrovert. I am energized by time with others. It may be as simple as grabbing a cup of coffee with a friend or participating in MOPS. Deeper connection with my people is important to me. I know I need to be intentional about putting it on my schedule. I make it a point to plan girls getaway weekends a few times a year so I can get that much-needed time with the people who support and sharpen me.
Learning to flourish
My challenge to you is to give yourself space to discover your passions. You might need to revive something you loved doing in the past or explore a new hobby. These things don’t need to take a lot of time or money.
I have a friend who uses her “fringe hours” to grow and arrange succulents. Another friend has a passion for justice issues and uses her time to research and advocate. One mama I know coaches a Zumba class, another makes jewelry, another knits, while a different friend repurposes furniture. I love seeing the ways the women I know have chosen to flourish in their passions. As we flourish ourselves, our family and community benefits too.
This year our theme is a “fierce flourishing.” The word flourish means “to thrive, to grow luxuriantly, to grow in excellence and influence.” I don’t know about you but I long to flourish in this one life I have to live. And even more I would love to be planted in a garden of women flourishing all around me.
Dorina Lazo Gilmore is a mama of three creative and energetic girls. She is also the author of 3 children’s books, including Cora Cooks Pancit, and blogs regularly for Self Talk the Gospel.