Just over four years ago I had my second child. It seemed reasonable to quit my career and stay at home with my two small kids. This life choice was further confirmed when another baby came two years later.
Quitting my career in public health was an identity shift. I was going from a job I had trained for, done for almost a decade and was a necessary service in the community, into full-time motherhood. It felt like a full stop in being a rounded person with life ambitions and insights. Becoming a stay at home mom was my choice and there were days where I acted the martyr and days where I have relished in the luxury of being able to be at home with my children.
In those early years stuffed with constant nursing and diaper blowouts I used to read a lot about ‘mompreneurs’. At this point they were mostly moms who invented some fabulous product and became self-employed CEOs of their own successful business. I used to roll my eyes at this term ‘mompreneur’. In fact, I hated the term. To me, it had the connotations that motherhood wasn’t enough. That moms ought to do all the chores, child raising, meal making, midnight wake-ups, and find 87 missing socks – but now they must ALSO start a successful side hustle that makes them enough money to keep themselves in cute booties and fancy soaps.
I could hardly keep up with the daily demands of three children under four let alone carve out space for something more that wouldn’t put my marriage, home-management, friendships and sanity at risk. But I found myself doing this anyways.
I found myself spending naptimes writing a blog. I found myself staying up late learning about social media. I found myself craving ways to create rather than consume. I wanted to do simple things like get dressed each day, purge my house, set some goals in my life. I found myself driven with a need to build community and contribute to culture outside of my home. I found myself wanting to become, for lack of a better word, a “mompreneur.”
I often find myself telling fellow moms that if they want to do something outside of motherhood duties then they really have to fight for it. But why is this? Why do we have to fight for it, not just within our own heart and our own family system, but also within our own communities?
In my day to day living, I have had to learn to give myself permission and space to dream up a life that is more than motherhood. I have had to find ways to blend my desire to be a stay at home mom with the goals and interests I wanted to pursue. I have not done this perfectly and it has taken a lot of conversations with my husband over how that works in our family. There have been even more conversations in my own heart and mind about the doubts and struggles with pursuing anything outside of motherhood. But I haven’t resigned and let these ideas and passions float away into the air. I have clenched them tighter, carrying them with me everywhere I am, finding ways to merge them into my daily life and home and family.
So I am standing ground with the women who wish to be stay at home moms but also know there is something more to their life than motherhood. In an era where we are expected to be hands-on with our kids around the clock, I seek that balance of raising children without making motherhood my sole life focus. I am looking to create that life where I am home with my kids but I feel fulfilled in my life and am contributing to a greater community.
I’ve learned that our culture views this as a privilege, not a right.
Once we manage the hurdles of our own mindsets and balancing our home life, then we must face what society tells us about how we should experience motherhood. Which is, that motherhood is a duty we must not gripe about and find unconditional bliss in – that we ought to stay home and focus on homemaking and childbearing and don’t forget to smile about it, because, after all, you had these kids and if you don’t enjoy every second of motherhood well then you are kind of a monster. Not much room for truth-telling and transparency in what motherhood really is like when this the message we receive.
This is paired up with a culture that makes a mockery of motherhood. We are swarmed with memes and stock photos that suggest we are all frazzled zombies who have shut off our brains, who only talk about poop stains and nut-free lunches and survive solely on coffee, protein shakes and wine. Even if this has been true for some of my mothering days, making it a running joke just perpetuates the mindset that this is just how it is.
As I step into the role of “mompreneur” I propose that it isn’t about a mom who can make money while being a full-time mom. The mompreneur is a mom who is making space to extract the unique qualities and interests in herself and honing them for use in the world. It doesn’t mean selling things to our friends, or building an online empire. It means we recognize that we are made with some serious stirrings in our hearts and some useful gifts and talents that we can incorporate into all kinds of ways to serve the culture of ourselves, our families and our communities.
We tell moms to have hobbies outside of mothering and this is the best way to help a woman find fulfillment, usefulness, creativity, refreshment and satisfaction. But what limits are now put on this pursuit of hobbies, goals and passions? Is there an expectation that if her hobbies ever interfere with motherhood then she should stop? That she should only pursue hobbies at bedtimes and naptimes? That any time spent outside of motherhood is only valuable if she is making money? That she ought not to rely on her spouse to give her time and space for hobbies because he has been working all week and needs a break? That only certain hobbies are worthwhile pursuing, particularly the ones that you make more money on than you spend? If a mother can pursue a passion that takes time away from her mom-specific duties even though it does not earn money for the family — what is this mother teaching her children when she is in pursuit of more than motherhood?
I’m learning, slowly, that she is actually teaching her kids a lot. She is showing them that their mother’s world doesn’t revolve around them. That she has a rounded identity. That motherhood isn’t a rut, but a role that runs parallel to everything else in your life. That we are made to show up for our lives and explore the things that interest us and grow us. We show them to try new things that we might fail at, but that we will inevitably grow from. That we can find ways to take our unique strengths and passions and serve our communities with them. We can bring our children alongside us in many ways, and there are days where we need to go out and work alone. Either way, mothers who live passionately raise kids who live passionately and we need to empower one another and support one another in the pursuit of more than motherhood.
*thank you to my online friend turned real friend, Jac, for helping me with this post*
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