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Pursuing motherhood and your dreams … can you really do both?

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Young girl and mom looking forward to good future

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Fr. Michael Rennier - published on 11/27/22

Many women say they want to delay marriage and motherhood for as long as possible because it will interfere with their goals.

Motherhood and other life goals are often seen as mutually exclusive. Many women, when they have their first baby, decide to give up on other goals and devote themselves full-time to their children. These mothers are fine with being stay-at-home moms and are all too happy to focus on their families. They’re fulfilled in their life choices but, perhaps, always have the feeling that in order to achieve what they see as a greater good of having a family, they had to give up other dreams. They recognize the sacrifice but don’t regret having made it.

Other women are extremely reluctant to become mothers at all because the sacrifice doesn’t seem to be worth it. Motherhood, they are correct in thinking, will certainly affect their other life goals.

I regularly hear young women talk about how they want to delay marriage and motherhood for as long as possible — or even claim they don’t want to have children at all because they don’t see how raising a child will fit into their busy lives. They cannot envision a life in which they have everything – a big house, successful career, world travel – that also includes the responsibility of raising children.

Of course, motherhood is all-encompassing and it is absolutely a sacrifice. Speaking simply as a father (which I acknowledge is a different experience), I can say with confidence that life is never the same once you become a parent. My own dreams have evolved over the years. I don’t think anyone can convincingly argue that becoming a mother will have no effect on a woman’s life. It’s a vocation that isn’t easy.

This isn’t to say, however, that it’s a vocation that forces a woman to give up on her other dreams.

It’s both/and

Occasionally, a famous person will find themselves in front of a microphone and claim that because they avoided motherhood they were able to achieve success. Catholic speaker and mother Leah Darrow has addressed this phenomenon in the past, saying, “Babies don’t keep us from our dreams.”

She suggests that it’s very possible for mothers to dream big, and that having a baby “is not a hindrance to what the Lord has in store for us.”

Her point is a simple one. God wants us to be happy. If we follow his plan for our lives and are generous in responding to his vocation, our dreams will mature. We will modify them, re-prioritize, and begin to dream differently. Maybe even dream bigger than ever.

Women don’t have to refuse motherhood in order to achieve dreams. In fact, motherhood helps women in many different ways to achieve their other dreams. Now you’re achieving a dream with someone and for someone.

A few mothers weigh in

I asked a few mothers to share how motherhood has affected their dreams. Cori, a photographer who built her own business and now employs other mothers, says, “Being a mother is motivation to do well. It’s my reason, not my excuse. Being creative, I needed an outlet. I can see God’s work through my children. As a photographer I like to document the innocence in them. They’ve made me more observant.”

Terri, a mother who has built her own boutique clothing brand, says, “Moms — you CAN. You CAN live a life of joy with your children AND your dreams. Ignore the culture around you that tells you that you have to choose. Set goals and reasonable expectations. And don’t compare yourself to others. With God, anything is possible.

Babies and dreams aren’t mutually exclusive. They actually support each other, as another mother, Brittany, says of her journey into motherhood, “It causes me to humble myself, knowing I am making sacrifices so that my children can be great.” She’s acknowledging both the difficulty and the reward.

It seems to me that the difficulty is precisely what produces the reward. Motherhood is like cracking open a jar of clay to reveal the treasure of gold inside. When we cooperate with what God is asking of us, whether that be motherhood, fatherhood, the dedicated single life, a religious life, any vocation at all, that sacrifice creates a new narrative, a new story about who we are and where we are heading.

Ultimately, it’s a connection with the deepest meaning of who we are as human beings, our purpose and path to happiness. Out of that rich soil of self-knowledge, creativity, and self-sacrifice, wouldn’t it stand to reason that the most beautiful flowering of our dreams will begin to grow?

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