Question: Can one live their life with purpose if the purpose seems to be almost entirely for or through their children? And if a person feels like they need to be doing more, how do they do so without being as invested in their children as they could have been? – Laura
Answer: This is a conundrum that many women face (and probably some men too). If you are a parent then you know how much time and attention children need, especially small children under the age of 5. What happens to your own purpose when you are suddenly faced with the responsibility of raising a child or children? Do you have to put your own dreams and desires aside in order to give your all to your kids? No, you don’t.
In the year 1999 I got pregnant with my first child, Emily. At the time, I was helping Steve run Dexterity Software but didn’t have a business of my own. I figured that when the baby came I would be a stay-at-home mom and just take care of the baby, do all the housework, cooking, shopping, etc. That’s the kind of mom I had always planned on being.
Before she was born, however, I started VegFamily.com, which was initially just a hobby site meant to attract other parents who were raising vegan children so we could talk about how to do it successfully and safely. By the time she was born, I had turned it into an online magazine with a modest income. I figured I could still run the site while caring for a small baby. Boy was I wrong! Suffice it to say, I got a quick lesson in the extent to which caring for an infant affects your time and your life! VegFamily went on the back burner so I could give Emily my full attention.
But being “just a mom” wasn’t fulfilling enough for me. Sure, she was adorable and cute and cuddly, but hour after hour, night after night, day after day, and the cuteness wore a little thin, along with being up all night breastfeeding and sleeping in 1 hour increments. I struggled to figure out how I could fill my life with meaning while still giving my child what I felt she deserved. I wanted her to know she would always come first.
I continued to run my business while caring for her; working only when she slept or was with Steve or my mom (who came over basically every day to help me out and loved it!). But with all of that came tremendous guilt. Wasn’t I supposed to be with her all the time? Wasn’t I supposed to make sure she rolled over and sat up and learned to eat with a spoon? Wasn’t that my primary mission in life?
It took years of soul searching and a lot of internal struggle, but I realized that from a spiritual level my soul and my child’s soul were equally deserving of a life of purpose. I didn’t see the logic in giving up my dreams and purpose to raise her just so she could give up her own dreams and purpose to raise her own children. I realized that I incarnated for a reason and it wasn’t just to raise children. So I accepted and embraced the idea that I deserved and even had an obligation to continue to live a purposeful life, but never at the expense of my children.
Steve and I took turns caring for Emily while the other worked, so our child always had at least one parent giving her their full attention. When Steve got an office outside the home, I found a high school girl who agreed to come over and play with Emily while I got a few hours work done each day in the home office. I felt guilty at first, but then I saw that my daughter was so excited when her “playmate” came over because she was fresh with lively energy and loved playing with Emily. I was in the same house, just a few feet away, but I was not primarily responsible for Emily while this girl was there. I used that time to write my first book, Raising Vegan Children in a Non-Vegan World. That book has helped thousands of other parents successfully and confidently raise vegan children, which is something I’m very proud of.
When I got pregnant with my second child in 2002 I was a little concerned because I knew what was coming. The first years with a child are so crucial and wonderful and I didn’t want to short change him even though my business was really thriving. I hired a staff of writers to take over VegFamily magazine so I could devote most of my time to my new baby, Kyle. It worked out very well. I was able to get my work hours down to just 5-10 per week during his first year, plus Steve moved out of the office and came back home to work which helped immensely, so we took turns caring for our child again. We both gave up working the 12 hour days we liked to work and settled for working 6-8 each.
Today both of my children happily attend school and for the first time in 6 years Steve and I can both work at the same time and neither one of us is on childcare duty. That actually took some getting used to.
I often wonder what would have happened if I never started VegFamily and was “just a mom.” I wonder what would have happened if I had never accepted that I deserved to express my soul’s purpose just as much as anyone else did. I wouldn’t have written two books. I wouldn’t be running the largest site in the world on raising vegan children. I wouldn’t have a thriving web consulting practice. And I most certainly wouldn’t be blogging and helping people find their own purpose in life.
But through it all… my kids always came first! I always put my businesses on the back burner until my kids were ready for me to focus more on working again.
If you are currently wondering, like Laura, how to live a purposeful life while still being a great mom (or dad), just remember that on a soul level, your children understand that you have a purpose just as much as they do. It’s okay to embrace your purpose while still making sure your children are loved and cared for. Just make sure it’s a purpose worth pursuing.