While our kids played in the next room, my friend and I stood in her kitchen, sipping coffee and talking about our dreams in hushed tones peppered with nervous laughter, as if the very topic was somehow taboo.
Maybe even selfish?
“I feel like I’ve lost pieces of myself since having kids…” She spoke quietly, almost to herself, but her words echoed loudly inside my own heart.
I knew exactly what she meant.
I think in an honest moment, many of us would admit we do.
Motherhood, especially in those early years, can be an engulfing experience. It’s a deeply beautiful, life-giving (literally), and fulfilling role that some of us have always dreamt of, but there can be moments when it feels as if motherhood and the minutia of the day might swallow our identity whole. Like we’re constantly needed yet rarely seen.
We’re busy doing those million and one little things that we worry don’t matter, even while knowing, deep in our hearts they do. We teach, we train, we pray, we worry, we kiss, we rock, we soothe, we comfort, we’re filled up and emptied clear out 100 times in a day. We lose sleep and gain access to chambers of our hearts we never knew existed. We’re driven to the edge of our sanity and then pulled back again in one suddenly tender moment.
We ride that rollercoaster of fear and worry, pride and dismay, wonder and bafflement, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
We love our life.
We wonder about those pieces of ourselves that seem to have disappeared. Our audacity, our playfulness, our ability to dream. They don’t call. They don’t send flowers. They just slipped unceremoniously out the back door.
Will they ever come back?
As mothers we gladly make room for our children to play, to discover who they are, to explore their creativity, to try and fail. We tend and grow their dreams, teach gumption and courage, and we speak life over them…
So often forgetting that God still longs to do the same for us.
A common theme I hear from every single mother I talk to, one I was once painfully familiar with myself, is the feeling that we’ve “lost” pieces of ourselves somewhere along the way since having children.
It feels bittersweet.
It feels disorienting.
It feels final.
As much as we love motherhood, we quietly question if it’s become our main identifier, if it’s the only important work we’ll ever do, or if it’s the final act in the story God is writing for us.
We go through our days vaguely aware that there are dreams hidden away in the corners of our heart, but we aren’t sure if they’re big or too small and to be honest we don’t have the time to figure it out.
We’re afraid to look closely at those dreams, to name them, or to bother God with them. He’s busy… WE’RE busy. So we let fear and doubt keep us from chasing them down.
We learn to live with an ache.
Not for a different life, but a deeper life.
One where we’re fully awake to our unique gifting. Where we allow ourselves to believe that our dreams actually matter, and not just to us. Where we bravely pursue them in the middle of motherhood and our right now life, knowing that we don’t need permission, or a formal invitation, we need only to begin.
Five years ago I stood in my kitchen (because apparently the kitchen is where all my meaningful conversations take place now?) and I blurted out to a friend that I “wanted to write a book one day.” And then I laughed. I LAUGHED like it was some kind of hilarious joke. Because at that point in my life, as a stay at home mom with very young children and no “free time” to speak of, it honestly felt ridiculous, like I may as well have said that I wanted to move to Hollywood and be famous.
What a joke, right?
I wasn’t even blogging yet at the time, but my offhand “joke” struck a chord somewhere deep in my soul, shaking the dust off of a very hidden, very real dream to write. A dream that had always been there, but that I’d been too afraid to acknowledge.
It’s easier to leave those things safely tucked away in the peripheral of our consciousness, right?
Pursuing any dream is going to require quite a lot from us- it asks us to step out of our comfort zone, embrace risk, be vulnerable, put ourselves out there, learn humility and gumption, and to sit patiently within the tension of the creative process instead of struggle against it.
The thing is, I think God longs to partner with us in all of that.
This might seem obvious and trite to you, but for me it was nothing short of revelatory. I never would’ve admitted it aloud, but somewhere along the line I subconsciously decided that God didn’t really care about woo-woo stuff like “chasing dreams” and “making art”, or even beauty for the sake of beauty. (What can I say, sometimes I’m not very smart.)
Emily Freeman once said, “I believe, deep in my bones that we can’t separate creative work from spiritual formation.”
I’ve found this to be profoundly true of my own experience. In the last few years as I’ve woken up to my creative self and the dreams tucked away in my heart, as I’ve taken my place in the creative arena, every part of this process has been inexorably linked with my inner spiritual life.
I think that’s because God actually cares about this stuff, and when we start to care about it too, there’s an intimate fellowship with the Holy Spirit at work within us.
Moms, what would happen if we leaned in to those places that ache because they feel unimportant?
What if all those pieces of ourselves that feel “lost” or shoved away in a drawer marked “Inconsequential” are the very key to our own unique brand of creativity?
What if we allowed ourselves to believe that God cares about the dreams tucked way in our hearts even more than we do, because he put them there, on purpose and for such a time as this? What if we found the gumption to walk towards them with boldness and an unflagging joy?
How different would our story be?
Take heart today, mamas. If you find yourself in a season of feeling more needed than seen, know that you have not been left on the shelf. Know that you are doing important work.
Did you hear that?
You are doing important work.
Every diaper change that turns into a tickle fight. Every moment you linger on their cheek. Every nap-time showdown. Every trip to the grocery store that takes twice as long and is half as productive. Every tiny, tender sacrifice of yourself. You are doing important work.
If you find yourself in a season of limited time, opportunity, or energy when “pursuing your dreams” and “exploring your creativity” feels impossible, just remember that the thing about seasons is they always change.
And whatever season you find yourself in, there’s always meaningful work for you to do, because you are always you.
Amber Salhus is a wife, mom, blogger, house-flipper, comedy lover, and burgeoning farmer. She lives in the Oregon countryside with her husband, their two kids, and their ever-growing list of animals. She openly shares the adventures of dreaming big in the middle of motherhood, navigating the creative process, and finding the humor in all of it at ambersalhus.com.