Pursuing Your Dreams While Encouraging your Children’s Passions
Every loving parent experiences personal sacrifice while raising children. First, we sacrifice sleep, then daily necessities, and ultimately lifelong dreams all for the sake of our kids. Many of us delay goals in life, encouraging our children’s dreams while neglecting our own. Then when our kids are grown, we’re left with a longing to pursue our abandoned dreams, but not knowing how to start. Why can’t parents nurture their dreams while encouraging their children’s talents?
Before I had children I started a novel, then tucked it away for 10 years while raising my four, wondering when the time would come to dust it off and start writing again. Then my youngest turned 2, and I couldn’t wait any longer. Looking back, it might have been easier to slowly work on my book those 10 years instead of diving back in head first and struggling to balance my new passion with the needs of a husband and four kids.
Whether your children are toddlers or teens, if you’re ready to pursue a new career or passion, I’ve learned a few things that can help your journey.
Share Your Dreams with Your Family
For years, you’ve selflessly taken care of your family, and they probably don’t know you once had dreams of your own. Now’s the time to have a heart-to-heart about your goals and why you feel now is the time to start pursuing them. Ask your family members how they feel about it and if they have concerns. Chances are they’ll be worried about how your new dream pursuit will affect them. Assure your family you’ll still be there for them, but also share how their day-to-day life might change. Don’t be afraid to ask for their help. After all, you’ve been sacrificing for them for years. Now they can return the favor. And don’t forget to include them in celebrating your successes.
Set Realistic Goals
If you have one child, you may be able to devote a lot of time to your dreams, but if you have several, then you’ll need to take a harder look at what you and your family can realistically handle. Ages of your children also play a factor in goal setting. Are they able to do more household chores like doing their own laundry, cleaning their bathroom, or occasional cooking? If so, you could use the time you used to spend doing these tasks to pursue your dreams.
If your kids have you running around town most days of the week driving them from one activity to the next, then use your time wisely and take along a project. Why spend precious time sitting in the lobby of your daughter’s dance studio counting the floor tiles or playing “Words with Friends,” when you can use that time to get you closer to your dreams?
Continue To Encourage Your Children’s Dreams
When I started writing fiction again eight years ago, I didn’t abandon my soccer/stage mom status to focus on my own career. Instead, I continued to support my children in music, theatre, dance, sports, and their other interests. Though at times, we’ve had to focus on one family member’s dreams more than the others, they’ve all had their share of successes which include lead roles in community theatre, scholarships to Barthelmes Music Conservatory, first place ribbons in the Tulsa State Fair baking competitions, appearances on PBS’s Raggs the Dog and a feature film, callbacks for a Disney audition, and my oldest son’s recent win at Disney’s Hollywood Studio’s American Idol which entitled him to skipping the first round auditions in Oklahoma City.
I’m often asked, “How do I do it all?” The short answer, “I’m not sure!” Unfortunately, my children can’t do everything they want to do. Even if we had the time, with four kids, we couldn’t afford it! But by taking each activity as if comes and weighing whether or not it’s something our family can commit to, everyone is satisfied. And it doesn’t hurt to have a helpful husband who doesn’t mind sharing the carpool load.
Embrace the Detours
Let’s face it, you’re still a parent and even if you’re working towards your goals, if you had to make a choice between helping your child or following your dreams, you’re going to be the one to sacrifice. These detours are a part of the parenting life. Don’t fight it. If you do, it will be more painful for everyone. Instead, relax and enjoy the detour.
One of my favorite detours occurred last summer when I drove three hopeful sons to a Disney audition in Austin, Texas. I wasn’t really looking forward to the long drive, but decided to plan some fun for myself, which included a visit with my sister and brainstorming with a writing buddy. I didn’t expect my sons to make call backs, and when they did we had to scramble to find a hotel, putting my writing plans on hold yet again. But, it was a precious time and experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Banish the Negative
What if you’ve shared your dreams with your family and friends and they just don’t understand? While their lack of support may be a major detour, you can find people to encourage you and help keep the dream alive. If you don’t know who to share your dreams with, search online and locally for people with similar goals and continue educating yourself until the time comes when you’ll be free to pursue your dreams with your family’s support.
Just because you’re a parent doesn’t mean you gave up your dreams. The passion to pursue your dreams might have waned a little in between wiping runny noses and carpooling to soccer games, but when the desire stirs, you don’t have to squelch it until your kids are grown.
It may not be easy to pursue your goals while raising your children, but it is possible. And after seven years of trying to find time to write and finally holding my first book in my hands this year, I can say that the hard work is worth it. Besides, what better way to teach your kids how to reach for their dreams, but showing them your example of patience and persistence?
Gina Conroy used to think she knew where her life was headed; now she’s learning to embrace life’s detours. After seven years of dream pursuit, she held her first novella, Buried Deception in the Cherry Blossom Capers Collection, in her hands and recently contracted her first full length mystery with Stonehouse Ink. Gina founded Writer…Interrupted to encourage busy writers and chronicles her triumphs and trials as she pursues her dreams while encouraging her family and others to chase after their own passions. Gina loves to connect with readers, and when she isn’t writing, teaching, or driving kids around, you can find her on Facebook and Twitter, or pursuing her new passion — ballroom and swing dancing!