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Although the lifestyle choices for women in our modern society are broad, motherhood has not lost its allure. I believe that it calls to most women at the deepest levels of their beings. As their bodies are biologically designed to procreate, many women experience the influence of their biological urges to have babies. However, in modern culture, women no longer have the one option of being mothers as the generations before us had. Contemporary women have choices and often struggle to find the balance between being a mother and being a fulfilled and happy woman. Although these two titles often intersect, mothers today are more and more aware that they desire more.
But after they've had their babies, then what? The tricky thing about motherhood is that it can be all-consuming. Many women transform from being independent and self-thinking individuals into a person whose primary aim is to serve the well-being of her children. It's so easy to lose sight of who you were before you became someone's mother.
My life changed a lot after my son was born. Before his birth, I was often volunteering my time at group homes for girls and working at teen camps. I also spent lots of time with friends and family doing things I loved. I trained for and ran several marathons, as running was something I'd done since I was teenager. Much of these passions went by the wayside when I became a mother. It occurred to me not long ago that I'd gotten lost in the maze that is motherhood.
Our children are not the center of our lives—we are.
I have watched countless moms attempt to untangle themselves from the needs and lives of their children, just so they can claim a little something for themselves. The experiences run the gamut—I've known mothers who've waited until their children completed high school before they allowed themselves to pursue another activity, as well as those who have learned to ask for lots of help with child care and a strong community. I've also known mothers who have invested all their time and energy into being moms, only to feel lost and abandoned when their children leave home.
Let me be clear: I'm not discussing the pros and cons of being a working mom versus a stay-at-home mom, because every mom is a working mom in my view. The issue that concerns me is that women's desire to fulfill their potential, and the reality that motherhood isn't a gratifying identity, are not treated with any seriousness by our society. I have not ever met a mother who is completely fulfilled and satisfied by being a mother. Ever. Usually sooner than later, the desire to express creatively in some form or fashion rears its head. And yet we still question what is "wrong" with women who want an adult life that involves adults. When a man runs for office, no one asks about who will care for his children.
As I have a child with special needs, I think I'm a strong candidate for the sole role of mother. But I'm seeing for myself that I can no longer stay lost in motherhood. I believe our children need to see their mothers thriving and joy-filled, separate and apart from them. Our children are not the center of our lives—we are. Let's make a commitment to start viewing motherhood as one choice among many choices that help women live full and dynamic lives. This is a good place to start.