To the Woman Within the Mom

March: International Women’s Month. I feel incredibly proud and blessed to be a woman during this time in history, knowing that millions of women helped paved the way so that I could have the freedoms and rights that I enjoy as a woman living in America in the 21st century.

Moms are women first

In addition to honoring the sacrifices of the many women who suffered and toiled so we could achieve the level of equality that we currently have (and let’s not fool ourselves, there is still plenty of work to be done) I want to take this opportunity to remind us all that mothers are women first. Many of us women, upon entering motherhood, begin to lose touch with the woman within as we get caught in the midst of feeding, nurturing, educating, and supporting our children. Raising our kids is, of course, some of the most important and meaningful work that we can ever do in our lives, but I believe that it should not encompass all of our lives.

Is motherhood your purpose?

I believe that motherhood, while it can be fulfilling, is not meant to be our only source of joy and meaning, at least not for most of us. One of the many gifts we have received from the Women’s Rights movement is precisely the freedom to be able to say that out loud and to pursue our happiness and fulfillment in whatever form that takes for each of us, whether that includes motherhood or not.

Each of us has a purpose for which we were created, and I think that we are meant to find and live that purpose. Furthermore, because our children are people in their own right, they have their own life’s purpose, and our function as parents is to help them find their path, even as we pursue our own. They do NOT belong to us and are NOT extensions of us. They are NOT here to give us identity or self-worth. They are here on their own journey, and we have been gifted the privilege of being their guides.

If we turn our kids into our only source of identity, joy, self-worth, and fulfillment, then we saddle them with our expectations and judgments and thus rob them— and ourselves— of the opportunity to live a life of meaning and authentic joy. I am reminded here of a beautiful quote by Howard Thurman: “Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Can you imagine what the world would be like if each of us did this and helped our kids do the same?

What makes YOU come alive?

What I am suggesting here is, of course, easier said than done. It is not something that comes natural, as we are full of insecurities and fears, and we have been handed down many messages that conflict with the ideal of doing “what brings us alive.”

This is precisely why we mothers must continue to grow and develop ourselves as human beings, so that we have the strength and the wisdom to pursue our happiness regardless of what others think, do, or say. So that we can inspire our kids and other people around us to do the same for themselves. That is the kind of world I want to live in, and the one I want to help create. That vision is what brings ME alive!

I want to challenge you this month to begin thinking about what it is that brings you alive. Let go of the idea that to be a good mom you have to sacrifice your health, your wellbeing, your happiness. In fact, I think the opposite is true. Give yourself permission and begin taking small steps to bring more “aliveness” into the facts of your life. You deserve that, and your kids do too!

Dr. Raquel Muller