I've been working on this since the beginning of the year, when we attended short marriage seminar one evening, and the therapist mentioned the importance of life goal.
She talked for an hour about strong marriage techniques, and I kept thinking check check check. I've been really blessed to have an awesome marriage, but honestly my husband had no other choice. I was very clear if we got married, we were having nothing but the best. I wasn't marrying him to end up miserable together, or waste my life away while he made bad choices. That might sound harsh to some, but I had a lot of really lofty goals, and I was giving those up when I married him. (He never asked me to give them up, but I'm all in person, and I would have been a crappy wife with those goals, and it wasn't fair to ask him to be an awesome husband if I was going to be a crappy wife.) And, because of that, I was up front and honest with him. I wanted to be his best friend for life, and because of our personalities I knew we would barely even talk in 3 years if we didn't get married. True, I was madly obsessed with him, but any marriage is taking a huge chance, and I don't go into things to fail, so I was really clear about that with him. Since we had so many conversation about that, maybe he brought up himself, I think it set up for the foundation of a strong marriage. We had pretty much decided to get married when we started dating. We knew if we started dating we had two options, marriage or losing our best friend. At the same time, I think we had already built our lives so we gave each other windows in our lives, and built door and walls around everyone else, so even if we didn't start dating we still only had those two options. We still dated for three or so months, before we were engaged for three or so months. We were both apprehensive about the huge commitment we were about to embark on.
Anyway, back to present. As the therapist talked, we were slightly bored honestly. Then she got to level 6 out of 7 in The Sound Relationship House, "Make Life Dreams Come True". By the way she was trained by the Gottman Institute. (If this picture is confusing, you are not alone, I've spent 6 months researching what all that means.)
I started crying, and then try to stop myself from crying in public. I didn't want anyone to think Brent was a crappy husband, because he's the best, but I had no idea what my life dreams were.
I was in a bad mood the rest of the weekend, I was so lost on my dreams I couldn't even bring it up with Brent. That happened on Friday night, I told Brent by Sunday afternoon. I tell Brent everything, so the fact that it took me almost two days to talk about proves how lost I was in my own thoughts, I couldn't even come up with a way to say it.
In Brent's defense he has been nudging me to find dreams for years, but I always told him, no I'm here and now, and I want to focus on my babies, because one day they will grow up. In fact one of the main reasons I wanted to have a third child is because I didn't want to find my own goals. I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that, but its true. (My other reasoning was I thought my daughter was a big sister not a little sister.) Those might be silly reasons, but I couldn't imagine my life with out all my kids, and I would have always been waiting for the two youngest even if I wasn't afraid of my goals.
My only saving grace through all of this was the therapist saying, the more effective and organized a person they less likely they are to have life goals. Which totally makes sense to me, dreamers always seem disorganized to me.
I spent months going through multiple stages of grief about my lack of goals.
For a while I was annoyed the Lord for messing up my goals. I felt like anytime I did set goals life changed and it didn't happen.
For a while I was annoyed at Brent because I thought he monopolized goal conversations. Which is very true, but that's because I wanted him to, and let him.
For a while I wondered what was the point of goals.
Its been a really hard process, its been a really up and down process, sometimes I'm elated dreaming in a way I haven't dreamed since High School, and sometimes I was so down because how could I know what I could accomplish in life.
I think I've finally made peace with the process. For one setting specific dates does not work for me, it only sets me up for failure not success. I know dates are really helpful for some but they are more flexible than I am. Super specific goals are not helpful, but general plans are.
A few weeks ago in church, I had this epiphany. I realized the Lord did not steal any of my goals from me, he knew what my plans where, and he said be patient. Watch and see, I'll take what you want, and turn it into more than you can ever imagine. I really think a lot of women have a tendency to lose themselves in a bad way when they are serving everyone else in their lives. And although serving others make the Lord happy, losing our sense of identity does not. He loves us individually for who we are, and if we don't know who we are, I believe that makes him sad.
Things I thought I wanted to accomplish after high school:
- Go to college
- Go on a mission
- Get my undergraduate degree
- Go to Law School
- Live in a big city
- Make a difference in the world
- Travel a lot
Now after this past year of wrestling with the Lord about my goals. I realize my goals in high school would have pigeonholed me to a specific place, but he has taken what I thought I wanted, and given me so many more possibilities, and I've still kept what was truly important to me. I really feel like practicing Law in a city would have gotten me until I was 30 or 35 and then I would have said now what? (Law has such a high turn over rate, of people quitting.) But instead my life is super wide open I can pretty much do anything, and I feel like as the years go on I will truly have it all. I use to think that was a dumb idea, that you could have it all. You can't have it all at once, but I really feel like one day I'll have it all.
But before I got to that point, it was a lot more discouraging, when I first started thinking about goals again, I thought I've failed. I didn't go to Law School, I have no interest in going anymore.
I can not stress enough this is completely a me problem, not a marriage problem. Brent has been super helpful with me to accomplish my goals.
Some of my goals he pushed me towards:
- Years ago before we owned a house, before we had ever taken on any debt, he encouraged me to apply for internship with a politician, he told me he would take an extend family leave of absence from work and take care of the kids. I ended up not doing it, because I had an nursing infant at that time and I decided it wasn't actually the goal I wanted to purse. I know my husband is the working individual and I stay at home, but I actually put a lot of emotional effort into buoying him up and encouraging him to extremely successful in his career. He rocks at job interviews and as far as I can remember has never had a boss that doesn't like him. I decided I cared more about his career than my political experience that would cause us to go broke. The following year he instead went and did his MBA, something I fully supported and pushed him to do.
- When we bought this house, he wanted to move to a different town, after the realtor spent two days showing us houses, she asked what we thought, he said, lets go back to the one in _____ ____, that's the house my wife wants. I looked at him with the hugest confused smile. I was trying to not be emotionally attached to a financial decision. I had not told him what house I liked because I knew it wouldn't be what he liked, so I was surprised that he knew without me saying. Now years later, I think of course he knew. He knew me. We had been looking at houses together since before we got married, of course he knew what neighborhood I liked. (His favorite house wasn't the best financial decision. Considering we are planning to sell in the next year or so, this was actually the best financial decision because a house this size in this neighborhood sell fast and the price has gone up quite a bit. Sure the house he liked was bigger so we could have stayed longer but even with a bigger house he would have been restless by now.)
- All the he time encourages me to figure out what I need to do to go to Law School. I've told him for years, I truly have no desire to do that anymore so please stop encouraging me. Then he replies what do you want to do?
- This fall I figured out. President Benson suggested it, and I realized YES! "First, take time to always be at the crossroads when your children are either coming or going--when they leave and return from school--when they leave and return from dates--when they bring friends home. Be there at the crossroads whether your children are six or sixteen. In Proverbs we read: "A child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame" (Proverbs 29:15)." I knew I wanted to be at home when my kids were under four, but I didn't realize I'd still wanted to be home when they were 14. I always thought one day they will be in school and I'll have 7 hours a day to figure out what I want. Except that's wrong, when Ike is in 1st grade, J will be in 9th! That's high school?! Say, what? I knew I wanted my kids spaced a bit, but I didn't full comprehend that.
- I felt good for awhile, then I started flipping again because what happens when I'm 47 and Ike moves out? That's only half my life. Its weird to think I'll only have kids at home for 26 years. A couple of Sundays ago I realized the dreams I had forgotten about. I was thinking the only goal I've accomplished was getting my BS in Political Science. But there are other ones. Like travel. I liked Brent because he was interested in traveling. We've seen lots of the US, and other countries too. Going to Mount Rushmore was a life long dream of mine. Brent encouraged me to plan that trip, I tried to cancel the trip and he didn't let me. I had also been planning Ft. Lauderdale for 7 years. The reason I hadn't been on these before is because of my youngest babies. I started planning Mt. Rushmore four years ago, plus a whole lot of other places it was going to be a 2 week car trip, and my husband said you are miserable in the car when you are pregnant, you have to decide if you want a baby or this trip. It was a tricky question, I considering putting off the baby for another year, but I eventually picked baby. And we did plenty of traveling in those four years, like Costa Rica and El Salvador. El Salvador was my pick not his.
- I haven't yet lived in a big city. Unless you count Salt Lake City. Which to me is a little big city, you get a lot of the amenities of the city, but its still small and you can live in a house. I loved all the urban aspects of downtown and taking my kids to museums there, all 20 minutes away not an hour plus. I enjoyed taking the train into town with my husband and kids. Sometimes without the kids. I actually love Salt Lake, and we've talked about moving back. But I'm not sure that will happen. Which is fine. (Salt Lake is not Brent's favorite location but if he had a job he was excited about we would consider taking it.) We tried to move to Madrid. We tried to move to London. We tried to move to Medellin, Colombia. All big cities, all would be a dream come true, but each time work said no for one reason or another. (London, someone was better qualified.) Sometimes the dream is the important part. People thought I was just supporting Brent with Medellin, but I was actually super excited to live in a big city with my family. It is cheap enough that we could have afforded a Nanny, so we could have experienced so much of the big city life and not been worried about our kids. She could have helped me in public with four little kids in a country I don't speak the language. Its one of the up and coming travel destinations now that its not so dangerous. People don't always believe us, but to us its like going to Chicago, which we have both visited. Sure there are neighbors where a white couple with their four kids don't belong, but there is some great tourism in mostly safe neighborhoods. If you don't count Salt Lake, I've never lived in a big city, but I don't think my opportunities are up. Brent and I have more dreams up our sleeves even if it takes 30 years to accomplish.
- Make a difference in the world. Hopefully I am doing that. Years ago I didn't think stay at home moms made a difference, now I completely disagree with that thought. The mom that helps out in the classroom with the kid who needs more help then the teacher can provide with a class of 20 (that is not me), she is making a HUGE difference in the world, I could go on with countless examples. Right now I'm pretty focused on making a difference to my husband and four kids, because I do honestly think being an awesome wife and a good mom are the most beneficial things I can ever do. There have been jobs a headhunter have asked Brent to apply for, and even though I try to encourage him to have a great career, I've discouraged him from, because I think his family relationships would suffer. Not to mention there are so many way to make a difference as a SAHM beyond your own kids. No matter how you spend your days, your circle of influences is so much bigger than I realized as a teenager. There are so many ways Brent has encouraged me to make a difference, too much to list.
- Go on a mission, I've struggled with this since they lowered the age. We have had a lot of sisters in our house talk about what a blessing it was for them to serve now they are younger. Its been tricky for me. I'm happy for them, but its still hard when that is the dream you had longer than any other dream. I've realized even if the age was 19, when I was 19, I probably still wouldn't have gone. That's when I was busy falling in love with Brent, and like I said, I don't think we would have been friends in 3 years if we didn't get married. I know me, and I know him. But Brent is perfect and always dreams with me about our future missions. During the World Report in between conference he looked at me, and said lets serve a mission in Africa. Deal, I was just thinking that.
But I think four is good.
- Be around for the crossroads of my kids, which do not go away when they are 18, I do understand that. Both my mom's and my mother in law's house are pretty busy terminals, and my grandma's house has seen plenty of action over the years.
- Make a Difference
- Serve a mission or more
- (A goal I set for Brent when we were dating was to make lots of money so your wife can travel. We spent a lot of energy planning for retirement, so I think that should be added to my list. The piece of paper is still in his scriptures.)
- I don't want to volunteer in the classrooms when my babies grow up. I don't like elementary school kids, I don't like noisy environments. (Funny about the big city huh? Different kind of chaos.) I don't like feeling like I'm a babysitter, and I don't like hugs. A friend of mine said she likes to volunteer in the school libraries they always need help. Awesome I could do that.
- For a while I thought maybe I wanted to teach secondary school history. I actually think I would really love that, but that conflicts with the crossroads goal. So unless something happens so Brent can't work full time, I crossed this goal off my list. This is my back up plan. But as my kids get older I would love to volunteer or work somewhere that is a historical museum or something like that. That is actually what I really want to do at this point. Or political in nature.
- I've had the plan to learn Spanish for years. I'm terrible at working at it, over the summer I took mini Spanish lessons on my phone everyday. Since school started I haven't been able to find the time.
- Once all my babies are in school, I also have been heavily thinking about volunteering in food bank. That thought actually terrifies me, I'm not sure I've ever even been in a food bank. But isn't that the point of dreams? Every time I hear about food and poverty I think I want to help. So many of these include the phrase volunteer, is it easier to make a difference if you aren't trying to make money?
P.S. Law School is more a symbol than what I really wanted. I can't remember not always wanting a second degree, and a career. But the specifics changed over the years. In Middle School I really wanted to be Psychologist. Not a therapist, but like Dr. of Psychology. In High School I decided I'd struggle with depression if I was always hearing people's problems, so at some point I switched to wanting to be a lawyer. I'm awful about internalizing people's lives in my heart. Its one of the reasons I'm prone to depression. So you may wonder why I picked Law next, because I never wanted corporate law, that never interested me. I considered Family Law, that seemed like an obvious transition from psychology, but I thought instead criminal law was better suited for me. Why? I don't know I was a teenager. I liked the idea of being a District Attorney, fighting to make sure people's rights were upheld. Even if they broke the law, everyone has rights. Which is the same interest as Political Science, when my first two kids were babies I wanted to grow up and be a lobbyist. I think I scared people when they asked but only for issues you care about right? And I said, no, who ever wants to hire me. In my mind its very similar to being a DA. I think I've out grown lobbying. I'm not sure what career I'd want if any...
I want to teach kids about history. I love history, or politics, I love teaching/talking political philosophy. (But not arguing politics, I hate that. Arguing and discussing are so different to me.) I've now realized if you want to make a difference in the world children are where its at. I don't like too much news, but I do like history and political theory/philosophy. My favorite professor was not most polsci students favorite, but I loved his course so much.