I have a dear friend, Christie Gardiner who loved theater when she was younger. Not only loved it but was (and is) an extremely gifted actor and singer. Largely for cultural reasons, she internalized the idea that marriage and motherhood involved sacrifice (it does) to the point that she was "required" to give up everything that made her her (it doesn't). She let her roles as wife and mother define her goals.
Christie is not alone. So many women feel that way, in fact, that Whitney Johnson wrote about it in her book titled "Dare, Dream, Do."
"To my surprise, when I asked women what they dreamed of doing, many responded, 'I don't have a dream' or 'I don't know that my dreams are within reach.' Many felt that is wasn't their privilege to dream. This concerned me." (emphasis added)
What a tragedy it would be if we as women lost the ability to dream because of our roles. Here's the beautiful reality: We can "embrace the and" in our lives like my friend Naomi Watkins talks about in her online community, "Aspiring Mormon Women." We can be moms AND professionals, neighbors AND students, daughters AND humanitarians and any other sort of "and" because our roles do not have to limit either our dreams or our goals.
Dreams and goals have always been a part of my life. Some dreams have changed over the years. Some haven't. Certainly the specific goals have changed. Twenty years ago, I would have laughed hysterically if you had told me I would be heavily involved in politics and even hold elected office. I mean, how crazy is THAT?!
Sometimes our path reaches an end and then a new path must be chosen. For example, parenting children in their later teens and twenties is very different than parenting little ones. And that's OK! It would be weird and unhealthy if we as moms could not let go of our kids as they become adults. The great news is we can do many things and take many paths that all end in us having lived a full and fulfilling life while still keeping "first things first."
And my neighbor? Well, she wrote about her experience in her fantabulous new book "You Are The Mother Your Children Need." She describes her realization:
"It is not the right kind of sacrifice to give up on ourselves and say with a martyr's sigh that it is for our families. Showing our children that Mom doesn't matter is not the right and selfless thing to do...[God] did not make us to ask us to turn our backs on everything that makes us unique just because we became mothers ... In order to see what I'd lost, I began to investigate what pieces I felt I was missing and how I could get them back. I knew putting things back the way they had been would never work. There were some things that just wouldn't fit me anymore, and that was okay."
She has found a way to have theater and performance back in her life and her girls have found a love for it as well. Now she AND her family AND those of us in her community are blessed by her talents. Win/win/win.
You too have gifts and talents that can bless lives, no matter what roles you play. Now more than ever we need women to share their light with the world. Now more than ever, we need you to #EmbraceYourAnd.
Holly Richardson is a wife and mother to a large family. She also has a long string of "and" in her life — writer, speaker, student, activist, humanitarian, daughter, sister, neighbor, friend, woman of faith, Primary teacher, pajama pant sewer, cupcake decorator, social media marketing professional and as of Thursday night, stand-up comedian.