I am a dancer. I danced from the time I could walk and I taught myself as much as I could until I could have lessons, and then I spent hours each day in dance class and even majored in dance in college. I loved it. Dancing always fed my soul and made me feel connected with my true self and with God, and free to express myself like words could not. I always felt like dance could be much like the song of the heart, it could be sacred, like a prayer. While I did many other things well in order to get good grades or please someone outside of myself, dancing was one thing I could always get joy from even if no one was watching.
When I had my first child I stopped dancing. I still did plie’s and releve’s at my kitchen counter in our tiny apartment, and dreamed up choreography in my head while I listened to music, but I stopped making time to dance or going to classes. I told myself that the time for me to do those things was over now, it cost too much and it would be wrong to leave my baby for an hour to go to a class, even if it was with Daddy. My husband encouraged me to go but I feared I would be doing something wrong. And I was secretly afraid that I might love it too much again and not be focused where I should be, at home. I believed that if I gave all my time and energy to my family that my children would grow up happy and make the right choices. I feared if I took even a little time away, that wouldn’t happen. So I created a little box of limitations and told myself that to be a good mother I couldn’t do things that required me to leave my children for any amount of time, except if they were for my marriage (like going on a date) or for church responsibilities, but never just for me. I believed that if I tried hard enough, the hunger for those things would go away and I would find all my fulfillment in my home and with my children.
After a few years, that feeling had not gone away. I struggled with feelings of depression. I took a class here and there a few times. Always I loved it, even though I was less in shape and not as able to do what I used to. But I always felt a little guilty, so many years went by when I didn’t dance at all. My first 4 kids were boys and they had no interest in dancing with me, so I tried to find other things I could enjoy that I could do With them rather than without them, something I wouldn’t feel guilty about. But I continued to miss dancing and I felt a little angry that my sacrifices were not yielding the joyful life I hoped for. I asked God for those desires to be taken away, but they were not. I didn’t realize it was because God put those desires there. When my 5th child was born, a daughter, I wondered if finally I would be able to feel justified in dancing again, if she would want to do it with me. And when she turned 4 yrs old and said she would like a dance class, I finally allowed myself to make time for it. I started a little class and invited some of her friends and we danced together for an hour each week. And I started to discover something: Dancing blessed my family. Even if my little girl was not in that class it blessed my family, including the boys who had no interest. Because I was happy. I was creating and feeling free. I was expressing my soul. They didn’t know why I was smiling more and laughing with them and being more present but it didn’t matter. I was happy.
Since then I have realized that it doesn’t have to be dancing(though that is a favorite), but it is important for me to make time for, and not feel apologetic for, doing something of my own, creating, and feeding my spirit on a regular basis. My desires are important as are my children’s. In valuing myself enough to take a little time, it is easier to give to my children and appreciate their great worth too. God sent me here with many gifts and beautiful desires to create, and he didn’t tell me to stop when I had children. I am the one who told me that. And I was wrong. I was afraid because there is always the possibility of making mistakes and getting out of balance in how I spend my time, and I didn’t want to fail as a mother. But my boxes of limitation did not guarantee my success, though I thought I was safe inside them, in fact they were keeping me from living fully as a Joyful mother of children. I know now that it is better for me to dance and create and also stay connected to my priorities and inspiration to keep me in line instead of imposing false limits on myself to keep me from swinging to the side of selfishness. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to start dancing and creating in my life again and I feel that as I do, my children will be empowered also to become all that is within them to be in their lives, not just in their childhood and teen years but as they are parents and modeling joyful and purposeful living to their own children, on through the generations. I feel like God smiles when I dance now.
I still believe in putting family first. I still believe there is no role in life more essential and more eternal than that of mother and wife. I still have to guard against selfishness, and I don’t believe that I should ‘have it all, all the time.’ Motherhood does require sacrifices. But sacrificing myself and ignoring and squelching the inner voice that says ‘Create! Grow! Have Joy! Love and value yourself, too!’ is not a sacrifice that is good for me or my family.
Do you make space in your life to dance (literally or metaphorically)? What fears are stopping you? What boxes have you created for yourself? If you do invest time in yourself, what blessings have you seen in your family?