Encouragement for the Goal-Resistant Mother

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Family Goal Setting

At the beginning of each year, my family of six gathers to make New Year’s resolutions, scratching them on 8 ½ X 11 white space under headings of each member’s name. This year my eldest, having already written her resolutions in perfect block print, brought them down from her succulent themed bedroom. My husband already wrote his as well, but chose to include a few on the family resolution page. When my turn to discuss resolutions came, I spoke honestly into the room, “I don’t know. I know I need to make a few resolutions but I just don’t want to be disappointed when I haven’t achieved them at the end of the year.”

My high-achieving, Type A humans blinked back at me, uncomprehending. I half-heartedly proposed, “Get in better shape?” “What steps will you take to achieve this?” my husband encouraged. “We could write down some benchmarks.” “I don’t want to,” I honestly responded. “In my mind, I have a plan but I just don’t want to write it down.” Hoping to encourage the children, I shared a few more generalized goals before my son took his turn.

A Goal-Resistant Mother

My 30-year-old-self loved goal setting. Now, at 40, it just makes me tired. I am a driven person but something about writing down goals feels stifling to me now. What if I change my mind? What if something unexpected happens this year?

When it comes to family goal-setting, I feel every bit a stay-at-home creative in a family of achievers. I’m surrounded by those motivated by competition. I am adrift in a sea of productivity.

After dinner on Sundays, our family spends a few minutes discussing the week ahead. This brought on yet another fish out of water moment for me. “What’s on the agenda for you guys?” my husband asked. One by one the family shared upcoming tests, tournaments, deadlines, and presentations. Then, it was my turn. “Well I get my haircut on Monday and Grace gets her 2nd COVID shot on Tuesday. Bible Study. Writer’s group.” I did not share my long-standing, stubborn appointment with the washer/dryer that was bound to last for hours.

Setting Intentions

I was feeling a bit discouraged after our last Sunday evening meeting when I ran across this quote by high-achiever Jacqueline Novogratz, an American entrepreneur.

“Sometimes the most important things that we do and that we spend our time on are those things that we cannot measure.”

It seems that certain seasons of motherhood, especially for stay-at-home moms or moms-of-littles, are marked by the immeasurable. When the small, inexhaustible tasks of laundry, cooking, grocery shopping, calendar keeping, and classroom volunteering are the events that engulf your day, it becomes difficult to answer the question, “What did you do today?”

Often I answer, “Well I’m bone-tired but can’t recall all I’ve accomplished.” The truth is that I completed thousands of small tasks that will most likely need to be done again tomorrow. My weekly calendar may not be full, but my hands are always busy.

For mothers, like me, who are discouraged or hemmed in by “goal-setting,” a better alternative might be setting intentions or a “word” for the year. I have chosen the word “Savor” for 2022. 

Savor (verb): To give oneself to the enjoyment of

While this word has a culinary connotation, I plan to apply it to many areas of my life. In 2022 I plan to SAVOR moments, food, and people. This will require putting away my phone, staying fully present—not emotionally and mentally “checked out,”—and honing my eyes to notice details.

As far as intentions for the New Year, I was struck by this quote by St. Therese of Lisieux

“Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”

St. Therese was well-acquainted with the mundane, tedious, and repetitive chores of convent living. Yet, she was able to find purpose in her daily callings.

The Future

In 2022, however broad, imperfect, and immeasurable this intention may be, I hope to “do small things with great love.” The changing of the sheets, the trip to the post office, the phone call to the bank, the filling out of the 1000th form, the feeding of the hungry mouths lurking in the kitchen, and the teaching of tiny lessons (“Now to start the shower you need to turn this knob.”) are all small things to be done with great love.

In the end, isn’t motherhood a thousand tiny lessons? We provide infinite, mundane acts of service that become so ingrained, so consumed by our children that they are unable to recall who first taught them or why they feel such stability.

Mothers, remember: you were there doing all the small things with great love. Who can measure such a calling?

 

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Sarah is a native Texan. Growing up, if she wasn’t in a tree channeling her inner Anne Shirley, she was riding her bike on adventures through Texas pasture land. Sarah fell in love with her best friend Tony after they shared an on-stage kiss in their high school play, Arsenic and Old Lace. Together Sarah and Tony attended Baylor University where Sarah received her undergraduate and graduate degrees. Sarah practiced as a speech therapist for several years before moving to Birmingham for Tony’s residency in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. After a brief stint in Jacksonville, Florida, Tony and Sarah moved back to Birmingham where they now live with their four children, Sophia (age 11), Vincent (age 10), Luisa (age 6), and Grace (age 3). Sarah juggles managing her home and caring for her four children, while also pursuing her passion for writing. She is currently editing the manuscript for her first book, a memoir of her motherhood journey through Luisa’s diagnosis with Rett Syndrome, a rare neurological disease that has left her daughter with multiple disabilities. Sarah believes that life’s contradictions are merely an invitation. Her writing focuses on the intersection of faith with brokenness, and the extraordinary beauty that can be found in the ordinary days of motherhood. You can follow her on Instagram @morlandt1201 or read her writing at morlandt.blogspot.com.