One of the really good things about getting older is the wisdom that often comes only through experience. We go through different stages in life, and what seemed sooooo important at one stage can be almost inconsequential at another. Case in point: I had my son when I was 38, so as he was growing I often found myself at events or play dates with other mothers who were ten or more years younger. I remember some of them often longing for a night out – maybe dinner and the theater, or a weekend away, a little adventure or excitement away from the never-ending responsibility of a little one. Perfectly understandable, too – everyone needs to have to relax and have some fun, and there are not a lot of breaks with small children. That’s when I realized, though, that as an “older” parent, I was in a very different place. I love a nice evening out (still do!), love to travel, love to have a good time – but for me having fun meant watching my son slowly wake up from his nap and hold his arms out for me, with that beautiful smile. Or watching The Lion King for the 8th time. (I still can recite some of the lines from memory.) What I learned at that time was that my idea of fun had changed, rather dramatically. I also learned to pay attention to my inner wisdom that told me there was nowhere more important for me to be. Occasionally I had others (well-intentioned, for sure) remind me that I “needed to get away” or that “time out with the girls” was imperative if I was to keep my sanity. Most of the time, I would get away or take time off only to find myself impatient to get back to my little guy, who I missed more than the world if I was away from him for more than a couple hours! My husband, fortunately, was somewhat like-minded. We had both had our share of nights out on the town, travel, etc., and knew we would have them again. This time felt precious, and so Matthew became very portable and most times came with us, because that’s the way we liked it. On the occasional nights when we would get a sitter and go to dinner, we found ourselves ready to come home right after coffee, and be a threesome again. I learned some things about myself and my values during this time, and here are a few of them:
- Listen to your inner compass. We all have a guide within that will direct us to what is right for us at any given time. No one else really knows what is best for you, however well-intentioned they may be.
- Don’t miss the special moments. They pass so quickly. The thing I heard the most from wistful strangers who would stop to smile at my child in the park or grocery store was this: Enjoy this time. It goes so quickly. I am grateful every day that I paid attention to those words. Don’t get me wrong – I had my moments when the thought of playing Thomas the Tank Engine one more time was not a happiness for me. But then, one day, he no longer wanted to play Thomas the Tank Engine, and that time had passed forever. Now I’m so glad I was there.
- Nothing is more important than the people you love and who love you. Everything else is secondary. (This is self-explanatory.)
- Have your own life. Being a wife and mother has been and still is a top priority for me. I also know that it’s important for me to be my own person beyond those roles, and I have worked hard to do that. I value my close friendships, my interests, my work, and my physical and spiritual health, and I make time for these things. They are all components of who I am, and add depth and richness to my life. Having a rich life feels joyous to me, and I bring that joy back to my relationships. In the end, we are multi-dimensional creatures, and no one role is going to complete us always and forever.
I’ve written about the concept of being a lifelong learner in the past. I think it applies as much to one’s personal and emotional/spiritual growth as anything, maybe more. On that path, I’ve always find that paying attention to my inner compass never fails me. Call it your inner voice, intuition, your gut – what have you – but call upon it. It’s an available inner resource that can help you live richly.
Coach’s action step: Undecided about a decision or course of action this week? Take the time to get quiet within, and access your inner wisdom. What feels right to you, what is your gut feeling? Pay attention to the direction that is there for you.