What happens to a dream deferred? Here’s what aging moms everywhere should know about attaining personal goals while raising children. Moms should know that it’s not too late.
I haven’t watched much television this year. Balancing motherhood and a freelance career has taken me away from some of my favorite leisure activities–screen time included. While cutting back has resulted in increased productivity, I recently yearned for a small taste of This Is Us. Since it’s debut, I’ve coined it as my favorite television show. Blame it on innate empathy, but I’m a huge sucker for the sap. The story lines. The raw emotion. Every episode has me on the verge of crying–often times swimming in a puddle of tears.
Although I didn’t catch This Is Us during its original airtime, I treated myself to a few episodes. Wondering whether to start from the first episode and binge or just pick a random one, I landed on “Our Little Island Girl.” Wait. Is this episode what I think it is? An entire 60 minutes on Beth Pearson’s backstory? Finally. I’ve been waiting forever to see the evolution of Beth’s Black girl magic. And an added bonus–my favorite TV mom, Phylicia Rashad, is Beth’s mother.
Since the episode aired a few months ago, I’ll spare the long-winded summary. However, the underlying theme of the “Our Little Island Girl” episode hit a nerve. We [the viewers] learned of Beth’s past ambitions and the sacrifices she’s made along the way as a wife and mother of two beautiful children. While Beth’s character, portrayed by the talented Susan Kelechi, had recently been laid off from her job, we discovered through her backstory that dancing has always been a dream long deferred. Beth is highly educated. A great mother. A supportive wife. A trailblazer in business. But dancing has always fed her soul.
While it was great to see the evolution of Beth Pearson, a little voice whispered to my soul: You too, are Beth Pearson. A lot of moms are Beth Pearson.
Last year, I turned 37 and I was an emotional wreck. Although I was grateful for an additional trip around the sun, I wondered what being on the right side of 30–and inching ever-so-closely to 40–really meant for my professional and creative endeavors. I was overly ambitious in my teens and twenties, but I knew that I hadn’t accomplished all that I set out to. When I was younger, I wanted to be a writer. I loved storytelling and I could articulate my feelings with pen and paper way better than I could with speaking.
And while I often used writing as therapy, I didn’t always have the confidence to let others read my work. I remember writing a piece in high school that garnered the attention of my English teacher. I had no interest in submitting the piece, but she (without notifying me) submitted the essay to a local competition–and it actually won first place! Ecstatic, I promised my teacher that she “hadn’t seen the last of me” and that “I was going to write a book someday.” Winning that regional Champions of Courage contest was confirmation that my words were moving, but as an adult I still couldn’t figure out how to write professionally. I just didn’t know how.
Instead, I became a teacher–and parlayed my writing skills into a part-time freelance curriculum and assessment writer. On this path, I dedicated myself professionally to helping young scholars become lovers of words–all while still writing and editing in some capacity.
After just a few short years, education proved to be rewarding, but very taxing. I left the classroom for freelance set teaching (instructing child entertainers on Broadway, film, and television sets). I enjoyed this non-traditional setting much better than conventional teaching, and yet you still constantly wondered what life would be like as a writer. Moms, it’s not too late.
Turning 37 brought about this fear that the window for accomplishing my dream of becoming a full-time writer had closed–especially since I became a mother.
Throughout my 20s and early 30s, I figured that if I hadn’t had the time to put into creative writing, there’d always be a chance to jump back into it later. Besides, the average age for a debut author is 37. I have plenty of time. At 37, I realized that I was now the average age of a debut author–and I was nowhere near authorship. A few essays and guest blogs, but not one book published. I had not put in the necessary effort to write creatively at all. Worse, I didn’t believe that I actually could do it. What ever happened to the young girl who discovered she had a way with the pen? She was long gone–or so I thought.
After having our precious rainbow baby, like Beth, I questioned whether it was just too late to accomplish some of my goals–especially being a writer. This feeling was new and it wasn’t something that I felt prior to having a child. However, after becoming a parent, I began to conform to the ageist expectations that society often places upon people–specifically mothers. I found myself saying things like, “Well, it’s just too late since there’s another mouth to feed” and “Following your dreams is just not realistic.”
Ironically, the funny thing about having a child is that it forces you to look at life through a new lens. This newfound meaning and perspective shined a light on all that I could be doing––not only for myself, but for her. Instead of thinking that having a child is holding me back, why am I not excited at the possibility to use my child as motivation for accomplishing my dreams?
Eventually, that’s exactly what Beth Pearson does. Naturally, there are huge obstacles to conquer: finding childcare; balancing her creative pursuits with family time; supporting her husband’s dreams while accomplishing her own; and proving to herself and others that age (and motherhood) are not the sole determining factors of success. However, even through all of this, she opens up a dance studio—all while championing Randall’s career and raising two children.
This summer, I’ll be turning 38. I haven’t authored a book yet, but I’ve been writing consistently for the past few years in hopes of attaining my ultimate writing goals. While my husband and I are entertaining the idea of having another child, I no longer feel like children (or aging) will prevent me from reaching these goals. If anything, my family is the catalyst for me pushing forward. Aging also gives me the wisdom and experience to drive my passions. When they see me working hard–waking up in the middle of the night to work on my passion–perhaps it will inspire each one of them to pursue their own dreams too. Aging and motherhood aren’t limiting factors. In fact, they are reasons to persevere. I want moms of a certain age to know that if it isn’t too late for me (or Beth), it’s not too late for you, either.