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From SAHM to WOHM
After a very long time being a Stay At Home Mother (SAHM) I knew a change was coming – a new season was on the horizon. This post tells you what happened and how I got over the line with a new outlook on my life. Transition happens to mothers too right?
It’s funny how your mind plays tricks on you. Like it or not, the fact that my mother died young always made me dread the thought that, one day, my young children might also lose me! My vision was to soak up those early childhood days, and be there for them for as much as I could.
This is why, waaay back, when I was first a mother, I made a strong commitment to delay returning to work until after my youngest began school. I was blessed that SB, my husband, whole-heartedly supported my decision to be a SAHM, even though his mother had returned to work when he was just a little-tacker. She was a Work Out of Home Mother (WOHM).
I have to say though, that when I was a mother-of-one, my noble decision to be a SAHM seemed to be a short-term project. I thought perhaps it might be five or six years before working again, maybe a little longer.
How naïve was I!
In my wildest dreams, I never expected we would have five children. But we did.
And I never imagined my child-bearing years would spread out over 12 years. But they were.
Which meant I ran a marathon of being home with pre-schoolers for 17 years! It makes me shudder to think of that. But it was the season we were in, and you just do it, don’t you?
Those years made me appreciate how difficult motherhood is. It’s a job that needs many qualities, including unending patience, constant love, a sense of humour, and plenty of friends to share the journey.
When Hilary, my youngest child, started kindergarten, I knew my pre-school SAHM days were coming to an end. I started thinking about the next phase of my life. SB was great, and encouraged me to think about options and possibilities. Always an early riser, I began to get up even earlier to deliberately write in my journal, read my Bible, pray, plan and prepare.
As I reflected, I had a thought that kept coming back to me again and again. Every day it would whisper in my head: “Surely there is more to life than being a mother of five great kids. Surely.”
I know being a mother is an amazing adventure. In fact, it’s a critically important job. But there is more. There is always MORE.
Here is how I worked out what MORE looked like . . .
Two questions came to my attention as I worked on a new vision for myself:
Question One: What is God’s purpose for my life?
This was a biggie. I had come to realise that between two important dates – my birth date, and the day I die – there spans my lifetime. It is my time to do the things God has prepared in advance for me to do. What were those things? How could I make a difference? Would my life mean anything after I was gone? How could I leave a legacy for my children?
Question Two: What would I do if there were no possibility of failure?
This is such an expansive question. It made me think beyond my own limitations, and ask with a little bit of excitement, “What do I really want to do?” What makes me get excited? Where do I want to make an impact? What are my strengths and weaknesses?
The answers to these questions tapped into some of my heart’s desires, and ultimately, what I was built for.
What does this mean for you?
Your response to those two questions will be different to mine. Once, I was a grief-stricken 16-year-old with no mother who called out, “God! Why me?”
My story, and my brokenness, are unique. And so is my purpose. My purpose can be described by my “personal vision statement”.
You too will have a back-story, and this is where you are special – no matter how good, or bad, that story is, God has a unique purpose for your life. It will be different to my purpose. He made you with a combination of gifts and abilities which are one-off. I don’t know what your life’s calling is, but I DO know your purpose is exactly suited to your experiences, talents and calling.
And I DO know, there is MORE than you think.
Here’s how I worked out my God-given purpose, by writing my own personal vision statement . . .
Dealing with Question One . . .
What is God’s purpose for my life?
The devotional book I was reading encouraged me several times to write down my personal vision statement. I kept avoiding the question. “Nah – don’t wanna do that today.”
But one morning, I took up the challenge . . .
During the weeks, I’d collected fave Bible verses in the back of my journal, and I went through and selected a couple that really resonated with me.
Proverbs 3:5, 6 . . . This one was good
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 22: 6 . . . But this one really got me going
Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
As I journaled about those verses, it hit me I wasn’t so concerned about “the children”. No. What I wanted to do was help mothers adjust to trusting God (the first verse), so they could benefit their children (the second verse).
It was a big realisation which has stayed with me. Essentially, it is about how God taught me to be a mother. I was without my immediate, and obvious, role model, so he showed me what to do, while providing other excellent role models. I became aware I’d been doing this – trusting God, for my kids’ benefit – all those 17 years.
The next step was to write one short sentence, my personal vision statement. Over the months I worked on some specific words. I prayed for guidance. I told SB my thoughts. And a close girlfriend talked it through with me. Interestingly, up until then I had always considered myself a Science/Math girl! This was a new direction completely. A change in my self-concept was going on.
I also remembered Question Two . . .
What would I do if there were no possibility of failure?
This vision had to be bigger than I could imagine myself, because I knew if I could keep it within my own reach it would be limited. It had to be so big that I could only trust God for the outcome. But it also needed to tap into the “inner me”.
So, this is what I came up with:
I want to offer hope and encouragement to women (especially mothers) in Australia.
Why did I add “Australia”? I knew I might possibly impact women in my own neighbourhood, but I wanted to take it beyond that. I couldn’t imagine how, as an inner-suburban mother of five, I could even begin to have an influence across all of Australia. That was the “trusting God” element. At the same time I was aware that for me to have credibility in the wider sphere I would need to do be active locally as well. It is an important aspect to remember. Nothing gets large without small beginnings.
Now I had my vision statement, what happened next?
Straight away, I used this statement, even in its initial stages, to make decisions. Did I want to put effort and energy into after-school programs, or Scripture classes? No – God’s plan for me is specifically to encourage mothers, then they impact their own children. So there was an instant practical outcome. It was amazing how that took the pressure off.
Then, a few short months after Hilary began school I was offered a job as production manager of a national women’s magazine. (There is quite a story to that part – I will tell it some time.) As time went on I eventually became the editor. And a little later, the magazine began distribution into New Zealand . . . and I had to change my vision statement to be even more broad!
It’s funny how your mind plays tricks on you. I never imagined when I was a young mother-of-one I would eventually have five children, plus an international impact.
Hilary recently turned 21 years old, and since she began school I’ve written for publications, in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and USA; I’m a radio host; I returned to University to study media; and I co-authored a book – you can get Part One of the new edition HERE. Most of the time I have worked on this concept at the local level also. Then most recently, I worked with an international aid agency, giving me the opportunity to encourage mothers both here, and in SE Asian countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.
And STILL I can say, THERE MUST BE MORE!
Over to you now. Your personal vision statement will not be the same as mine. But it WILL excite you as much as mine does me. It’s what you were made for after all!
Have you worked out your personal vision statement? What would you do if there were NO possibility of failure?
Let me know! . . . Scroll down to the Comments box