I can remember riding home in our car on the way home from a fertility appointment. We were countless doctors appoints in, thousands of dollars had already been spent, and we were eager to become parents. The journey had not gone just as we had imagined, but we were hopeful and still so giddy whenever we talked about our future child. I looked at my wife and made her promise that when we became parents we would always make sure to base our life and decisions around what brings us joy. “Life can be hard,” I told her, “Let’s choose joy whenever possible.”
Ugh … I know. That sounds like a super cliche millennial mom thing to say. But, hey I’m a millennial mom. And, to be honest, I’m also a little cliche … so this became my mantra. We give way too much of ourselves to people, things, thoughts, and experiences that drain our joy. When I became a mom, I wanted more joy, not less.
Does this bring us joy?
If the answer is no it does not bring us joy, then we have learned that it isn’t worth the investment of time and energy. Life is short. Parenting is hard. Life tries to pull us in a million different directions. We are surrounded by the expectations of grandparents and friends and even each other. When it comes to navigating all of these entanglements, we make as much of an effort as possible to center our joy and our experience as a family.
Like many of you NOLA moms, I was raised to be a “good southern woman.” I have spent most of my life as a people pleaser, trying so hard to make sure everyone around me is as comfortable as possible. In the past, this sense of hospitality has created a history of putting myself, my wants, and my desires second. We are told that choosing joy for ourselves when it means disappointing others is selfish and self-centered.
But, then I had kids, and I became a mom. And, I realized that raising children is so hard, so I was darn sure going to make sure that we reaped as much of the magic as we could along the way. Choosing to enjoy my parenting journey (even if that means disappointing others along the way sometimes) has been a beautiful gift to my children and my wife as much as it was to myself.
I learned it’s ok to be a little selfish with my family time … especially in these early days when we are setting our family culture. We are so lucky that we have so many family members and friends who love our boys and want to be involved in their lives, and these relationships and the memories we make with our loved ones bring loads of joy to our lives. We have Disney trips planned with both sets of grandparents in the next year, but that first Disney trip … that one was all ours! We host and attend playdates multiple times a week, but if we are hankering for some family of 4 time, we have no qualms about spending an entire weekend at home in our pjs playing trucks. We split holidays and make sure our boys know both of our families because that is important to us, but we always make sure to base our travels and celebrations around what works for our family first. And, we’ve learned it’s ok to enjoy some of those things with just us four without having to make apologies or excuses for it.
We have learned that if an outing, an event, a playdate, or a family holiday steals more joy than it gives, it’s ok to say no.
I’m so thankful for that pledge and to be married to someone who works so hard to honor it.
I’ve spent the majority of my adult life as a slave to others’ desires and views of who I was and who I should be. I refuse to let motherhood continue the cycle, and instead, I choose freedom. Not just for myself, but also for my boys, for my marriage, and for this sacred space in time we are so blessed to inhabit. Choosing joy is not selfish. You don’t owe anyone your children. You don’t owe anyone your family.
But, you do owe yourself as much joy as you can soak up in this one wild and beautiful life we have been given.