By Melissa Ford
Years ago, I appeared to be living the dream: married to a nice guy, mother of two beautiful, healthy children, great friends and co-owner of a charming, old home in Oak Park. With all the strappings of the good life, I should have been happy, but inside I was pretty miserable. In my quest for answers, I stumbled upon The Option Institute, an international learning and training center for personal growth and empowerment. Intrigued by their program offerings, I attended a week-long workshop inspiring me to take personal responsibility for my own happiness. Upon returning home, I felt alive, energized and ready to sign up for their full-immersion, two-month program called (The irony doesn’t escape me!) Living the Dream.
Yet, there was one big obstacle: Motherhood
At the time, my son and daughter were four-years-old and three-years-old respectively. Needless to say, life was busy and full; it seemed impossible to even consider such a preposterous idea like a two-month furlough. However, I was not to be dissuaded as I schemed, planned and masterminded a complex yet workable solution that supported my entire family in my absence.
Then, I came across a more daunting obstacle: Judgment
Family members, friends, acquaintances and even people I didn’t know started weighing in on my decision. Sharing their concerns and judgments, I heard comments such as; “Don’t you think you need to consider your children first?” and “Now isn’t the time to invest in yourself when you kids are so young!” to “I’ve read reports that children experience traumatic injuries when separated from their mothers for extended periods.”
The message was clear: I was a bad, selfish, emotionally-damage-inflicting mother for even considering the idea of taking time away from my family.
Faced with gnawing self-doubt, I called in for backup, seeking support and a sound advisor: my mother - the one person who would listen with love - not offering advice or agreeing that life was unfair or trying to make me feel better.
She listened intently as I explored ideas such as, Was I wrong to want to go? Would my children be damaged? Was I really an evil, uncaring mom? Finally, when I finished enumerating all the reasons why I shouldn’t go, couldn’t go, and more than likely wouldn’t go, she simply asked, “Honey, what’s the biggest reason you wouldn’t attend?”
Without hesitation I responded, “Because I’m getting so much judgment! People think I’m bad for even considering this idea, let alone going. Maybe they’re right. Maybe, I’ll just wait another five or ten years until the kids are older.” She gently smiled, saying, “You’re right. People think you’re wrong and selfish for wanting to go. And, if you decide to go - they’ll continue to judge you. But, if you decide to wait another five or ten years until the kids are older - guess what? You’ll still be judged. As I see it, you’ll only be delaying the judgment.”
My mom was right - clear, insightful, spot on!
I attended Living the Dream, my children weren’t damaged and my personal growth made me a better parent. That was 14 years ago and the decision to trust myself in spite of others’ opinions changed my life. If it hadn’t been for my mother’s ability to listen with love, I would have never given myself such a grand adventure or learned such a powerful lesson.
On this Mother’s Day, I want to recognize all moms who want the best for their kids, encouraging them to fully live their lives!
And, I want to extend a personal thanks to you, Mom, for giving me the greatest gift of all - your love.