Permission to Shine: Liberating Ourselves While Empowering Others

June 05, 2007

The other day I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. During the course of our conversation, I mentioned that I had returned to school part time.

“Good for you! That’s wonderful!” she said. Then a wistful look passed over her face as she confessed, “I’ve thought about going back to school for my master’s, but I just don’t know how I’d do it right now. When do you find the time to study with all of your kids?”

“When do you find time to quilt and travel, to do the things that you enjoy with all of your kids?” I replied.

She understood my point—anyone can make time for something they really want to do. Many people, whether they’re avid golfers, readers, shoppers, volunteers or gardeners, regularly find ways to pursue their passion even in the midst of life’s unceasing demands.

As we parted, I thought about my friend’s reaction and those of many of my fellow stay-at-home moms when they learn I am a college student. Typically, they express astonishment and admiration that anyone would try to take on schooling at this stage in life. But I also seem to detect a tinge of envy, an unspoken longing to follow their inner dreams as well.

When I first entertained the idea of going back to school, I was reluctant to nurture myself because I was afraid of being selfish. But as I have thrown myself into my studies, I’ve discovered an interesting paradox. Giving myself permission to explore interests outside of my mothering role keeps my inner well filled, reduces feelings of resentment, and increases my sense of self-worth—thus making me a happier mother. Making peanut butter sandwiches, tidying the house, and cleaning bathrooms doesn’t seem so menial if I’ve immersed myself in writing a well-thought-out essay or analyzed a stimulating poem sometime during the day.

At times, pursuing a degree with a handful of kids at home seems illogical, but I believe author Marianne Williamson’s statement: “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” When my friends and family ask me how school is going, what they really want is permission to pursue their own giftedness. I can only hope that my passion and perseverance lights a liberating torch within each of them, illuminating the promising path ahead.

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