My son is conflicted at the moment. He’s struggling to make up his mind about what he wants to be when he grows up. He swings between astronaut, movie director and archaeologist and thinks he has to have decided by the time he’s 16. He’s 5.
In the midst of a contemplative stream of consciousness on this subject the other day, he turned to me and said “what’s your dream, mama?”
“Yeah, what do you want to be?”
“Um, I love the job I have”
“But what’s your dream?’
What an excellent question. And so appropriate when you’re young and have your whole life ahead of you. I was always a dreamer as a child. I’d be a famous writer or musical star, travel the world with all my riches…go on adventures, win prizes and be celebrated. Doesn’t matter for what.
Dreams became ambitions when I was a teenager. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do but whatever it was, I would be the biggest, best, youngest to do it. A success.
…so teenage me would have been exceptionally disappointed with adult me, who did not fulfil the ambitions of my delusions of grandeur. Because I did nothing to earn them. But that doesn’t mean that as an adult I am disappointed with my life, quite the opposite actually. I am delighted and grateful for my lot.
What of the dream though? The small boy’s question gave me pause for thought. I have no dream right now. I could not stand teary eyed on a stage in front of Simon Cowell and say “this has been my dream since I was a kid” because I don’t know what that “this” would be. And it is hard to dream, and more importantly, plan to realise dreams, when you are responsible for more than yourself.
I struggled with my identity and my focus for the first few years of motherhood, unsure of how my new role fitted into my expectations of myself and who I thought I was. I felt I had to have goals or a yardstick to leap. Project Managing Motherhood is just one post I wrote back in 2012 to try and express that. It has taken me a long time and a number of set backs to find myself in a place where I stop galloping ahead and instead can just “be” and be at peace with that. I think I have no dream because I don’t need a dream right now.
After we decided as a family to draw a line under trying to have another baby, I pared my life right back. I did this because I needed to. I had had many fingers in many pies but all my instincts were telling me to withdraw and retreat, so that I could heal and move forward. I shifted my focus internally to the heart of our family and my job, keeping things simple. Not over-scheduling and over-committing. Not giving of myself to other people outside of that immediate family circle or to causes. It sounds selfish but it was the right thing to do. I have a calmness and stillness now that had been missing for a long time.
But with that comes no dream. In many ways, a dream is born from a perception of something missing, a void to be filled. Right now my focus is being present in my life as it happens. I haven’t quite cracked that but I’m closer now than I’ve ever been. And I’m happy. What more can we dream for than happiness?
Maybe the big dreams will come back. I’d like to think that if they do, they’ll be goals this time. For now, little dreams like a Sunday lie in or a size 12 dress will be as ambitious as they get.