Shawni Eyre Pothier is the mother of five children between the ages of twelve and three. She received a bachelors’ degree from Brigham Young University and is an accomplished writer, speaker and presenter. Shawni is also in demand as an artist and photographer specializing in images of children and families. She and her mother, Linda Eyre, are the co-authors of A Mother’s Book of Secrets: Keys to Making Motherhood Memorable, Meaningful, and Magnificent you can also follow along with Shawni on her blog, 71Toes.

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Sacrifice and Balance

A couple weeks ago I was reading a friend’s blog talking about the “Motherhood Sacrifice.”

And she made me think.

As Mothers we do sacrifice things to “be there” for our kids, and for our families.

The word “sacrifice” sometimes tends to have a negative connotation to me. I’m not really sacrificing my better self to be there for my kids. I want to be there with them, as I’m sure most Mothers do.

Does that make us better?

I believe, resoundingly, YES! Motherhood pushes us. It helps us let go of things that aren’t important. Helps us cling to things that are.

But at what point is there a balance?

When I was doing photography I felt a new me coming out. I had a niche.

And I loved it.

Each time I met up at a photo shoot location with a new family my heart would beat a little faster. Seeing those families dressed to a “T” and knowing (from being a mother myself) how tough it must have been to get that baby napped and fed and dressed on time would be enough to kick me into high gear. I had to be on top of my game. If that Mom was willing to take the time to get her husband talked into a family photo shoot, get her baby napped early, take her kids from their sports, get them all spiffed up and show up on time to capture their family at that exact moment of time, I better sure as heck be on my game.

That pit of worry in my gut turned me around and got my adrenaline pumping. It got me into a groove that I felt like I could conquer the world. That adrenaline helped me cajole any grumpy baby into a grin and pull out the real relationships of those siblings. I loved the pressure, the pushing of myself to do something out of my comfort zone. And I loved to see the finished product: a family picture that froze that family in time. Shots that would capture how those boys loved each other, or how that big sister adored her baby sibling long after they were all grown-up.

Something happens in your heart when you are creating. And it feels good. And I believe it’s good for us. Very good.

Writing on this blog feels a little bit the same. Sitting at a computer and spilling out my thoughts makes me stronger. Gives me an outlet. Helps me grow that creative portion in me that could otherwise get smothered.

We all have something that gives us a rush…that pushes us. Whether it’s from organizing a big project to running the PTA to being a whiz at computer know-how to being the best laundress on the block, we all have things that push us and make us better.

So, again, where’s the balance? What do we sacrifice? Do we sacrifice a portion of our Motherhood to let other parts of us grow and develop? And in doing so, does that better person we push ourselves to become actually benefit our dear children because we are reaching outside of ourselves, pushing ourselves to new levels? We want them to learn to do hard things, right?

Or do we sacrifice building a better self by giving things up on the wayside so we can get down on eye level with our five-year-old and explain the wonders of the world? Or does that time we give to our children in and of itself make us into that better self? (I believe wholeheartedly that it does.) Is the sacrifice we make on both sides actually building us to be stronger and more full of love? Is there really a way to do both?

I love being a Mother more than I could ever write down and express on paper. But is part of being the best Mother I can be taking time for myself to do what makes me better? I don’t know that I would be my OWN kind of best Mom simply by being at home doting on my kids all day. I think being the best Mom I can includes doing things outside of motherhood, not just doting on children and shuffling them around to different activities.

For years my motto of Motherhood has been to “Be There.” But I’ve realized that sometimes “Being There” actually means having experiences outside of mothering enough that you understand what “being there” really means.

Last year when I made a choice to take a hiatus from photography I felt like I was giving up part of myself. But I’ve never looked back. Sure, I missed it. But the sacrifice I was making to my Motherhood was too much. Photography was seeping into of all the nooks and crannies I wanted to be filled with my family. But the time I had spent doing it made me stronger. It made me better. And I’m so thankful that I got to do that while I could.

Sure, there will be many opportunities for photography in my future. (And there are other Mothers who can do it all with ease and my hat’s off to them.) But will there be other possibilities for me to write down my feelings and record what my kids are doing right now? Will there be other possibilities for me to lay in bed and snuggle with my 11-year-old when she’s sad? Will my son just miraculously call me his best friend if I haven’t taken the time to really get to know him?

There must be a balance found between reaching outside of ourselves and being content. Our kids can feel that contentment…it oozes into family life and makes it stronger. So how do we find it amidst all that we want to do? There are sacrifices to be made any way we look at it. But sacrifice makes us stronger, right? We just need to figure out the right balance to keep ourselves balanced on this tightrope of Motherhood.

We have to conscientiously work to be the best person we can through balance and the GOOD kind of sacrifice…because really, can it classify as a “sacrifice” when we’re really gaining much, much, much more than we give when we are Mothers?

And that, I believe, in and of itself, makes us the best Mothers we can be.

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