In California, I took a few portraits(sadly, not the family beach photos we’d hoped for) of Ruth and her kids. “Soooooo,” she asked, “are you going to make a business of this?”

“Not yet.” I answered. “Right now I’m like a contestant on American Idol; my family and friends have told me how great I am. But once I get out there and really try to perform my inexperience is going to show. But yes, eventually, I’d like to do that.”

“Good.” Ruth paused long and pensively. “But don’t start a business or write a novel just to feel like you are an OK person. You are already OK. You are already enough.”

Unbidden tears sprang to my eyes. Ben had expressed a similar concern weeks ago, “Isn’t being MY mom enough?”

Yes and no.

Once we get past the hazy, crazy baby stage most mommies I know need something more. For some it is something that directly applies to homemaking: cooking, parties, a spotless house, home decor, gardening, scrapbooking— and for others it is something else: school, art, charity work, sports, church and/or a full career.

Many of my friend’s blogs are contemplative right now(it must be mid-summer), “How much time can I take for me?” “What is success?” and I was frankly surprised to see the author of a photography blog I stalk mourn her 29th birthday and the fact that she isn’t married with children. I would have thought running a camera bag business, traveling the world and being paid $15K just to bring her camera to your wedding would be enough. Maybe we’re all confused.

American women simply have so many options. If we were mothers struggling to feed our children in Africa we’d be happy with just a warm meal. But in our society that is constantly spotlighting superwomen who have babies, a career and manage to feed the children in Africa it’s hard to feel like tackling the laundry and getting spaghetti on the table is truly an accomplishment.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I certainly believe in the virtue of motherhood, but I also believe we can’t judge each other by how we choose to spend our time. My amazing friend Chelle is the PTA President at her local elementary this fall. Chelle is organized, intelligent and a natural leader. All four of her children are at the elementary this year which makes it an ideal season for her to serve the school. But upon her election, an acquaintance said to Chelle, “Oh, I would never be PTA President. I simply won’t take that much time away from my children.”

How unfair! If a mother isn’t the PTA president who will do the job? Someone’s grandma? A single girl in the neighborhood? If I need a doctor or a lawyer or someone to help me pick out new makeup I’m going to call upon a woman– I’m grateful they have honed their talents for my benefit.

Nothing is quite as delicious as snuggling with Gabriel. But since he won’t sit on my lap ALL day, I’m not going to stop taking photos or writing. I have an insatiable desire to get better at both. It’s doubtful that I’ll make a career of either one anytime soon and you my dear blog friends will continue to be the hapless victims of my learning curve.

Hopefully I’m not using writing or photography or motherhood as the measure of my self-worth. I tell my kids that I loved them the moment they were born; I love them just for showing up. Maybe it’s time I tell myself the same thing.

So how do you do it my friends? How do you balance your own pursuits and your family? What do we choose in this beautiful life?

July 21, 2008
July 27, 2008



  1. ashli

    July 23, 2008

    i think it all comes down to what you said in your lesson on sunday….love everyone (including yourself), study, and pray. you will there find what fulfills your desires.
    life, it’s a crazy thing, and luckily we have people and friends to help us along our individual and eternal paths.

  2. Katie

    July 23, 2008

    oh michelle… you are simply amazing! I am trying to figure out this balance thing and have discovered (though I am really far from figuring it all out) that everyone has their own strengths- some of my friends have energy to do much more than I can and hold it all together beautifully- and I have learned when I need to back off and say no- because energy is not one of my strengths! BTW- baseball is over… so I will call you tomorrow about those pictures (refugee and AJ’s) Thanks for your talents…

  3. Chelle

    July 23, 2008

    Wow, Michelle. You hit this one out of the park. You expressed your thoughts so beautifully about this tricky subject that most mothers struggle with.

    I’m linking to it. Hope you don’t mind.

    p.s. And you, dear friend, are more than enough. (whatever enough is)

  4. Chelle

    July 23, 2008

    And in answer to your question… I just keep trying, and stumbling, and trying some more.

    Also, I laugh, cry and commiserate my way through this journey with good friends like you!

  5. Heidi Jo

    July 23, 2008

    this was a great post. i’m a blog jumper from the amazing chelle’s:0)

    i hear comments like that alot, and sadly have been drawn into the competetive trap of using them myself.

    i think when we look to anything of this world to validate us, we will be disappointed. we are more than enough, according the bible. it’s when we take our eyes off of things above and start measuring up ourselves to things below.

  6. Annie

    July 23, 2008

    Yes, yes, yes. You articulate so well that aching need to balance these things!

    You *are* enough. Bless Ruth for saying that–we all need to hear that now and then!

    And it’s okay to reach for more, I think. It’s the blend of the “don’t hide your light under a bushel” urging (i.e., find your talents, develop them, rejoice in them, not be afraid to be excellent) and the “one thing is needful” Mary/Martha advice.

    I’ve decided that maybe the “one thing” that is needful changes moment to moment, day by day, year by year. Sometimes (most of the time) it’s mothering/daughtering/sistering/friending/wifing and other times it’s developing *me* as an individual, a soul. As an act of love for myself and my family and the world.

    Okay, enough from me already! Thanks for starting the discussion 🙂

  7. Lettie

    July 23, 2008

    I am Ruth’s sister-in-law and found your blog through hers. Everyone is right about your beautiful pictures. I really like what you wrote about here and strangely enough it reminded me of what I wrote on my own blog yesterday. Finding a balance that works for you and not anyone else can be hard because we often are such harsh judges of each other. I think you are a very gifted writer (as is Ruth) and you appear do be doing well with you family…even with so many boys! (I have 2 of my own – some days are just all day headaches!) I look forward to reading more and seeing more pretty pictures. And if you are ever in need of some kids to photograph, I don’t live too far away. 🙂

  8. Christie

    July 24, 2008

    Just had a conversation about this today. I think we’re being untrue to ourselves if we DON’T take time to develop our own talents, do our own thing, and fulfill our own souls. We don’t take from our children by doing this; we enrich them. They get the benefit of a happy, well-rounded mother completely and utterly fulfilled.

    Guilt be gone. You can do what makes you happy AND be a great mom that’s there for her kids.

  9. emily

    July 24, 2008

    you are so right, michelle. i don’t know that i’ll ever feel like i have balance. photography for me though, was/is my outlet. it gave me “me” back again. i think it’s important, at the end of the day, that our children know that we love them. and that’s enough. we don’t have to be supermom. we just have to love. them and ourselves.

  10. Darlene

    July 26, 2008

    I know people like that woman who “can’t take that much time away from my kids.” I hope she feels peace about her decision and is not deep down feeling a need to defend herself because she feels threatened. For me (and I guess now it’s my turn to defend myself, feeling threatened–why do we do this to each other?) I feel it is healthier for my kids to know that they aren’t the ONLY thing I do. I’m raising boys, and I want them to be the kind of husbands who want their wives to blossom personally as well as spending attention on the kids.

  11. go boo boo

    July 28, 2008

    I love this post. We had the Ballard conference talk lesson yesterday, which I believe emphasizing the need for women to develop their talents and take “time off” and what not. Everyone has different skills, abilities, energy levels, tolerances, and talents, and choices that make us unique. And I love that about us.

  12. StubbyDog

    July 28, 2008

    Lovely post Michelle.

    I think it’s all about continual reflection, you know? What makes me happy today may not do the same tomorrow. I know enough about myself to know that I thrive on change (as does my husband)…so my challenge is to provide that for us while still providing stability and security for the kids.

    For now I work and I enjoy it. I constantly question whether I’m doing what I want to be doing. Some days the answer seems more clear than others.

  13. Brooke

    July 29, 2008

    i always think that the idea of “having it all” has really done us a disservice… if we don’t “have it all” sometimes we feel like we have nothing.

    but finding the balance is so difficult. i love your insight.

  14. Elizabeth

    July 30, 2008

    I found this from Chelle’s blog.

    Thank you for being so honest and open about this topic.

    I think women, in general, seem to struggle with feeling they are enough. And I loved what you said about each of us not judging each other for how we choose to do things. There is not just one right way, I am sure of that.

    And I loved what you said about loving your kids just for showing up.

    The balance dilemma is so hard.

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