Motherhood is Not the Graveyard of Dreams

by Crystal Irby

Then God tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Remember why people love you. Take care of that person.”

I mean that not as a wife or mother, but as a being who needs things just because I’m me and I need them. I don’t know if that makes sense but it’s the only words I have. Sometimes as a wife, mother, woman, and person of color our care is a byproduct of taking care of others, like, “I’m happy if my family is happy.” And that’s just not true. There are so many people with happy, healthy, functioning families living locked inside of themselves. My happiness and my joy are mine and if it is dependent on someone else I will always be at their mercy. When I am healthy, when I am at peace, when I am writing, when I am progressing, when I am performing, and when I am with God, I am full of joy and I discover the path God has laid before me. I remember to have faith and just walk it. I discover my husband loves me without cause or consequence. I remember water has always brought me peace and clarity. It calms all this fire inside me. Long baths, the ocean, prayer, and words have always been things I wrapped myself in to keep me. They help me discover what I need and remind me to take care of myself. No one can take care of me like me. This isn’t about self-love. It’s about self-remembrance. This month I commit to prayer, water, words, silence, solitude, and moments (deep or shallow) all and only about me. I commit to sowing a seed of care within myself.

* * *

I wrote this journal entry years ago when the myth of motherhood was crumbling before me. In less than a year, I had moved from Los Angeles to South Carolina, gotten married, begun raising a teenager, and had a baby. 

I don’t regret those decisions. They were mine and I made them with a full heart. I missed my friends and the food, but I didn’t miss Los Angeles. I’d trade trees for concrete any day, but I did miss my dreams. Dreams I’d had since I was 15, that I held onto with tightly-clenched fists, fearless heart, and unflinching spirit. I missed knowing what I wanted out of life just for me. When I left LA, I was ready to open my hand and let the dream I moved there with fly free, but I expected something to come back to me.

Like every parent, I always want to be loving and attentive. I want to know I am doing a good job, and that the lessons I am teaching my children are being learned. Somehow that became my only mission in life. I was so preoccupied with being a “Super Mom,” that I forgot to show my kids who I am. 
I forgot that I learned more about the kind of woman my mother is and the kind of woman I wanted to be by watching her actions. I learned the value of hard work by watching her labor through 12-hour shifts. I believed in being fly with too much “swagga” because my mom is fly with too much “swagga.” Her motto is, “If you have class, you’re never overdressed because you wear the clothes, the clothes don’t wear you.” She always makes time for spiritual self care, which is reflected in her physical self care. I think of my mom as more than a mother. She is a woman who has wants, needs, desires, and feelings beyond her role as a mother. She is a great sister, politically astute, and loud as hell. 

Although my mom had a life outside of her children, I always felt loved, wanted, and like I mattered. My mother’s joy is predicated on her willingness to consistently evaluate her needs. She unapologetically makes space for herself in her life. This does not make her a perfect woman, but it has made her amazingly complete. 

This is what I aspire to be for my children, so they will be unafraid to follow their dreams. I also want them to believe they can do, be, and get through anything. I want my children to remember that I was more than just their mother. I want them to say, “She was an artist. She was creative and fearless. She never gave up on her dreams.” I do not want my children to think motherhood is where dreams go to die. I want them to know that motherhood is where dreams are born again and nurtured with support, dedication, and hard work. I want my children to know me as funny, free, and fly. I want them to see me as a good sister with unflinching loyalty to women. It is true that children change your life but they do not stop dreams. 

We do that to ourselves. 

When the walls of self-sacrifice begin to close in on you and the weight of the false image of motherhood begins to break your backbone, remember this: God gave us the privilege of discovering ourselves. Remember, nothing should ever die when we find real love. I wrote that journal entry as a constant reminder that it is okay to let go of dreams as long as we do not forget how to dream. We teach our children how to be through our being. As mothers we often get caught up in the “doing,” teaching children that we only acquire love by what we do, not because of who we are. Do not make motherhood the graveyard of your dreams. Motherhood is more beautiful, more sacred, and more precious than that. I challenge every mother reading this to find someone to hold your feet to the fire.

I challenge you to force yourself to dream.

Photo: Shutterstock

If described in hashtags, Crystal Irby is: #dragonslayer, #dreamconqueror, #lovelikeachampion, and #faithful (even scared out of her mind). She loves God, her family, food, shoes, good jeans, nice nails, fly earrings, and shoes, but not always in that order. Writing is her first love. Acting is her mistress. You can follow her on Twitter (@fineprintink) or Facebook (Crystal Tennille Irby). Visit her website at

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