It's a loaded question, huh? I asked this question of my Face book Friends, my family members and Jamie Alston, who then sent it out to all the gals in her Queen Creek Babysitting Club. I have received numerous responses to this question, and the answers have truly WOWED me! Truthfully, I was expecting at least 75% of the comments to be "ME" focused--finding fulfillment by ridding one's self of one's children and focusing primarily on one's own goals, career, dreams, hobbies, etc..."filling my own cup" theory. However, I was surprised how many mothers found fulfillment by simply becoming better mothers--sacrificing MORE of their personal time and choosing to LOVE IT!! I was pleasantly surprised!! Also, many women had found ways to "kill two birds with one stone" (sometimes three!) by doing things that fulfilled them in more than one area (mental, physical, emotional, etc.).
I've thought a lot on this issue, and I've had EXTREME struggles finding fulfillment of my own--so, as I'm sure you all did--I laughed out loud when I heard the topic I was being assigned to speak on!! Of course it would be about the very thing I've struggled with the most and learned the most about this year ;-)!!
It's interesting how self-discipline plays such a HUGE role in self-fulfillment.
We are taught that happiness comes from making correct choices. If I am disciplined enough--or if I CHOOSE to...eat well, read my scriptures daily, pray and ponder privately daily, exercise daily, put aside time for: journaling, emailing, cooking and cleaning (laundry included) DAILY, and find a moment to squeeze in a personal hobby or college course and still leave plenty of time to taxi children around (or in my case, walk the children to and from school--approximately an hour and a half each day) and ensure they all have one-on-one time with me DAILY...I WILL FIND FULFILLMENT!!! WHEW!! Didn't that list seem exhausting??? Of course, I didn't add: teaching children instruments (piano, voice, trombone, etc.), teaching dance/sports courses for your children, taking children to and paying for dentist, doctor, and orthodontic appointments, and leaving at least 2-4 hours in the afternoon for homework help DAILY!! And you can't forget the extracurricular activities: gymnastics, city sports (swimming, diving, etc.), after school games or tournaments, trips to the library, or church calling preparation and completion. Also, this list DOESN'T include the extra work mothers often take on to supplement the family income--or the community service activities that are often added in order to help better the environment and governments in our local areas (which is strongly encouraged). Plus--you've got to throw in Family Home Evenings and Daily Family scriptures.
Sure--motherhood IS a matter of self discipline (scheduling, organizing, etc.)--without it, a mother couldn't possibly expect to get it all of this accomplished!! But, it's also about complete and total FLEXIBILITY!! If a mother isn't capable of dropping the calendar to rush a child to the emergency room, or cancel appointments due to a high fever or the flu, or go without sleep for one, two, three...maybe 10 nights...she may not only feel like a failure, but she may have a mental/emotional breakdown!!
I met up with a mother at my kids elementary school who was always stressed out--NOT because she had too much in her schedule, but because she had no schedule. She said that motherhood was always a chore because she had no discipline in organizing her time--she felt like she was always REACTING to what HAD to be done--instead of preparing for events ahead of time--continually scrambling like a chicken with her head cut-off because she chose not to plan better.
SO--we see the need to be organized AND flexible.
We also know that happiness comes from following God's commandments. I, in many respects, equate happiness with fulfillment. I think that I feel most happy/fulfilled when I am doing God's will--WELL! Mediocre obedience just doesn't cut it for me. It may for others, but I'm a die-hard perfectionist--which
SO--having realistic expectations and keeping God's commandments is KEY for emotional and spiritual fulfillment!!
One of the most essential things we may have overlooked is the fact that our relationships with our husbands is most important--right after our relationship with God! If that relationship isn't good, or if we're not feeling happy with each other or ourselves--we're not going to feel emotional fulfillment.
SO--establishing a good relationship with our spouses through: good communication, service, frequent affection (hugs, kisses, touch, and YES--sex), and weekly courting MUST be done in order to find fulfillment.
Although finances haven't been discussed either, I believe they play a HUGE role in our familial relationships (especially with our spouse). Learning financial discipline, and acquiring wealth (by this I mean simply having enough money to pay bills) can greatly enhance one's fulfillment needs. Unhappiness is DEFINITELY enhanced when bad financial decisions are made--or just when basic needs cannot be met because insufficient funds.
Diet and exercise are also important for one to find physical fulfillment.
Exercising regularly not only helps mothers to stay in shape, but it also feeds their self-confidence and keeps the husband attracted! YES--exercise tends to be the "extra" thing that gets cut out of the daily schedule, but depression and anxiety can be dispelled by a healthy rush of endorphins!! Also, eating well can increase your energy and keep you feeling well. Likewise, eating poorly can drag you WAY down, and make you feel like sitting in one place ALL day long!! I'm sure you all know what I'm talking about!!
The idea that "BEING A BETTER MOTHER" can fulfill many of our basic needs...is absolutely true!! If we are spending our time loving, teaching, nurturing, and fostering growth in our children...we inevitably feel growth in ourselves!