Want to control—or even eliminate—selfishness? I have the perfect solution! Have a baby!
I know that sounds a wee bit like an Oxyclean commercial, but there’s truth to it nonetheless. Before I had MaKayla, I was consumed by my dreams. A natural “hustler,” I stayed grinding. I had dreams of becoming an internationally-respected writer. A dynamic educator. A successful entrepreneur with the capacity to bless people in Oprah-like proportions. Every small thing mattered to me because…well, it only impacted me. I didn’t have to consider anyone else’s feelings. Even marriage, with all its collaboration and compromise, doesn’t quite facilitate the kind of compassion and selflessness that’s required when you have a little person staring back at you all wide-eyed; needing you to be present for them. Before, I stayed in hot pursuit of my destiny and was determined to ride my ambition into the sunset of my life. But as of two years ago, as I spent what felt like an eternity breathing and pushing, pushing and breathing, everything… changed.
I said “Hello, love. I’m your Mommy” to my brown baby.
And she looked back to me as if to say, “You don’t have a clue as to what that means.”
My dreams are now intertwined with and interdependent on those of my husband, yes, but even more so, on the future I’ve been privileged to write for my child. Any pursuit I embark on today requires me to consider the impact on her—to weigh the good and the bad of the undertaking. Get a phone call to speak at a conference? Before parenthood, I’d be giving my hubby a kiss and jumping on the first thing smoking—no problem! Today, it’s a process. How far away is it? Can I drive there so I can get back to her? Can she come with me? If I do bring her, can hubby get off work? If he can’t, who will watch her while I’m working?
Yet, one of my biggest acts of selflessness, born from giving birth you could say, extends beyond finding a sitter or deciding if I can get an early flight home from a speaking engagement. It has to do with the dream itself. There are many, many things I’ve written, things I’ve said in the past that, had I’d been a mother at the time, I would have likely not expressed. That “let it all hang out” poem I wrote back in the spoken-word, neo-soul iteration of my life? Probably not. That “I’m going to straight cuss you and cut you” rant about an ex expertly disguised as an essay on relationships? Nope.
Nowadays I’m constantly considering whether I would want my child to hear (or read) me in a particular way. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t regret anything I’ve written as all of it was reflective of the seasons I’ve lived through, but today my first thought when I sit down at my laptop is what is the word legacy I want to leave her?
This certainly doesn’t mean I hold back from talking about (or writing) the hard stuff. No, there will come a time when she will see that, although Mommy was conscious of her words, she was still strong and said what she felt led to say. At least I hope so.
But who thinks about that kind of thing beforehand? It wasn’t until I became a mother that I find out that life, the one I’m shaping for myself, the one God is shaping for me, isn’t really all about me at all. Oh, the horror! 😉
God has made it (as He is accustomed to doing) so that my former selfish ambitions are no longer an option for me. When it comes to my dreams, the tunnel vision I prided myself on for so long has now become a four lane highway filled with other cars. Those cars represent the other people I must consider as I still try to navigate making my dreams come true. Sure, the “traffic” in my head and heart can sometimes get congested, but I revel in one awesomely good thing…we (baby girl, me, and hubby) are all going the same way.
So it is a good thing. Even when I find myself missing those neon lights only I could see pointing down from the Heavens on me and me alone. LOL! I’ve come to realize that this transference, this new way of being, is just another tool of my Heavenly Father used to shape me into the woman I am becoming. I am the woman that JHud so passionately embodied in the DreamGirls song:
I am Changing
Trying every way I can
I am changing
I’ll be better than I am
Do I still write and speak with passion? Yes, of course. But guess what? My pre-baby books have nothing on the ones that will come later. All because the very definition of passion has changed for me. Passion for me now gives more than it receives and yet receives with such an intensity that every moment is a treasure. The returns of such selflessness are amazing. By learning and loving my child and my husband, I now take the time to explore and examine all the nuances of people I would have likely ignored in the past. I appreciate life’s small discoveries and share them willingly and often. This, I’ve found, has given my work more depth, more complexity, and ultimately, more impact.
So it all works out.
Tracey Michae'l is a writer and educator based out of the Philadelphia area. She is a wife to William and a mother to a beautiful two-year old little girl. You can find her on the web at www.traceymlewis.com.