Your Kids & Your Job Are Not Your Purpose (And Other Life Lessons Learned From Play Dough)

I read a lot. As I read, nothing makes me happier than when I read two separate thoughts from two separate works from two totally different people and something just clicks. It’s that moment when everything comes together and your mind just goes from casually interested to totally blown. I had one of those moments recently when I read the following two quotes:

“Homemaking is not something that stands in the way of our deeper fulfillment; it becomes the ground that feeds it.”
-Shannon Hayes, Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture

“Let me make a distinction between career and creativity. Creativity is connected to your passion, that light inside you that drives you. That joy that comes when you do something you love. That small voice that tells you, ‘I like this. Do this again. You are good at it. Keep going.’ That is the juicy stuff that lubricates our lives and helps us feel less alone in the world…Career is different. Career is the stringing together of opportunities and jobs. Mix in public opinion and past regrets. Add a dash of future panic and a whole lot of financial uncertainty. Career is something that fools you into thinking you are in control and then takes pleasure in reminding you that you aren’t. Career is the thing that will not fill you up and never make you truly whole. Depending on your career is like eating cake for breakfast and wondering why you start crying an hour later.
-Amy Poehler, Yes Please

I’ve come to the conclusion that most of us have a seriously dysfunctional view of purpose, careers and motherhood. We view these three very unique things as one. Then, when purpose starts pulling at motherhood and motherhood starts pulling at career and we try to find purpose in our career and try to make a career out of motherhood, wow, do things get messy. And complicated. And confusing. And dissatisfying. And we just end up eating cake for breakfast and crying an hour later.

Or to use a visual analogy, it’s like my son’s recent play dough/leggo man creation. He can say that he mashed some stuff together to make it “one,” but we all know it’s just two totally separate toys that are crammed together, totally incongruous and dysfunctional.

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Here’s the thing. Careers are an inevitable part of life. You gotta make some money in order to live this life. It’s a fact.

Careers don’t make up a life, they are just a part of them.

Purpose, on the other hand, is that that ultimate thing you believe in. That thing that Poehler calls creativity. I know, I know, you might initially feel disconnected from this thought because you aren’t the “creative” type. But listen, I’m not talking about painting or knitting here. Creativity is that thing inside of all of us that makes us feel inspired. That makes us not just robotic money makers, but human beings with passions, inspiration and a zest for life.

Creativity is what leads us to discover our purpose.

You can have a job that just pays the bills and still have a purpose and pursue your purpose because, and here is the point we all get confused – your purpose in life goes beyond your career. Sure, you might be one of the lucky few who have found a way to align your money making (aka career) with your passions, but for most of us, our passion is the big circle that encompasses our whole life. Our 9-5 job is just one small dot in the middle of that circle.

And then…motherhood. Oh, motherhood. It bothers me when I hear women saying they believe in staying home to raise a family, but then worry that this choice will leave them purposeless when the kids grow up and it’s time to get a job again.

The problem is that we keep taking the metaphorical leggo toys (career, motherhood) and jam them into the metaphorical play dough (our purpose) and stand back and say, “I know technically they are together but something just feels off here…” That’s become they aren’t one! We’ve just forced them together! That “off” feeling of frustration, confusion and dissatisfaction are the result of continuously forcing things together that, lets face it, are actually very separate things.

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Let me put it this way.

Purpose is purpose is purpose. You have the same purpose regardless of your job, your martial status, your family planning status, whatever. Your career and motherhood, then, are simply one of the many ways to showcase your purpose. Sound like the same thing? It’s not.

Let’s go back to the play dough analogy. When we try to make our career, purpose and motherhood one thing, I said it was like shoving toys into play dough and calling it one toy, even though it’s obviously not.

Instead, what I’m talking about, is putting the play dough, the leggo man, and all the other toys on the same shelf. In this analogy, your purpose is the shelf. It is the thing that encompasses, supports and frames everything else you do. It is the thing you still have even if the shelf remains empty. Even if everything is wiped away from your shelf, you still have the shelf. And, as you start to collect things in life (ie family, work, friends) they are all housed and supported by the one thing you’ve always got: your shelf (ie purpose).

So what’s the take away here? I think it boils down to just a few simple truths:

1. Tap into your creative self, that part of you that comes alive and gets inspired when you come in contact with certain ideas/activities/beliefs and figure out what your PURPOSE is.

2. Use that purpose as a framework for everything. Evvvvveerrrryyything. Motherhood. Careers. Friendships. Everything.

3. Know that satisfaction will come through funneling everything through your purpose, not trying to jam purpose into everything else.

For the sake of clarity, but at the risk of really just putting it out there, I’m going to take this one step further:

Your kids are not your purpose. Your job is not your purpose.

For me, my Purpose with a capitol “P” is to inspire and encourage those around me – especially other women. I act out my purpose in my mothering, in my jobs, in my relationships, in my every thing. But the thing is, if you took away all of my current responsibilities and relationships, my purpose would still be the same. This doesn’t diminish my role as mom, it enhances it. It sharpens it. But it also goes so, so far beyond it.

(Note: There is a difference between purpose and satisfaction. I was extremely satisfied working, and very sad when I initially gave it up to become a SAHM. But this understanding that I can act out my purpose in any situation has set me free to equally find satisfaction in every situation.)

So no, I’m not worried about what will happen after I’m done raising kids. I’ve allowed motherhood to be a “ground that feeds” my purpose, but I know that long after the last kid has been raised and the last bit of play dough dried up and thrown away, one thing will remain – my purpose.

Oh, and one final thing – everyone is always saying they are looking for their passion or purpose in life. But for most of us, we have passion. We have purpose. What we need is to stop looking for it, and start applying it. Apply your passion and your purpose to your work and your family. Don’t expect them to give it to you. Because, guess what? Their purpose isn’t to give you purpose. And it’s selfish of us to expect otherwise.

Tap into your creativity. Define your purpose. And live-it-out. Stop waiting for your career or your kids to define you. You’ve got your God-given definition already inside of you. It’s just dying to come out and rock your world.

3 thoughts on “Your Kids & Your Job Are Not Your Purpose (And Other Life Lessons Learned From Play Dough)

  1. Thanks, Bekah, for these reminders…and for framing Purpose in a fresh way for me! As I prepare to become a mother, this strikes me in a new way. Keep up the great/inspiring writing!

  2. I very much agree with your perspective. This is such an important point for all of us, whether we have kids or not, to remember.
    Monica
    P.S. Missed seeing you in yoga this morning!

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