We have all had moments when someone says something that “sticks” with us and makes a long-term impact. One such moment happened to me years ago when I hosted a committee meeting for an organization I had been involved in for years. The women in attendance flashed smiles at my then two-month-old infant daughter as she sweetly cooed in the bassinet. I noted that by the end of the meeting, each woman had made a comment that directly or indirectly referenced how she missed the days when her children were little. Several also mentioned how the years they spent raising children had gone by so fast.
From my vantage point at the time, I could not imagine their assertions were true. Life with two young children was exponentially fuller. I was in the midst of living on little sleep, struggling to carve out time with my three-year-old son and husband while taking care of an infant, wondering if I had ingredients to make some sort of dinner, keeping up with laundry, and so much more. In addition, my daughter had medical challenges that added layers of concern and focus. Every part of my being absolutely LOVED being a mom to my young children. It brought me deep joy to my core, but those days required all of my attention. And energy. It was honestly a struggle to keep up with everything.
After the meeting ended and the other committee members left, the president of the organization asked me if I had given thought to how I wanted to be involved the next year. I felt guilt knowing how I needed to respond.
I first shared how much I had enjoyed being involved and having the opportunity to be in leadership. I then followed with how I was sorry to tell her that I needed to step back and devote more time to my family.
Her response surprised me.
She told me to not feel sorry as life is made up of many seasons and I had simply moved into a different season. After sharing her story of the changes she made in her life when her children were young, she encouraged me to fully embrace my new season and be grateful for the one I was leaving behind. This wise woman told me to trust that every season brings new things and experiences, and one day a season may bring me back to this or another organization, but my focus should always stay on my current season. She also shared that years ago someone she respected had “given her permission” to bow out of an organization and embrace her season of being a mom, and she wanted to do the same for me.
She was not literally “giving me permission” but merely letting me know that it was okay to do what was right for me in the season I was in — focus time and energy on my young family. I appreciated her compassion, care and willingness to be authentic with me. I needed to hear her words more than I realized at the time.
In the years since, I have kept the concept of moving through different seasons and the awareness of how things change in each season top of mind. This “permission” has helped me stay more present, fully participate in and enjoy each season of my life.
I have experienced several life seasons since the conversation with my wise friend years ago. For me, some seasons have been easier to transition from and to than others. I have recently entered a new season of being an empty nester. My memory of the women reflecting on how fast the young years went by and how much they missed the time when their children were little hit me hard. What seemed unfathomable then is now my reality. I find myself thinking that my friend’s “permission” is just as relevant and important today as it was then.
As I give myself “permission” to figure out what is right for me in my new season, I would like to follow my friend’s lead and give each of you the same “permission” to embrace your current and all subsequent seasons in whatever way feels best to you. May this “permission” allow you to stay more present, fully participate in and enjoy each season of your life.