2 Huge Reasons Why we Don’t Pursue our Goals: Our Significant Others and Our Children

I write today’s blog with a heavy heart because, frankly, it’s a heavy topic. I can rattle off 10 reasons why we are too afraid to pursue new goals and dreams, but they don’t get bigger than these two: We are afraid of how our path will affect our significant others and children. Heavy, right? I’m right there with you. The word “unpack” is annoying to me when it’s used this way, but appropriate, nonetheless – let’s unpack this together.

Afraid of how it will your partner

Let’s start at the beginning. Having “dreams” doesn’t necessarily mean a whole career change, uprooting your family to a different location, or draining the savings account. Dreams are different for everyone. Perhaps your dream is to cultivate a new hobby like gardening, attend two personal growth or professional development conferences a year, or go back to college. Whatever the dream is, it is likely to demand time away from your family. There is no way around it: Your dream will affect your significant other and children.

For some of us, if we share our dream with our significant others, they react enthusiastically and are ready to pick up the slack with the household responsibilities, kids, and all the other 87,000 things. More realistically, though, pursuing something new might threaten our partners.

When we excitedly share our ideas with them, they might internalize a plethora of thoughts at once: She’s excited about something that has nothing to do with me. I’m jealous of her excitement. Why isn’t she as excited about us? What does this mean? I wish I had something to be so excited about. Does this mean I will have to do more around the house? Okay, maybe that’s not a “plethora,” but you can see how that, while you are animatedly talking, your partner might be simultaneously going down their own path, too.

We know, though, that our excitement about something else is not a reflection of the homelife or partnership: It’s about pursuing something that excites us. This excitement doesn’t take away from our love for our children or significant other. It’s in addition to. We know that in our heads, but it’s often difficult for our partner to understand.

When I was in graduate school for my counseling degree, we learned about a concept called “homeostasis.” The actual definition is “a state of psychological equilibrium obtained when tension or a drive has been reduced or eliminated.” Equilibrium in the absence of tension. So, anytime we introduce something new, we are, in effect, knocking the equilibrium out of sorts. New can be threatening. This doesn’t mean that homeostasis cannot be achieved again, but it will take time for all parts of the system (significant other, YOU, children, other family members, friends) to find safety in this new setting. New can make us feel vulnerable. Your goals and dreams might be exciting for you, but it might take time for others to learn what they mean and don’t mean for your relationships.

Again, it can take time for your significant other to get on board. What’s really, really hard to navigate is a term I heard Rachel Hollis use, called “dreaming in the dark.” This is when you pursue your dreams, but don’t bring attention to it. Maybe you work on goals before everyone in the house wakes up, during your lunch break, or when the baby naps. You do it in a way that doesn’t inconvenience anyone. You are literally and figuratively dreaming in the dark: dark before sunrise and dark as in feeling alone. The thing is, you can do this, but it’s not sustainable. At some point, you will have to claim your dreams, stand tall, and proclaim that yes, you need this time to work on your goals, whatever they might be.

Dreaming in the dark is isolating, and it tears us apart. We doubt ourselves – our abilities, whether we should be doing this at all in the first place, or whether we have any value to bring. We say demoralizing things to ourselves (see my blog post about negative self-talk to work on this!) and consider quitting time and again. It is in the most isolating moments that we must reach out, or our dreams don’t stand a chance. You are the only one who can advocate for them. Only you.

There is a fine line, too, between tolerance and encouragement. At first, your partner might be tolerant of your pursuit, not really knowing how long this will last. Maybe he or she is waiting you out to see when you will give up or just tolerating minor inconveniences. Do we have a right to ask for encouragement on top of tolerance? I submit, yes, we do because we would give that to them, right? We might be threatened if the situation were reversed, but I would hope, as mature individuals, that we would encourage our partners to pursue their greatness, right? Therefore, we deserve the same. Not tolerance. Encouragement.

Afraid of how it will affect your children

I’m not going to sugarcoat this: Rationalizing time away from our children to ourselves can be tough. With our varied responsibilities with homelife, family, and work, it can feel like a heroic effort just to spend time fantasizing about what our dreams or goals are. To some, just fantasizing about something else feels selfish, as if we aren’t grateful for what we have. To put the wheels in motion to pursue those dreams, then, requires tremendous strength and cautious optimism amongst all the fears, doubts, and insecurities.

A colleague once told me that when she went on a conference for work, her family repeatedly gave her a hard time for leaving her kids… with her husband. Nope, she didn’t leave them on the street corner. She didn’t leave them with her cousin’s neighbor’s sister-in-law. Her children were properly cared for in her absence by their father, but that didn’t stop several people from making comments. My colleague explained that she felt guilty for taking the trip, even though her husband takes yearly fishing trips with friends, and no one admonishes him.

If we experience this much resistance and guilt for our paid jobs, imagine the self-flagellation we give ourselves for taking time away from our children for personal growth or to follow our dreams. Some family members will outright demean our dreams, while some of our guilt comes from what we perceive to be as implications. For example, one might tell you “You are spending a lot of time away from the kids and you don’t even know if anything will come from it.” Outright. That might be easier to handle that the implicit messages. For instance, if your husband says to you, “You will be home late Thursday night, too?” we might focus on the “too” part and hear This is getting old or You aren’t being a good mother. Your partner might or might not mean anything by it, but we load ourselves up with hidden messages because subconsciously we buy into that we shouldn’t be pursuing our goals in the first place. We have bought into that being a good wife/mother/partner equals a predetermined checklist.

I’m not saying it’s easy to not see our kids several nights in a row. It’s gut-wrenching, I know. Every time I’m away from my babies for even two nights, I feel like they look older or that they’ve grown when I see them again. I know intellectually that they were fine during those two days, but I feel sad sometimes, nonetheless. Sadness is progress. I used to feel tremendous guilt for going on girls trips, but now I only feel a little sad when I miss them.

Have you ever read that it’s good for us to show our children that we are pursuing goals? That we are modeling behavior for them? Both are absolutely true. Really, who could argue with those two thoughts? The problem is, that when you are the midst of serious guilt and hearing negativity from all sides (your internal dialogue being the biggest culprit), these are not consolations. Even though I know them to be true, they still make me roll my eyes a little bit. Even though I know they are true! I know it’s excellent that my children see my entrepreneurial spirit and me meeting with clients, but it still nags at me at times.

We aren’t perfect. We are all works in progress. It’s okay to feel this myriad of emotions, but it’s critical to work through them instead of them stuffing them down and not talking about them. You know nothing good comes from that – likely, a two-scoop hot fudge sundae.

Bottom line: Here’s how we can work through this. Logic is gonna be our best friend here. We must accept that every person pursuing something else is afraid of 87,000 things, is often riddled with doubt, and plagued with insecurities. Entrepreneurship, developing new goals and hobbies, and seeking anything new, is not for the faint at heart. Those feelings are a given, then. Can we accept that to be true?

So, now, if we accept that it is normal to have those feelings, then, we must ask ourselves: Are we going to let those feelings get in our way of improving ourselves? We tell our children that it’s ok to be nervous, but they must try anyway, right? Guess what? The same applies to us. We must put on our big girl pants and plow through the feelings. It’s ok to be afraid, doubt yourself, and feel insecure. It’s when we let those feelings impede our growth that they become a problem. See the difference? No, none of this is easy, but we are in this together.

Plot twist: Instead of letting our partner and children be the reasons we don’t pursue our goals, what if we make them part of the reasons why we do? BAM! {Drops the microphone and walks away.}

Did today’s topic resonate? Do you have these fears, too? Comment below!

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As always, thank you for reading!