‘I have 7 children. They do not give me purpose and meaning. My world does not revolve around them.’: Mom finds meaning beyond her children, ‘I will not burden them with being my universe’

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“I am a mother. My children are not the center of my universe.

I love being a parent. It is the best thing I’ve ever done and I’m so grateful I’ve had the opportunity to birth, parent, love, guide, and get to know these incredible people I am honored to call my children. Being their mother is fulfilling in so many ways.

But they are not the center of my universe. My world does not revolve around them. They do not give me purpose and meaning. As much as I love them, my children are not my world.

They are a part of my world and I am a part of their world, but they are not my world.

They inspire and motivate me, don’t get me wrong. They are a huge priority and often, they come first because they depend on me. When they are very young in particular and helpless, they certainly are a bigger, more pressing part of my world, but even then, they aren’t my purpose and meaning. Parenting involves sacrifice. I’m very aware of that and willing to do so. I have and will continue to make sacrifices for them. They are incredibly important to me. I would do anything for them.

But I will not saddle them with the burden of giving me meaning in my life. I will not burden them with being my universe, my world. The responsibility for my happiness and sense of purpose is on me, not my children. It would not be fair to them to have that weight. I want them to see me living with purpose and meaning that isn’t dependent on them — includes them, yes, but not dependent on them.

My mother dedicated her life to us kids. Whatever I think of her parenting choices, I know she was motivated out of love. My brother, sister, and I were her world, the center of her universe. She told us we gave her meaning and purpose. Everything she did was for and about us. We were her everything.

Which was completely overwhelming. Being the meaning in someone else’s life, their sole reason for existing was too much pressure. What if I wasn’t worth it? What if I failed? What if my life choices made her regret hers? Would she feel like I had failed?

Later, as my siblings and I became more independent, we watched as my mother floundered. The center of her universe was moving away from her. Because, appropriately, she wasn’t the center of ours. I struggled with feeling responsible she didn’t know what to do with herself. I didn’t know where to put her energy and attention. She needed us to give her purpose and focus. We were her world and we were moving away from her. Her world moving on without her seemed to make her desperate and in trying to keep us, she stifled us, and we moved even further away, faster. I graduated high school at 15, moved away out of state at 17, and was married at 18.

My father was fine with the transition. He had other focal points in his life: work, music, working on the house, cars, and friends. The gradual process of becoming an empty nester was just fine with him. He had more money, time, and energy to pursue his other interests. My mother was completely lost. Even when we were teens at home, she clawed to retain the meaning and purpose we kids gave her. She was lost and lonely and bored without us needing her so much. She had no outside activities that really required her attention because she had put everything into us kids.

Initially, this was why I didn’t want to be a mother. I knew I couldn’t do this. It scared me to think if I had children, they had to be all I cared about, all I lived for. That wasn’t what I wanted for myself and having lived it as the child, I didn’t want to do it to someone else.

My mother loved us very much and I am so grateful for her love and deeply appreciate she loved us so much. But I wish we hadn’t been the center of her universe. With so much riding on us, the threat of her world collapsing was on our shoulders.

I would play over and over in my head what would happen if I died, imagining freak accidents where all three of us kids would be killed. I stressed about my education and career choices because disappointing her was potentially destroying her world, wasting her life, robbing her of meaning and purpose. Disappointing mom, when she had done so much for us, was huge.

I wanted something different for my children, so when I saw others who were wonderful parents but didn’t make their children their whole world, I thought maybe I could find a way that worked for me.

I wanted my children to see I have a purpose outside of them, passions and interests that aren’t dependent on them. This became more important to me when I had daughters of my own. I had never heard a father say their children were the center of their universe, their children gave them meaning and purpose, their children were their world — only mothers. I had heard many, many, many mothers say this.

When my siblings and I left home, it nearly destroyed my mother. It took years for her to really find something she was passionate about that inspired her. It was a caregiving role again; she raises and trains guide dog puppies and she’s really good at it. Those dogs are her world.

My children are not the center of my universe. My world does not revolve around them. They do not give me purpose and meaning. As much as I love them, as much as they inspire and motivate me, my children are not my world.

They have seen me work to balance my passion for them and my passion for other things. They have lived the reality of supporting and encouraging me in my passions as they’ve seen me do for them. They know, personally, the juggling act of doing what one needs to do for their own well-being and caring for those they love. They know the sacrifices we make for the ones we love is reciprocal and doesn’t require a complete loss of self.

I have 7 children. I thought I wouldn’t have any because of this incredible burden on them to be my world. I couldn’t imagine my world revolving around others who, if I do the parenting thing well, will leave me and go on to have their own fulfilling lives, leaving me without a world. I never wanted them to have the responsibility of giving me meaning and purpose in my life. I am not responsible for my mother’s purpose and meaning in her life. My children are not responsible for mine. Now I know there can and should be balanced, for their health and for mine.

I’m not afraid of when (a very long time from now) I will no longer have children at home to care for. I don’t fear my children growing up. It is exciting and amazing to see the incredible people they are and I’m proud of them finding their own meaning and purpose in life. Just as I have found mine.”

Courtesy Jessica and Jeremy Martin-Weber

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jessica and Jeremy Martin-Weber of We’re All Human Here. Follow We’re All Human Here  on Instagram here. The article originally appeared here. Submit your story here, and be sure to subscribe to our best love stories here.

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