I’ve referenced the quote so many times in my blog. It’s coming to mind again as I get started in this post. If you’ve read my posts before you may even be able to guess it! Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
What would our lives look like if we made more time for the things that make us come alive? This post is specifically for mothers…how we can protect something called a “unicorn space.” I heard this term recently in a few podcasts I listened to interviewing author Eve Rodsky. She defines "unicorn space" as that time in our weeks that each mom chooses to put aside all domestic and childrearing duties and do something that makes them come alive. It’s a creative space. Creative doesn’t mean you need to paint a mural…it means you create something and are curious about something, anything really, in your alone time. (What alone time, right?!)
One example I’ve heard her use in a few of the podcasts is about a woman who lives an extremely busy life. She has a toddler and her husband works really odd hours. One night, her husband came into the room as she was putting her toddler to bed and asked, “what recording were you just playing for her?” She said, "I wasn’t, that was me reading to her." That gave her an idea to record books on tape. In her audition for a recording gig, she recorded “Princesses who behave badly,” which is ironic as we think about women stepping out of their “normal” duties. From that recording she got one job from it, and after completing that job she felt so alive that she went out got a tattoo that said, “recording books is like breathing air.” Her mom told her to check herself because she only did one job, but she wanted a reminder of that experience.
Wow. What is that thing that feels like it’s as necessary to your wellbeing as breathing air? One thing I want to point out is that in our pursuits we don’t have to be perfect. As I was typing that story, I know I got a lot of the details wrong! I know in my blog posts I have typos and run-on sentences and incomplete thoughts. But for me, writing is a part of me I can’t allow to die even though I now have two children. At this time in my life I think of the character Anna from Sue Monk Kidd’s “The Book of Longings” who had to get back to writing after a devastating life event. She had to get back to writing to come back to life.
When I think about the idea of a unicorn space, a few thoughts come to mind:
1) As women, we have to work through societal expectations
I’ve realized that we still live under assumptions about women’s capacity to do it all. I’ve also realized there’s a lot of unpaid labor, as Eve Rodsky talks about, that still falls on women. Internal Family Systems talks about a legacy burden, which are emotions and beliefs that are passed down an ancestral line that keep us stuck even if they aren’t true for our own unique experience. We need to do the work to release them, or at least push up against them in order to live our authentic life.
2) As women, we have to let go of guilt
There’s a story that’s passed around that often tells women their one and only life joy is supposed to be their family. For me, my children and husband are my greatest joy, but I have SO MUCH MORE that makes me who I am. Again, I’m going to reference Eve Rodsky (thanks for the recent inspiration, Eve!), but she told one woman the death of who she is will happen when she becomes a mom. To some women this might sound extreme, but the idea is that we often give up so much of who we are in our parenting endeavors. If you’re a mom that is carrying guilt when trying to make space for yourself… LET. IT. GO.
3) As women, we have to partner up with other “bad princesses”
Why? Because so many people offer up unhelpful messages and will remind us of those if we talk to them about the space we need. I’ve had a lot of that. I’ve had people say, “get used to it. This is the way life is for awhile.” But what if I don’t want it to look and feel like this? I don’t have to. So I talk to other “bad princesses” who also are claiming their space and letting go of guilt.
Here’s what I want you to do. Make a list of things that bring you life. Notice how you feel when you do certain activities. As I’ve been paying attention to my own life, I’ve felt alive when I’ve seen clients, worked on a training I have in my field, and have been writing this blog. Be curious about your own life. When you notice what brings your life, do whatever you can to carve out time to do it and let go of the guilt while you’re in that unicorn space. Happy rooting, everyone!