Can Moms Have Goals Too?

I sat at the breakfast table and began to wipe the strained squash from my jeans. My one-year old grinning and squealing in delight, had already moved on to throwing chunks of tofu on the floor.

My five year old yells from the kitchen, “Mom, I spilled some milk!”

I walk around the corner to find a pint of milk covering ½ the kitchen floor. Screams erupt from back in the dining room. My four year old sits crying on the floor, pulling her left tennis shoe onto her right foot, pinching her toes in a tangled mess of socks and laces.

“Don’t worry, I’ll clean up the milk,” yells the five year old, “But mom, we’ve run out of towels!”

{Cue: temple-rubbing and the urgent need for a second cup of coffee.}

The martyred Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “when Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” Jesus said it is in dying that we find life. There are few careers that allow so much practice for this principle every moment of every day than raising young children. In the old days, childbirth itself often brought death. Nowadays, thankfully, that’s not the case. But now, with so much popular pressure to succeed and break through the glass ceiling, we face death to desires we have for the use of our time and bodies.

Most of us moms probably had goals for “big” things at one point – things like being successful in the marketplace, contributing to causes that make the world a better place, traveling widely, getting a higher education, being esteemed for our skills and knowledge – but enough strained squash drowns out even the most ardent goals and dreams. Yet God made us with gifts, a purpose and a need to pursue goals and feel significant. How do we marry those two things?

It’s hard enough to carve out time and mental space/sanity to consider goals beyond “must clean spit-up off my shirt before leaving the house,” without all the worry about whether those goals are right or wrong or God’s will or not. Many books are written about setting goals. There are 17 million results on google for the search “goal setting.” Every 4th hit is a site selling a program to help us set and achieve goals and be a success. It is dizzying to consider all this information – and since it is so prevalent, chances are we can get down on ourselves for not being more successful (or even wanting to be…. when most of us would choose sleep over the chance to work to accomplish a goal).

No matter how tired or frazzled we are, we need goals to feel alive. And we need the right kinds of goals to truly live and experience success as God intends it. So how do we figure out what goals are the right ones?

What goals are (and are not):

Simply, goals are steps we set to accomplish something we want to know or do. Because they are birthed from your deep, God-given desires, they can motivate you and give you energy. Goals are not – I repeat NOT – intended to stress you out, tire, or overwhelm you.

Why do moms need goals?

To improve the quality of our lives
To accomplish things we want or need to get done
To join a community effort (work, family)
To be a role model for success to our children!

A mom who sets goals “…shows her children how to structure time, set limits, and reach personal goals — lessons that her kids will carry with them the rest of their lives.” – Thomas Haller, Author of The Ten Commandments: Parenting with Purpose

Not all goals are equal!
There are SMART goals (the industry standard term) and DUMB ones (my own concoction).

SMART goals are:

  • Specific: the goal is clearly defined – it’s a clear “what you want to do”
  • Measurable: you know when you get there – it’s a clear “how will I know I did it?”
  • Accountable: someone else knows and is supporting you. Sometimes this is only for a season: while I was pregnant, I met a friend weekly to walk around a local lake. Since the birth of our daughter, we haven’t spoken much, but we are both okay with that.
  • Realistic: it makes sense in the time frame for the skill set you have or will learn… This doesn’t mean easy! It should stretch you just enough to cause growth, but not so much it leads to anxiety or giving up.
  • Timely: there is a specific length of time for the goal – a clear “when” it will get done.

If we’re missing any of these, our goals are probably not going to become a reality.

DUMB goals: 

This acronym came to me as I pondered all the reasons I saw total failure or less-than-lustrous successes in goals over the years. Goals like these cause resentment, frustration and low self-esteem. They are:

  • Dusty: They don’t reflect who you are or what you value now. My sudden motherhood as I brought home two foster girls (toddlers) two years ago caused most of my goals to become dusty overnight. I tried with all my might to keep dusting them off, but ultimately I had to donate them to the “Goodwill” and allow God to refashion my dreams to fit my new roles.
  • Unspoken: Nobody knows, so nobody can support you. This is crucial for moms. We already do enough “thankless” things as moms – we need support to pursue goals – from family or otherwise! When family is not supportive and we are certain it is a calling for “now” we can trust God to bring in the support we need from other avenues like neighbors, friends, etc. But how will they know unless we speak what God is inspiring us to aspire to?
  • Monumental: They are not realistic at all, or in the time frame you desire. This would be like me, who only knows basic Spanish language, setting the goal to get a job as a bilingual teacher next year. Sometimes, the goal to take a shower every day is hard enough for a mom with a nursing infant! We need to be realistic in order to fulfill those burning desires in our hearts.
  • Broad: The goal or time-frame is vague and therefore hard to attain (and easy to procrastinate, which is already a major temptation for a tired mommy!) Recently, I actually gained 20 lbs one year with a goal to “lose weight.” It was too broad and therefore impossible to achieve! The next year, I committed to 8 weeks of working out 45 minutes at high intensity 5x/wk and lost all of it in that time!

There are other reasons we, as moms of young kids, don’t reach our goals:

  • They’re not personally significant
  • We lack discipline or support to persevere
  • Life causes a road block – family move, illness, death, financial setbacks
  • Low self-esteem or lack of confidence
  • Resentment or loss of hope

How do we get our goals on track?
Over the years I’ve found the answer to this lies in 4 areas…

1. Make God’s priority our first goal: Love God and our neighbor
Love God with everything we’ve got (Luke 10:27a)

  • Seek first His way of life (Matt 6:33)
  • Obey what He asks us to do in His Word (1 Jn 5:3)

Love people like you want to be loved, which includes:

  • Husband, kids, family (Titus 2:4-5)
  • Community (Rom 12:1-8)
  • Even enemies (Luke 6:27, Matt 5:44)

2. Make wisdom a primary goal: He promises to give wisdom liberally and without reproach

  • Wisdom is to be desired above much wealth (Prov 16:16)
  • God won’t hold it against you that you were short tempered and short sighted the moment or day before – the wisdom is always there for the asking (James 1:5)
  • He will guide you with His eye and intimately lead us in the things He calls us to do (Psalm 32:8)

3. Make time for ourselves to plan and pursue our goals –

  • Have “contemplation time” once a day or week. Mine is Sunday nights. I sit and write down my top five goals for the week and I say them as I write them. My teaching background showed me that the more senses we use when reviewing things, the more likely we are to remember them!
  • Enlist “blankie” or childcare time for kids sometime each day or week to work your goals. Blankie time was an idea I got from Toddler Wise. For this, we train our kids to sit on a small blanket or other area for 10-20 minutes of quiet play or reading. This allows time for moms to review or pursue goals on their hearts. 

4. Believe God to accomplish far more in our lives than we could ever ask for or imagine

  • God is unbridled by time, space, and human understanding. Some examples of this are: Joshua: sun stood still for a day for him to accomplish the goal God inspired in him. God created the world and universe out of nothing, and maintains them in their infinite size and complexity. 
  • Because He is so powerful and wise, we can simply put our hand to the next worthy thing, trusting God to get us where He has inspired us to go with our goals. 

It’s not easy to pursue our personal goals and dreams in a season that constantly requires our full attention and care for little ones. But God puts that itch in our minds for the passions He birthed in us… and not so we can neglect it until our children are out of the house!

So make SMART goals, put God and people first, seek His wisdom and go chase your dreams. Your children will grow right along with you, and they’ll learn from your actions that life is about growth, trying, failing, trying again and pursuing all God desires for us. What better heritage than that can we hope to leave for our children?


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