My children are getting older and are evolving into exactly the type of people I hoped they would be: passionate, adventurous, kind, confident, independent and self-sufficient. As a parent, it is an absolute joy to see them grow. However, it is also a double edged sword.

As my kids become increasingly independent and self-sufficient, they need me less and less. As they began to venture out, into the world, I found myself sitting around, waiting, just in case they needed me. I began to feel lonely and without purpose. For a long time, I was the centre of their world. Now, I felt as if I were on the periphery. And, although I understood that they were exactly who I raised them to be and the periphery was exactly where I should be, it was a difficult transition.

During that time, my husband urged me to find some hobbies. He reminded me that I was responsible for creating my own happiness. I knew he was right, however the process of discovering what made me happy and of giving myself permission to engage in self-care was a surprisingly bumpy road. When I found a pasttime that I could engage in—at home—such as baking and painting, I felt at peace (for although I was indulging in my passions, I was still available when needed).

When a hobby took me out of the house, I felt guilty and selfish. Instead of reveling in the joy of a yoga class, I would rush to class and rush out afterwards, assuring my husband that I would only be gone an hour or two. Consequently, I would return home feeling as frazzled as when I had left. At home, I would find my husband and my boys perfectly happy and having a great time. The house was still intact. The children were not emotionally distraught. My husband was not pulling out his hair. In fact, they all seemed to enjoy their time together, not at all worried that I was not there.

While, at first, their lack of concern over my absence was a blow to my ego, it eventually lead to freedom. It began with countless questions about my own identity and purpose. What is my new role in this family? Do I truly want sit around and wait to be needed? How do I want to spend my time? Is it selfish to make myself happy? What type of example do I want to show my children?

After much reflection, I realized that the example I want to set for my children is one of someone who follows their passions and is true to themselves. So, I went back to school and gave myself the gift of a Master’s degree. Doing so has truly invigorated me. I am excited about my learning and my career. I have found a new purpose—in addition to being wife and mother.

Yes, I am busy. No, I am not always available and I sometimes need to rely on others to drive my boys to soccer practice or to pick them up from school. But I am happy and my children can sense that. I often share with them my hopes that one day, they will find something that excites them and inspires them to work hard.

Even though I still feel guilty every now and then, I find peace in the idea that I am offering my family moments of quality instead of quantity. I am not constantly available. However, when I am home, I am mindful to set aside my work. I put away my phone and make sure that I am truly present for them. I engage them in meaningful conversation, shower them in affection and find time to play with them.

It is true that I miss some practices and am not always around to pick them up from school. Instead, I make it a priority to attend every game and I still find time to help with their homework. I may miss dinner, but I am there to tuck them into bed, talk about their day and fill them with love as they drift off to sleep. When my children grow up, I hope they say, “My mom was passionate. She loved her family and she loved her work.”

I understand that this approach may not be for everyone. You may be shocked that I am not home every night to have dinner with my family. Regardless of your thoughts on my choices, I hope that my message to you still shines through: Find balance in your life and make yourself a priority. As your children grow older, remember that you are allowed to live your own life, whatever that looks like. Take time to care for yourself, fulfill your needs and follow your passions. You are worth it.

You can be a wonderful mother, a loving wife and an inspired woman. Think about what truly makes you happy. For me, this has created a powerful shift in my mentality and has changed the way I see myself, my role and my purpose. While I raise my children, encouraging them live their best lives, I give myself permission to do the same.

Kelly Cleeve is a passionate educator with 14 years experience. She is a graduate student at the University of British Columbia, a wife and a mother of 2 beautiful boys.