Motherhood can be all-consuming.
For many of us it starts with pregnancy when the growth of your little one dictates what foods you should or shouldn’t eat, how often you pee, and how much you need to sleep. Upon birth, your schedule is based on your infant’s needs: when to be fed, changed, and soothed. Even now with a 2.5 and 4.5 year old I still spend much of my day helping them take care of their basic needs. Taking care of another person’s (or two or more) physical and emotional needs before your own requires hyper-vigilance and can be totally exhausting. It’s easy to forget yourself and your own needs…or just be too tired to care. For example, after helping both my kids dress in the morning I am less than excited to still need to dress yet another person: myself.
After a bumpy road getting started, I threw myself into motherhood whole-heartedly. I was more than happy to meld myself with my babies and redefine myself in this new role. I embraced it all.
Lately though, I feel like I am having a reawakening. My kids are no longer babies. Next year Big Bro will be in Kindergarten, and Lil Sis will be in preschool three mornings a week. I’m not one to get overly nostalgic over the past, because it the past. I enjoy the present as much as possible and have my eyes set on the future and the new adventures that will unfold. I am also starting to look at how I can begin to step back into my individual self again.
To be honest, it’s refreshing.
So how do we, as mothers, put the “me” back in Mommy? Afterall, we know that we should do it. Happier mothers are better mothers. The message is “take time for yourself because if you don’t take care of yourself, how can you take care of anyone else?”
It’s true, but it’s also a real contradiction if you think about it. The default state of motherhood is putting the needs of your offspring before your own. Mothers are praised, valued, honored in society for being selfless supermoms. Dare she take time for herself and people might label her as selfish or inferior.
Ignore the detractors.
Go ahead and do something for yourself.
As with most things in life, the answer on how you do this depends on who you are and what your own reality is. But for me putting the “Me” back in “Mommy” looks a little like this:
- Stay involved in pre-children professional interests
I was always interested in environmental issues and thought I would perhaps become an influential public figure solving the world’s problems. While I will probably never become a famous policy maker and solve grand scale problems (and I’m ok with that) I am a member of my town’s planning commission. I serve on the preschool board to help improve our school. I volunteer for a citizens group that works for climate change solutions. Staying involved feeds my pre-mom self and reminds me that raising my children is a big part of my life, but not my entire life.
- Ask your family for help
Like me, you may be the default parent in your household. If I let it happen, the kids will ask me to do nearly everything they need even if their dad is there. Reclaiming some of myself means I tell my kids to ask their father for help or asking him to do something for the kids that usually falls to me.
- Start a hobby
I like escaping to a yoga class or even going for a walk just me and the dog. I also took up blogging as a creative outlet that I can do from home after the kids are asleep. It can be hard to tell my family that I need time to myself, but it’s so important. For others this may mean sewing, crafting, art classes, reading, fitness classes, running, pampering yourself in some way. What else did I miss? Whatever it is, just do it.
- Keep in touch with your girlfriends
Having date nights with your spouse is great, definitely a high priority for me, but keeping in touch with girlfriends is great too. Then you can go out while your spouse stays home with the kiddos! No babysitting fees! I typically stick to easy things like dinners or movies in the evenings because it’s hard for everyone to get away for long. But even during the day I get together with mom friends to chat while the kids play. Whether we stay at someone’s house or take the kids on an adventure somewhere in town, it doesn’t really matter. Playdates are for moms, not just kids. If you’re advanced at knowing how to take time for yourself you might even plan a girls’ weekend retreat.
- Learn to say No
As mothers, and as women, many of us find ourselves in caretaker roles. It’s hard to say no to someone else when you think (rightly or wrongly) that they can’t or won’t manage without you. There’s a fine line between caretaker and enabler. Can your kids really not get their cup of water by themselves or do they just not want to because you’ve always done it for them? Do you really need to do yet another task for a certain committee when you don’t want to or don’t have the time? Or maybe you just know it won’t get done without you, but is it really that important? Do you really need to clean the house after the kids are asleep? Oftentimes, the mess can wait–or even better–the kids made the mess, they can clean it. Teach your family to do age-appropriate things for themselves, say no to the committees sometime, and take that precious post-bedtime time to do something for yourself.
It’s a balancing act for sure. I haven’t found the right mix yet. Right now I’m definitely feeling a bit short on #3 and #4, and I think I have too much of #1 because I neglected #5. #2 is a constant juggling act especially since my kids are still very little. That’s just the way it is for now, but I keep striving for the right balance.
How do you put the “Me” back in “Mommy”?