Finding Myself By Separating "Me" From "Mommy"
When I became a mother, the title felt important and so I prioritized it. Instead of wearing the badge next to my own nametag, it became my only name. I was Mommy. Mama. Mommmmyyyyy! This phase of my life ushered in a new “me”, which, on reflection from the other side, was a rather constraining and stifling version of the person I was before I had kids.
Ten years into this gig, I realized I had lost touch with so much of what I thought had defined me as a person and I could only relate to the person I was as a mother.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I adore being a mom. My two kids are the most important people in the entire universe to me and I’m beyond thankful I’m able to experience this incredible journey with them. But that does not mean I want to lose myself in motherhood.
Who was I now? Should I want to be the “old” me, or was this new version someone I should be happy with? How could I strike a balance between being a mother and being the carefree girl I was once upon a time? I’m not talking about depression here, although that too is a very real, very common side effect of having kids. I’m talking about a general loss of self—it’s easy to have happen when you’re always Mommy, or Ethan’s Mom.
When you’re ankles-deep in toddler toys, diaper changes, doctor’s visits, preschool registration and trying to just generally survive the day, it’s difficult to find the time to be your own independent person. For five of the ten years I’ve been a parent, I quite literally had a child attached to my body, making it extremely difficult to do pretty much anything. Here’s what I’ve found helps me find balance in motherhood.
Take time for yourself
I know it feels like the baby/toddler/kid needs you immediately, but I promise they can wait. You’ll burn out if you don’t take care of yourself before others. Take time to browse through a bookstore, or get a pedicure, or spend time alone/with friends. Whatever you feel charges your battery will help you maintain your independence.
Make a list
Lists help keep us on target and have the added benefit of helping us realize our many accomplishments. Sometimes I add things I’ve done to my To Do list, just to have the satisfaction of crossing them off. It’s okay, it helps motivate me to move through the rest of the list. Have you ever itemized every task you do in a day? You’ll be shocked at all you get done, even when you feel like a ten-toed couch sloth. A sense of accomplishment is key to well-being and independence.
Reach out to your friends and go out without the kids. Whether it’s as a couple or on your own, being around people who call you by your first name and engage in riveting conversation (or even adult humour) is imperative. I remember the first time I had a few too many drinks after becoming a mom—I felt guilty. But why? I wasn’t being irresponsible, I was just cutting lose with friends. I wish I’d done that more often when my kids were really little; those were fun nights!
Say my name
It’s easy to become “Jamie’s Mom”, or even “Mommy” to your partner, but introducing yourself using your name and asking those around you to call you by your name is important. It helps maintain separateness between you and your role as mother.
You may not be the person you were before kids, but hopefully the reflection in your mirror will be someone even better—someone who gets to be Mommy, in addition to the vibrant, interesting, fulfilled woman you’ve always been.