‘Hi, I am Mom.’ This is how I should introduce myself. I am Mom. Not, I am ‘a’ mom. Although I am a mom, obviously, but that is no longer just a title explaining my reproductive history, it is also my identity. The women I used to be, the person I was before kids, she’s gone. Now what? Who am I now? I mean, who am I besides mom, and why in the hell haven’t I noticed that I am letting myself give up on my passions? That I have been losing my individual identity and have morphed into just ‘Mom’. Not that I’ve made a conscious decision to do so, but that is certainly what I’ve been doing. The thing is, I know I am not alone in this. But I do know ways to fix it.
Recently, my little brother got married. It was a wonderful day filled with family and friends. Not only was I meeting my newly minted sister-in-law’s family for the first time, but also some of my brother’s dearest friends. Like my brother, they were all incredibly warm, intelligent, worldly people. Some owned their own businesses, some were finishing up graduate degrees, others were entrenched in careers they loved, a couple of them were following their passions and traveling the world. It was this wonderful medley of business people and artists. Out of the entire roster of wedding guests, my sister and I were the only ones who had small children.
“What do you do?” I was asked many times over the course of the evening. “I keep children alive. Luckily, I am fairly good at my job,” I quipped. Suddenly, the conversation grew stilted and awkward. Here they had been sharing their impassioned life stories, such as learning to become a classically trained pianist, or working to reform corporation’s environmental footprint ideologies, and the only relatable scenarios that sprang to my mind were ‘I can play a mean beat on some overturned pots on the kitchen floor’ and ‘I rewash the same load of molding laundry at least three times, so yeah, basically, I am solely responsible for global warming’.
It’s not that I’m ashamed to be a stay at home mom, it’s that I realized I had become ‘just’ a mom. It had nothing to do with how up to date I was on domestic and world news, which I am, or how well read or well traveled I was. It was just that I had become so caught up in caring for my children, my husband, and my home, that I realized I know longer had an identity of my own. I think even working moms can relate to this;
We mothers tend to put the needs of our children and partners first. It’s not surprising that with multiple kids and hectic schedules we make less, and less, time for our own selves. Let’s face it, when you have really young children you are in a perpetual state of exhaustion. (Thank goodness they are so incredibly adorable and entertaining, not to mention the amazing way they conform to your own body when they snuggle in, or else this stage would make you crazy.) Then, as they begin to grow and venture off to school, you become so busy assisting everyone else in your family pursue their own passions, or to attain their own goals, that you look up one day and realize you have been completely neglecting your own.
Maybe, you even realize that you have been so busy being mom, that you don’t even recognize who you are anymore. You aren’t exactly sure what you like, or what you want to do with your life. The person you are now is very different from the one you were before this parenting journey began. And hey, you still have a family that needs you 24/7 so how are you supposed to find the time to get answers to those questions? Or maybe you still know who you are but you just never seem to have time to do the things that you really enjoy doing.
For me, It has been an on-going journey to find balance. Some days, months, years, I am doing well. Then, inevitably, I slide backward and I find that I am giving, giving, giving, and at times I feel resentment creeping in. But I shouldn’t, (even if it is sometimes warranted) because I know how to find time. I know how to find some balance. But it does require a conscious effort to invest in myself.
My brother’s wedding was my wake up call. I have wants, dreams and ambitions that I need to stop putting on the back burner. It’s time I moved myself up the ‘Family Priority List’. And this time I plan on staying near the top. I have learned, from trial and error over the years, what I need to do to carve out time for myself. As much as I adore my family, this is my life too. This is what I am doing, and what you can do too (seriously, it’s possible) to find time for yourself and to bring more balance to your life;
1. Put Me Time on the Schedule. This is the most important step, but it takes a little bit of training on your part and your family’s. You need to actually find a block of time that you put on the shared family schedule and DO NOT allow anything to interfere with it. Treat it like it is a doctor appointment or a kid’s sporting event. Your appointed ‘Me Time’ CAN NOT be rescheduled or cancelled.
2. Be consistent and Realistic. Chose a time slot that will be the most manageable for you to keep consistently. Not only does it make it is easier to establish a routine, it also makes it less likely that you will be temped to reschedule. Be realistic with yourself, how much time do you honestly think you can manage with your daily demands? Maybe you can’t carve out time everyday, but you can manage it a couple time a week.
3. Drop the excuses and the guilt. Sure, there are a ton of things you need to get accomplished daily. It’s easy to make excuses or to feel guilty about taking a little time for yourself. Just remind yourself that your health and happiness are just as important as everyone else in your family, and the happier you are, the happier everyone around you will be too. Your kids are watching and learning from you. If you are balancing work, (wether that means in a career, or that of a stay at home mom) and life, with happiness and fulfillment, then chances are they are going to grow up to do the same.
4. Get creative and don’t be afraid to ask for help. I’ve scheduled in time for myself, but I still have small children at home, and I am a military spouse, which means more often than not, I don’t have a partner to help me out with childcare. So I have to get creative. Wether that means finding a friend who wants to take turns swapping child care duties for an hour, (or longer) or loading the kids up in my jogger stroller and heading out for a run with them, (yes, mommy needs time to run even if toddler would rather be home) or modifying my plans so I break up designated ‘Me Time’ between the morning and in the evening, I schedule the time in and make it work. (re-read #3) If you have a partner that can help out and give you some time, great, ask them, they might not even realize you need it. If you can afford childcare now and then, do it. You can make time for you, and you should, you are worth it!