Becoming a mother was one of the greatest days of my life. It was also the moment I realized my life was no longer my own. Each morning when I wake up, I wake up for my girls and I don’t rest until they are snug in their beds at night. But before we were a family of four, we were a small family of two - just my husband and I.
We enjoyed road trips to concerts, long weekends at the beach, and spontaneous weeknight dinners. Those some of these adventures are merely memories, my husband and I still place a lot of importance on fostering our relationship as a married couple outside of our new identity as parents. Someone once told me that there’s a hierarchy of needs that you should follow.
First is your allegiance to God, if that’s something you believe strongly in. Next, is your allegiance to yourself - who you are as a person. This means fostering your identity as an individual, outside of your identity as mom and wife. Next, you must foster your marriage and relationship as a loving couple. Without that bond and that love, there would be no procreation. The love a married couple shares is the foundation of their children’s future, growth and development. After you foster your role as a spouse, you can then focus on your role as a parent.
I can’t say that I always follow this hierarchy but I do keep it in mind when I start feeling overwhelmed by life. Those times when my kids don’t seem to know any other word than “mom”. The days where I can’t even use the bathroom without interruption. The days when I consciously see that I’m pushing my own personal needs aside at a detriment to myself. So, on those days, how do I keep it together? Well, I don’t always feel like I am, but there are ways to keep yourself sane when life gets crazy.
If I’m feeling especially scattered and flustered either from thoughts of the day ahead or due to a previously busy day, I set my alarm a few minutes earlier in the morning. Just enough time to have a single cup of coffee in peace. Before my husband wakes for work and before I hear my girl’s feet come pattering down the stairs, it’s just me and the still morning air. I take my coffee out to my front porch and sit in my favorite chair. I watch people in the neighborhood get ready for work, put out their garbage, and depart on their morning run. I just take time to be with myself. I also practice some meditation and mindfulness. These moments don’t happen all the time and I don’t need them every day. But when I am feeling overwhelmed, I take the time to center myself and get in touch with my needs. Sure, those needs aren’t always met throughout the day, but at least I’m aware of what they are which helps me not forget them.
When it comes to fostering my relationship with my husband, it’s all about planning date nights. We don’t get to take vacations very often and that’s okay. Though we aren’t able to relive our honeymoon in Paris just yet, we get creative with date nights. Sometimes we keep it classic and simply hire a babysitter and grab a quick bite to eat or go see a movie. Other times date nights mean sleepovers at grandma’s house so we can take a long weekend down the shore. But when the budget is tight and we’re looking to keep things simple, we plan date nights when the girls are in bed. We have candlelight dinners, snuggle up with popcorn and a movie, or even sit outside on the porch together, looking at the stars. Date nights don’t have to be extravagant or expensive. Sometimes, simplicity is best. And honestly, the purpose of a date night is to reconnect with your partner. To schedule some time to foster that bond you shared before children. There’s nothing wrong with doing this, in fact, it’s encouraged. This bond will help keep the lines of communication open, which make you better, more consistent parents in the future.
We all get overwhelmed by parenting at times and that’s because parenting is paired with marriage which is paired with work and and household responsibilities. Moms are spread thin. So when you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s important to center yourself. Find something that fuels your passion and your individuality. It’s okay to be a mother and an individual at the same time. And it’s also okay, and necessary, to remind yourself of the love you and your partner shared before welcoming children into the world. The stronger you are on your own and as a couple, the stronger you’ll be as a mother.