Work/life balance is one of the best three little words in marketing. These words sell us all what we really want in motherhood -- peace of mind. Over the years, I, like millions, played along and listened to the many theories that told us that having it all is the route to happiness, self-fulfillment and self-actualization. The truth is that most of us never achieve balance -- not because of our inner-conflict or lack of planning but because most often, we begin motherhood by focusing only on one thing -- baby. We listen to every influential voice from the most essential books like What to Expect When You're Expecting and we spend countless hours researching baby product reviews. But we rarely consider spending the same time creating the best start for ourselves.
In the beginning of pregnancy, most of the advice that we receive from our mothers, sisters or friends is cryptic and incomplete. They might have suggested that you make sure to sleep when the baby sleeps or to take a shower every day. But let's be honest, you don't really understand the implied meaning of these suggestions without some perspective. The mothers in our lives have a responsibility to be honest and transparent. To do this means that they have to be willing to speak of what has made them unhappy about motherhood, what they've given up or had to sacrifice in the name of motherhood. It also means that new moms must be willing to hear the war stories of veterans in order to learn from their mistakes. We all know that this is a delicate balance because being pregnant is such a happy time, filled with ideals and wishes. The last thing any new mom wants to hear is what didn't work for someone else.
When I was just six-months pregnant, my mother sat me down for a critical conversation about the highs and lows of mommy-hood. Because my mother lost herself in motherhood and gave her children everything she had, she forgot to leave much for herself and had to reacquaint herself with the "Me" in Mommy. I remember our conversations like they were yesterday -- over a cup of coffee, while shopping for baby products, and nursing. My mother wanted me to have the greatest gifts of all -- my sanity and sense of self. As a result of her advice, I interviewed mom support groups while I was pregnant just as I interviewed potential pediatricians for my new baby. Setting up support for myself while pregnant allowed me to choose where I wanted to be before I needed support and allowed me to choose what was best for me before I had so many other new-mommy duties to learn after the baby was born. In fact, the best advice that I extend to new moms is to build your reservoir of support before you need it.
My mother is an amazing source of inspiration and friendship and her advice has given me a breath of perspective about my choices. My mother suggested that I make time each week to spend alone, because alone time centers you and allows you an opportunity to reflect, rest and get away from it all. Over the last 13 years, I have "dated" myself each week and this alone has allowed me to better understand my priorities. In fact, when I was pregnant my mother said, "To be a good mother you will need to remember always to be good to yourself." This advice is my mantra each day and it has served me. My mom shared the following advice with me and I would like to share it with you.
1. Taking care of yourself is the best gift that you could ever give your family. My mother taught me that when I fuel myself I have more fuel to love, listen and learn from others.
2. If you don't make time for your own life during motherhood, you will have to make time to relearn who you are later. This piece of advice reminds me of the importance of nurturing my interests, career, health and friendships throughout motherhood. My mother built her relationships around her children and as we moved on with our lives she had to relearn hers.
3. The more connected you are to who you are the more you will be able to share who you are with your children.
4. Balance has less to do with things in your life aligning perfectly and more to do with you better understanding your limitations and boundaries.
What is your best advice for the moms in your life? Motherhood is a sisterhood and we need to learn from one another to enjoy the journey.