So many women lose themselves in motherhood. I call this the "Silent War," the process of slowly fading away from yourself, your interests and your passions without even realizing that it is happening.
At some point, all mothers face this crossroad in parenting. We come up for air and realize that we can't answer even the most basic questions like: When is the last time you read a book and finished it? What is your favorite place to shop for clothing? What are your hobbies? When is the last time you had fun doing something that you love?
Mommyhood is a busy, never ending, demanding world of diaper changes, bottle and breast feedings, sleepless nights, laundry, dinner, carpooling and homework checking. Not to mention our role as chief love-magnet and nurse. According to Happy Worker's Mothering "Fun Facts," (my quotation marks) mom's spend the equivalent of three 40-hour work weeks changing diapers per child per year and are forced to stop and attend to their toddlers 210 times every day. It can be quite taxing.
Upon becoming pregnant, we moms are so focused on preparing for the new baby that we very seldom consider how to navigate this transition and affect our own personal growth once baby is born. Most of us spend our time planning pediatrician visits, searching for baby items and interviewing potential sitters. It would sure be nice to have compassionate mom mentors telling us of pitfalls to avoid from the beginning of our pregnancy.
Every mom get's it wrong before she gets it right, but many mothers still struggle with being vulnerable. We must redefine who we are once we become a mother--all with less sleep, clarity and the greatest responsibility that we have ever had to assume. And it isn't just new mothers that struggle with having to constantly adjust either.
Fourteen years ago, when I was six months pregnant with my first child, my mother had a conversation with me that changed my life. My mother explained to me that she had lost her own identity in motherhood. While in pursuit of being a good mother she forgot to be kind to herself. She asked me to always take care of my own needs first (a radical thought for a new mom) and she told me that the best gift that I could give my family is a whole mom: A woman that liked herself, knew herself and respected herself enough to experience her own life. This translated to weekly "me dates" where I learned to move away from all of my roles as wife, mom, business owner, etc. for a few moments. It meant that I had to get to know "me" and to think about my life. In the beginning I visited Barnes & Noble a lot, but as the years went on, I began to purchase tickets to my favorite speaking series or go for a bike ride.
When we think about identity theft, we think about an impostor posing as another person. Yet in motherhood, we are the imposters in our own lives. And it is the result of the admirable quality of wanting to give everything to our children. We forget the most important rule of self preservation: you cannot give long-term what you do not have. Also, you share more of who you are with your children as you connect with the woman you once were. Making the decision to end the "Silent War" is a decision that each of us has to make in our own time and season. We get to decide what happens in our own lives.
Here are 5 Ways to Reconnect with Who You Are After Motherhood:
1. Create a weekly ritual that allows you some time alone. Select the same day and time of the week and schedule this time on an ongoing basis.
2. Ask yourself, "What can I do right now to make me happier?" Whether it's being happier at home, at work, finding a new hobby or volunteering, your next step is to act on what you have realized.
3. Create a vision board of simple goals that you have for your life. Include your plans like graduate school, starting your business, losing 50 lbs from pregnancy or completing a 5k, for example.
4. Enjoy something that you did before you were pregnant like ride a bike or travel.
5. Join Social Media communities to connect with other women that you can relate with and that might have non-judgmental solutions to help you in your journey.
I am grateful to my mother for being vulnerable and brave enough to share her struggle with me and help me on my parenting journey. Through all of this, I've learned that carpooling, career and caring for myself is the perfect combination for happiness.