Hey, mama. I see you, sitting there in elastic pants with mystery shmutz on your thigh, hair on the greasy side in a messy bun and your two-minute makeup masterpiece you were too exhausted to take off yesterday that you’re hoping looks mysterious and a bit like the coveted smoky eye effect because you’re just too spent to care, let alone probably shower,
I see you.
You’re absolutely drowning at life, maybe you feel like you’ve let yourself go, you don’t have a clue who you are and you might feel like you’re failing your family on a daily basis and are totally tapped out when it comes to your partner. Plus, yoga pants are much more forgiving and way less of a commitment than buying jeans to fit your new frame, because let’s face it, that money should really go to that adorable little dress and bloomers for your daughter instead if it has to buy something, amiright?
Something’s got to give.
Although I believe it can happen to any parent, or really anyone to some extent, it’s guaranteed that it’s happening to the women in our lives who have a plan…a picture…of what they are supposed to be in relation to motherhood. Women sure know how to make a plan for anything. These women give all they have, putting themselves behind everyone else because something’s got to give and it can be okay if it’s yourself for the day…or the week or….
“I don’t even know who I am anymore. I just know I’ve got nothing left today.”
Despite what your friend’s social media posts look like, I can guarantee you are not alone, and far from it. In one way or another, the identity crisis of motherhood happens to all of us. Afterall, an incredible amount of change happened to you in a very short timespan-there’s no way anyone makes it out of the other side of that business unscathed. This amount of drastic change would be considered ridiculous and unwise in literally any other setting! We all changed something, lost something, to become someone’s mom.
When we give all we’ve got day in and day out, what do we expect? We can’t possibly refuel a car with it running (and I’ll add that some of us are trying to refuel with it still in Drive), and we cannot possibly refuel ourselves while attending to our family’s every need. Further, I think that many of us hold onto an ideal of either what our parenting should look like that we’re completely failing on, or on the idea of what we lost when we became someone’s Mom.
What if I told you that you can fix it? That you can fix it without sacrificing your family, and actually by being there MORE for them? Stick with me here.
- Understand that you are, and never will be, the same person you were before you were someone’s mama, and use it as a starting point. If you bore your family, your body is, and never will be, the same, and that also goes for those mom’s that seemingly bounce right back into shape too-there’s more to it than what your abs happen to look like. You may not be able to enjoy some of the same activities as you used to, like rock climbing, constant traveling, or introvert time (can I get an amen?!). Maybe you thought you’d be a career mom, but became a stay at home mom instead? Or the opposite? Your marriage dynamic changed drastically, relationships with friends and family are unrecognizable, and you can’t remember the last time you did what you wanted to do, without a tiny dictator in your life. Essentially, this “identity crisis” is your mourning what used to be, what you gave up or was forced to change. Use this time to reinvent yourself. Who do you want to be, now that you have your new capital “M” title? Maybe you want to change your hair color, learn to cook some incredible meals for your family, or learn another language? Take some time to figure out what you want the new you to be all about. Sure, your life turned upside down, ran backwards for a while, and now seems to be skipping without you…but that doesn’t mean you can’t control who you are now.
- Understand that you can still probably do many of the things you used to. So, maybe you can’t rock climb on the weekends anymore. But I guarantee your baby would LOVE to go hiking with you. Throw them in a back carrier and let them experience your love of nature. If you used to travel consistently, try becoming a tourist in your own area or a perhaps a state away, where you can describe to your littles the great things so near to their own home. Make a list of the passions and things you did before your family, and consider what things you can still do, even if it takes slight alteration. You might have to alter your loves of life past, but oftentimes, you can still keep those passions very much alive.
- Focus on one area at a time. We’re our own worst critics, right, and what we’re looking at is all wrong. Determine what area takes up the most of your headspace. For instance, if you are constantly thinking of how you need to get healthy, master wholesome eating before moving on to exercise, and for sure before you move on to, say, learning that new language. Doing one thing at a time will be MUCH less overwhelming, especially when you can already feel your nerves splitting and your hair jumping ship from your boiling point frustrated scalp. Pick one, master it, move on to the next. Don’t “find” the new you all at once.
- Invest in yourself. Heads up, you can’t likely do this with your children in tow. If you don’t have a partner, or nearby family, search a mama’s group. There’s one that exists down the street from you, and if you don’t like that one, keep looking. Find a mama there that you click with and that you can trade kids with-chances are she’s looking for an hour’s break once a week too. Paint your nails one night a week after they’ve gone to bed. Make a point of reading a chapter of your book every morning over a cup of coffee before the blessed rascals wake. Have your spouse or a family member watch them for an hour or two and take a nap. To be honest, I’m pretty sure they would relish this time alone with your kids anyway. Intentionally do something that makes you feel like yourself. You might feel like you need to be all there all the time for your kids, but in fact, you’re not actually all there. You’re present, but you’re not present. You’re fried, totally used up, frustrated your baby won’t take his nap so you can at least get a few dishes done today, if nothing else. Mama, take some time for yourself once in awhile. You can’t squeeze more out of a dry dishcloth, and you certainly can’t squeeze more out of your exhausted soul. You need to not only add this to your mile-long to-do list, but you need to make it a priority in order to even care about getting to the rest of your to-do list. I know, you’re spent, you have nothing left, let alone to give to yourself, the last priority on the time and effort pyramid. Before reading this, your three hours of sleep eyeballs were probably staring out the window of your toy-strewn livingroom, reflecting on where this mess you call life came from. When the magic of motherhood is gone and traded for an exhausted messy wisp of a woman, it’s past time to take a break, mama. You owe it to your family.
- Realize that everyone goes through it. Motherhood is all about competition and coming off as “put together”, even among our best girlfriends. It’s a rouse, ladies. Literally every one of us has had an identity crisis in one form or another. After all, no one can say that when they became the family matriarch, that their life resumed completely as usual. We all mourn something, and wonder where the heck we’re supposed to go from here. We are all failing, no matter what our stellar Facebook status says. I’m going to guess that it was written as a way to try to celebrate their win today, but only they know the whole host of fails in their heart, which is probably similar to you. We all think of who we, and our relationships, used to be before we were someone’s mom. You’re not alone. Reach out to another mama-and she doesn’t have to even be in your own generation.
One day, your babies won’t need so much from you on such a consistent basis-you know, that whole survival thing. You will let yourself go, your own needs will slide, in order to meet your baby and toddler’s constant needs. These years aren’t for the weak. Someday, sooner than you actually would like no matter how much you mutter under your breath in the meantime, they will not need you as much anymore. It will be then that you will reach yet another life stage-one that affords you more time for yourself, but that you will need to adapt to new challenges. In the meantime, discover what your kid’s mom is all about these days, and get your girlfriend to join you.
I would love to hear your experience. Are you currently struggling with this, or are you on the other side of this challenge? Please share!