I was in my therapy office sitting across from a woman who was drowning; of course not literally drowning but emotionally drowning. She had lost herself in motherhood and rightfully so- two babies back to back, husband working full-time with little help from family. (Disclaimer: this story is told with the client’s permission to encourage others.)
I had previously counseled this woman through singledom and her early career days as an artist. It was an honor to see her through this new life phase of marriage and motherhood. However, at this moment I knew she had forgotten a huge part of who she is. She was a mother but she was also an artist; an artist that didn’t have time to create. When we processed this together she said with a heart-wrenching sigh, “My artist has died.” We both teared up. What happened next was a magical “aha” moment in therapy for both my client and myself.
How To Not Lose Yourself in Motherhood
I walked her through a meditation called *The Table created as a way to hear from all the parts of ourselves from childhood until the present moment.
Through this meditation, she discovered that her artist had not died and was clearly still a prominent part of her. This part of her had been silenced and wanted to be heard again. Be it motherhood, school, work, or making ends meet, life has a way of stealing parts of ourselves that might seem less significant. You are more than your job, more than your major in school, and yes you are even more than motherhood.
I want to speak directly to the mother’s heart here.
Friend, when you became a mother you did not stop being YOU; the you that grew up wanting to help people, make pretty pictures or climb a corporate ladder. You gave birth to a tiny human that took everything in you to survive and whoa that is a huge and sacred job! In this sacred postpartum season, it’s important to slow down and prioritize your healing, mental health, and your baby. However, I’ve discovered when it comes to motherhood many women fall into the thinking that if they’re not giving 100% of themselves to their children all the time, then they’re not being a good mom.
I’ll be the first to tell you I don’t always give 100% of myself to my kids.
I can’t; it’s impossible to be present 100% of the time. I get resentful of my children when I don’t fill myself up by paying attention to the other parts of me that make me ME. For example, the fact that I’m taking time to write this fills up my writer’s self and allows me to be more joyful which overflows to my children. You may be thinking, “how do I make time for myself when I have tiny humans that need so much from me?!”
Here are some thoughts and tips on how to pay attention to all the parts of YOU and how to make time for yourself in the midst of motherhood. On that note, being a mother that is 100% dedicated to her children is being ALL that you were created to be. That means giving yourself permission to be YOU.
1. EMBRACE ALL THE PARTS OF YOU:
Acceptance is always the first step in changing. Embrace the fact that you like sharing your voice, that you want to go back to school, that you need more time to paint or write”¦ you get the idea. Once you recognize that you’ve been silencing a part of yourself you can work to bring it back into integration with your whole self.
2. STOP TRYING TO MAKE YOUR CHILDREN FULFILL YOU:
That’s a lot of pressure to put on your child. Children can sense when we are looking to them to complete your goals and dreams. When they come into this world from day one they are saying to us “I am not you, I am me.” Raising children can be extremely fulfilling, however, when our kids mess up or fail to meet our expectations it should not affect our own self-worth. As parents we are our children’s leaders and safe place; we should never look to them to give us our worth.
3. MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF:
This is so much easier to write than actually do. Finding adequate childcare and actually leaving your baby is hard. I hate walking out the door when my toddler is crying, “no mommy don’t leave me!”. This pulls every heartstring and takes everything in me to leave the house, but when I do he usually calms down and has a good time with the babysitter and I am able to recharge whether it on a date with my husband or date with myself to just be alone.
I’m sensing your collective sigh. My tips on finding this kind of help are to do your research, find a reliable babysitter you trust, ask for referrals from friends, ask family for help if you have them nearby, and finally make childcare part of your budget! It took me 4 years to actually set aside money for childcare. The day I accepted that paying for help was worth it was so freeing! If you don’t feel comfortable leaving your infant with someone else (this is me), take your baby with you! Ruby Jean, my 8-month-old, has been on many a mom’s night out, date night, and work functions. I’m just too stubborn to say no to the things I want and need and figured I could do all the above with a sleeping infant in her car seat.
4. SAY NO TO MOM GUILT:
The “perfect mom” voice might pop into your subconscious coxing you into believing that if you spend time on yourself that you are somehow taking something away from your child, but like all negative thinking this doesn’t serve us well. Recognizing this voice, labeling it without judgment, and choosing to focus on the positive things you are doing for yourself, helps make you the best mother for your child. A healthy amount of concern is good; shame and guilt are not.
5. ASK DAD:
I especially love this one because there are so many double standards in parenting. We see a mom wearing a baby at the grocery store pushing a cart while attending to a toddler and we think “whoa she has her hands full”. We see a dad in the same scenario and we think, “oh wow what a good dad”. Women are doing just as much as men if not more; in today’s world a significant number of women are not only home raising their babies, they’re bringing home the bacon and cooking it too.
I make this point not to shame men or make women better, but perhaps to shine a little light on this equality and also light a little fire under the bums of some males to make more dinners and do a couple of loads of laundry without being asked. (Disclaimer: I can say this as I have a husband that does most of our grocery shopping and makes dinner almost every night. I know I’m extremely blessed and I don’t take this for granted.) Sam and I realized that just because I’m a woman and a mother doesn’t mean I’m naturally gifted in the kitchen. My husband is way more gifted at putting meals together PTL (praise the Lord)!
It’s time to do away with gender stereotypes in the home and divvy up tasks according to each other’s gifting. Please don’t get me wrong I’m not a male hater, I’m trying to raise two good ones!
I hope this was helpful to read and that maybe it helps encourage you to prioritize yourself so you can be filled up for your children. Let me know if you have any other questions in the comments!