Originally written for the Mom to Mom of Maine Newsletter (August 2018).
Who’s Your Mama, now?
I got a pedicure this afternoon. At a spa. “So what?” some may say. But mothers know. You know that I probably haven’t had a real pedi since B.C. (that’s Before Children). And you’d be correct. My fabulous nail-care routine usually consists of slapping some color on, hurriedly, quickly, before tiny hands interfere, before I’m pulled out to door to build castles in the sand, just so my son can destroy them. Over and over.
Don’t get me wrong – I loved my baby from the moment our eyes met, and excitedly stepped into my new role of “mama”…but, as the new reality set in (and the new-baby-euphoria evaporated), I didn’t feel like myself anymore. And it wasn’t just the overwhelming lack of sleep. Pre-kid, I had many fulfilling hobbies and creative outlets that took up my “free time,” that made me feel whole. Now there was no time for such things, and that was extremely depressing to me. I had a hard time letting it go. But I kept these thoughts inside, because they felt traitorous to my son, because that’s just how it is now, right? And besides, I didn’t hear anyone else complaining about it.
But then I did start to hear others, whispered confessions, always with concern that others may judge – “Don’t you think it’s a bit selfish to spend your time painting/sewing/writing/drawing/reading/running? That’s time away from your children…they grow up so fast.” And the more solidarity I found, the more emboldened I became. This wasn’t just some personal identity crisis I was having, this was a common, perhaps even universal, concern. Women were grieving the person they were before, fully expecting to never see her again (or not until the kids left for college). Why did we have to hand in our “individual” card when we picked up our “mother” one?
Guess what – we don’t. It’s a fact. Just like how you taking a bubble bath with that gossip magazine you used to buy every week will actually not result in orphaned latchkey children, damaged for life by your neglect. It will actually strengthen your relationship with your family! I speak from experience – I made time for ME again, for the things that fill my soul. And there have been noticeable improvements in my mood, stress level, and ability to navigate this entire motherhood adventure. Sometimes this “me-time” includes my son and husband – a peaceful walk in the woods, for example. Other times it’s disappearing with a book for an hour, or getting crafty in the corner while my son plays independently in another room. First I asked, then I insisted, and now I just do it. And you can too.
Think about your B.C. self. What activities made you truly happy, made you….you? Yoga, photography, scrapbooking, karaoke, cheesy rom-coms, meeting your girlfriends for sushi, shopping for yourself, watching the sunset with a glass of wine, having a moment to be with your own thoughts, peeing alone? Or maybe there’s a hobby you’ve always wanted to try? I can vouch for the current coloring book craze – supplies are cheap, options are varied, and it really does de-stress! Yes, there are logistics: Who will watch the kids? When will I have the time? And won’t this make me a horrible mother? You can figure it out, and those who love and support you will help you. The possibilities are endless, and you deserve this. Repeat. You deserve this. And say hello to yourself – she missed you.