Sunday, March 21, 2010

How To Be A Mom and A Whole Person Too

This goes out to all the new moms or even the old ones who haven't quite figured it out yet.  I know some of you are out there because, until recently, I was one of you.

I love being a mother.  I know it sounds cliche but children are truly the greatest gift.  They make you laugh all the time.  It's incredible to watch them discover the world and to see things through their eyes.

But becoming a mother is life-changing and it's very easy to lose yourself.  It's even "okay" to lose yourself... so long as you know how to find yourself again.  All the baby books tell you to make sure you "make time for yourself" but it's almost like a foot note.

"Do everything the babies needs.  Feed them when they are hungry.  Console them when they are crying.  Change them when they are wet.  Bathe them when they are dirty.  Repeat this cycle all day every day.  Oh, and don't forget to make time for yourself."

I'm sure I'm remembering it wrong but I feel like that part of the book was in tiny print that you could scarcely read without a magnifying glass.  Besides, even if it was written on a billboard, those are empty words.  "Make time for yourself."   That's IF you remember who you are!

Sorry if I'm confusing you.  Of course you remember who you are!  You are so and so's mother, for goodness sake!  You also have a name, address, social security and phone number which you can recite as if someone asked a soldier their name rank and serial number.  But you probably have lost your "sense of self".  I swear to you that after becoming a mother, I couldn't remember anything I enjoyed doing BK (before kids).   I knew there was some sense of excitement and pleasure that didn't involve finding formula on sale but I'd be damned if I could remember what it was.

It takes some time.  For me, it took nearly 3 years to remember that I'm a funny, interesting person who can do more than discuss the contents of a diaper or how nicely my child can write her letters.  Maybe it took me so long because I didn't know I was lost.  Maybe knowing is half the battle and I wish someone had told me.

Here are some steps you can take to hang on to the amazing woman who became an amazing mother:

  1. Have Sex:  Yup.  I figured I'd get the one you don't want to hear out of the way first.  Sex is tough  after kids for sure.  You are tired.  You don't feel sexy.  But I think the biggest obstacle is the state-of-mind.  It can take a woman a really long time to stop thinking "I can't do THAT anymore!  I'm somebody's mother!"  Lest we forget where babies come from!   Get over it.

  2. Work: Whether it be full-time, part-time, from-home or volunteer work, just work.  Do something, anything, that is separate and distinct from your life as a wife and mother.  Something you can get excited, or angry, about.

  3. Socialize: Get together with adults.  And this does not mean simply hanging out with other moms after the kids are asleep and talking about your respective days.  I am fortunate enough to have some friends without kids and others who's kids are grown so it makes keeping the conversation outside the realm of blocks and Crayolas much easier.  I'm not saying to ditch your mommy friends.  Certainly not!  They are your war buddies!  But maybe lay some ground rules when you hang out.  Get all the bragging and bitching about the munchkins out of the way in the first 15 minutes and then it's time for grown-up talk.

  4. Get A Hobby: Stop saying you don't have time for a hobby or that your hobbies include finger-painting or making things out of play-dough.  Try to remember something you used to enjoy and do it!  I forgot how much I liked writing until I started doing it again.

  5. Stop Feeling Guilty:  In order to succeed at all of the above you need to find the time. In order to do that you have to shed the mom-guilt.  It is very difficult.  I'm still not that good at it. I find, especially as I work outside the home, I feel horribly guilty whenever I want or need to do something for myself.   But the time has come for all moms to understand that time for oneself doesn't mean pooping alone with the door closed or finding time to sort out the underwear drawer.
Speaking of guilt, hopefully your not reading the above and thinking; "I can't do all those things.  What kind of mom would I be?!  I need to dedicate myself to my children."

It is my hope that you can see the ultimate truth as I have.  The ultimate truth is that if I'm a better ME than I'm a better MOM.  It means that when I'm spending time with them, it's quality time.  I'm fully present and invested in the game of Chutes and Ladders or in making bean-bag sock bunnies.
    This is not meant to scare you out of becoming a mother.  It's absolutely worth every second.  This is also not meant to scare you if you are among the lost.  You'll find your way back.  I don't wish I'd never gotten "lost" and I don't feel as though I simply found my way back to who I was.  Instead, I feel as though I became a richer version of the person I used to be, enhanced by the journey, and more importantly, by the fact that I am also the greatest thing I could ever hope to be.  A mother.

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