There was a moment right after I had my daughter that I panicked. I refused to let anyone introduce me as Jenna’s mom, and I insisted that I be referred to as Krissy. I could feel myself slipping away, and I didn’t know how to make it stop. Before I became a mom, I was just starting to figure out who I was, and who I wanted to be. It made the sudden plunge into motherhood seem even scarier. I was so worried that I would lose all of the progress I had made finding myself.
Recently I’ve had the pleasure of talking to several moms who are in the same place I was back then. It has brought back some of the pain and frustration I felt, and it made me realize how far I’ve come since then. So I decided that I am going to try and help out other moms who are maybe feeling isolated, or a bit lost. It has only been eight years and some months since I became a mom, and I’m by no means an expert on anything, but I can tell you what I have done to help myself.
(Side note: Yes, I’m directing this post at moms. I totally get that dads probably go through the same things, but I’m not a dad, so I’m going to stick to talking to moms just now.)
1. Find something that you love, and that you can do with your wee ones. Look, I know that sometimes you need a break from being mom, and this suggestion doesn’t help with that, but hear me out. Especially when your kids are tiny, you’re going to find yourself with them a lot. So, why not help your kids get to know you as they grow up? If you were an avid reader bk (before kids), then work library scavenger hunts, or family reading time into your day. If you liked to garden, share that with your littles by giving them their own bit of your plot to grow what they want. Big art fan? Buy an assortment of frames from a thrift shop, and create art with your kids. Then make a family gallery on your wall, and change the pictures out every now and again.
2. Find at least one thing you truly enjoy, and keep it for yourself. So often as moms, we feel compelled to let ourselves go to the wayside in order to care for those around us. We shop for our kids first, and then continue to wear old, ripped jeans, and ill-fitting t-shirts. We’ve all done it. So, here’s my suggestion: pick something to be selfish about, and don’t share. I have a friend who keeps a candy bar above her fridge. Every night after her kids go to bed, she grabs the bar, breaks off a section, and then she goes and sits in her car to eat it. She listens to music, and she has her 15 minutes of uninterrupted time. Her husband isn’t allowed. It’s just for her. It’s hard to be selfish, but it’s easier to do it if you choose just one thing. Tell your kids your kindle is off limits and just for you. Bake bread every Tuesday night, and tell everyone that when you’re baking bread, nobody is allowed in the kitchen. Go running, or walking, or to the gym alone. The possibilities are endless, but just pick something, and stand firm on it being yours, and only yours.
3. Talk to your friends. It’s really easy to let a day, and then a week, and then several months pass without calling up your friends, or jumping on google chat just to talk. Don’t do that. If you only have ten minutes, call anyway, and start the call with, “I only have ten minutes, but I just really wanted to say hi.” If you have time, plan a playdate, but for you. Maybe dress up and go to a movie premiere, or get some frozen yogurt at one of those places with a thousand toppings. Also, don’t feel guilty about the time you spend on facebook or twitter. You need adult interaction. Sometimes your partner, coworkers, or parents aren’t enough. Sometimes you just need to chat at your friends, and feel connected to your people. Do it. It’s fine!
4. Keep doing the things you did before you had kids. Some of those things you may not be able to do right away, but try to do some of them. I had my daughter when I was still in college, but I tried to go to as many school sanctioned activities as possible. This meant that Jenna spent a lot of time dressed up as various adorable cartoon characters for events, and also that she learned how to sleep in a crowd of cheering or jeering college kids. Something else we did to keep life from turning into the 24/7 diaper channel, was to institute a weekly poker/game night at our house. It worked like a charm.
5. Don’t feel bad for taking you time. (Meaning, just you, but also couple you if you are part of a couple.) There was a point when my kids were tiny when I would check myself into a hotel for a weekend just so I could read. I came back to my family refreshed, and ready to keep going. It was great! I felt bad for like the first thirty minutes while I was driving to the hotel, but then I flopped onto the bed, and forgot I was supposed to be feeling anything but relaxed. Sometimes a weekend isn’t feasible, but maybe an evening at a coffee shop is. If you like to travel, then travel. Getting away from your duties as mom is going to do you, and your munchkins, some serious good. Grab your partner, or a good friend, and head to the beach for the weekend. Recharge your collective batteries. If leaving town isn’t an option, then keep your eyes out for good prices on cooking or painting classes to take. At the very least, set up a weekly game of Yahtzee, or google hangout after your wee ones are zonked out. It’ll be super good for you.
6. Keep an open mind. Let’s face it, you have a kid now. That’s a big life-changing thing! You may not be the person you were before, but that’s okay. Now is a great time to try new things. I know it doesn’t seem that way, but trust me. When my goblins were both very small, I decided I wanted to write a web comic. I knew nothing about them, but I needed a hobby. I got together with a friend who liked to draw, and we spend the next chunk of our lives doing that. BK I never would have put myself out there like that. After the comic ran its course, I decided that I wanted to learn to draw, so I started drawing, and now I spend a lot of time doodling anthropomorphized food on post-it notes. There are so many options for learning new things. For instance, you can take classes at a community college for no credit, and it doesn’t cost a ton of money. Maybe it’s time for a pottery class, or to learn a second language. Get on youtube and teach yourself how to do crazy amazing makeup, and hair. Actually, you can learn almost anything from youtube. There are lessons for instruments, how to knit, woodworking, so many things.