Motherhood is a wonderful, joyous, but exhausting experience, and as my mother always told me, "it is the best and hardest job you will ever do." It is very easy to get totally consumed with your role as a mom, and to lose sight of yourself. Every now and again, you will realize it and mourn the loss of your identity. But, it is still there, and there are ways for you to tap into who you are as an individual, despite the demands of parenting.
Here are some simple ways that you can maintain your sense of self during these busy years as a mom.
10 Keep a hobby
One of the best ways to keep a strong sense of your own identity as a mother is to maintain some of your old hobbies and activities. Things you used to love doing before you became a mom.
Sure, you might not have the same amount of time to devote to them nowadays, but carving out a little bit of time to spend on them can do wonders for your mental health and sense of self. Whether it be photography, painting, or a favourite sport, try to spend a little bit of time each week on that hobby. You'll be amazed at how refreshed and energized you will feel after tapping into that familiar activity again.
9 Get out regularly
This is most definitely easier said than done. It is not easy to find the time (or the energy!) to get dressed in something other than yoga pants and t-shirts to go out for a bit. But, making the time for it can do wonders for your mood, and you will feel good for having gone out for a bit.
Perhaps it's meeting up with a friend for a coffee, visiting family, or just going for a walk by yourself (in which case, you can get away with the yoga pants!). And it may be for a few hours or even just 15 minutes, but getting out of the house and away from the daily grind of motherhood is very important. Try to find the time to do it, and you will thank yourself for it.
8 Be open with your partner about your needs
It is important to let your partner know how you are feeling and what you are needing in order to be happy and feel full-filled. Be open and honest with them about your needs and what they can do to support you in keeping a sense of yourself while being a mom. With their support and your dedication to yourself, you can find ways to not lose yourself in motherhood.
It might be that you're needing them to pull their weight more around the house, so you're not feeling like you've got the weight of the world on your shoulders. Maybe it's that you need them to look after the kids once a week, so you can escape to go do your hobby or activity for a few hours. Be open about your needs, and hopefully your partner will be supportive of them.
7 Set limits
Your children naturally want to be around you 24/7, and this is wonderful, but it can also be extremely draining. It leaves you feeling that you have no sense of self, no privacy, and no time to decompress. It is important to set limits and to find ways to give yourself that bit of time to yourself. You can't be at their disposal every minute of every day and not feel a loss of your identity.
Set manageable limits and stick to them. If you are a stay-at-home-mom, then maybe you set the rule that once your partner is home, you are off-limits for 1/2 hour, so that you can go and have some time to yourself. Whatever you need, determine what is most important to you and what limits you need to put in place, and then follow through by setting them.
6 Make self-care a priority
You might be thinking, "I barely have time to sleep, let alone take care of myself." And it's so true; as mothers, it's very hard to find the time to look after yourself, but it is also so important!
Self-care looks different for every woman too, so you need to decide what it looks like for you. Maybe it's getting yourself on to a better vitamin routine, getting more sleep, or working out more often. Maybe it's finding time to decompress by meditating each day, getting your nails done once a week, or getting a regular massage. Whatever it may be, try to take small steps towards incorporating more of it into your daily life whenever and however you can. You are the rock that holds your family together, and you can't care for everyone else if you're running on an empty tank.
5 Set Goals for Yourself and Reach for Them
Having goals and striving for them does wonders in helping you to maintain your identity and sense of self. It allows you to focus on achieving something that is unrelated to parenting, something that is just yours. Having goals for yourself removes you from that role of being "Mom", and helps you to return to your self - the pre-marriage, pre-kids, pre-adult you.
After having their final baby, my sister-in-law set a goal for herself to lose her baby weight, get in better shape, and begin exercising more. To date, I believe she has lost roughly 65 pounds, and she recently completed two local 5k marathons. I couldn't be prouder of her, and when I look at pictures of her on social media, the pride, satisfaction, and sheer joy in her face speaks volumes for what this has done for her mental state. We all need to follow this example and strive for goals that are important to us.
4 Keep in touch with friends
Women, for the most part, are very social creatures, and we thrive on communication and connection. Keeping in touch with your friends is so important during this busy season of motherhood, when life can sometimes feel very isolating and very challenging.
I have a group of friends that I've known since we were all 5-years old, and visiting with these ladies is like an instant dose of therapy for me. We have been through every life event together, from first loves to first heartbreaks, from the loss of a parent to the birth of our children. When we manage to get together, despite how rare it is these days, my "me cup" is filled to the brim, and I come away feeling renewed, understood, and at peace (and my sides hurt from laughing). Keeping in touch with your friends is so important, even if it's just a quick text now and then to connect.
Not everyone is an avid reader, but immersing yourself in a book every now and again can be a wonderful escape from the daily grind. It allows you to rest inside your brain for a little while, enjoying a story and the peaceful use of your imagination that it requires.
Reading helps you to stop worrying about the never-ending to-do list, and it slows that voice in your head that is always in overdrive. Even if it is just reading a magazine or an article online, focusing your brain on something else for a while can sometimes help you to feel less immersed in motherhood.
2 Work outside the home
This idea is certainly not for everyone, and there are many moms out there who make the choice to stay home with their children full-time. But, if you are starting to feel like you are losing your sense of self, perhaps returning to work part-time or picking up one shift here and there could help with that feeling.
For me personally, going to work allows me to return to myself as Sarah. Not Sarah the Wife or Sarah the Mother, just me. It allows me time to connect with other grown-ups and to work at something that I believe in. Although it is challenging to manage both work and looking after my kids, my job helps me to remain connected to who I am as an individual and to not lose sight of that in the busyness of motherhood.
1 Travel by Yourself
If at all possible, traveling by yourself can be a very rewarding experience. Remember Marge Simpson, when she had her breakdown and Homer sent her to Rancho Relaxo for a week? I have always told my husband that I want to go to Rancho Relaxo and have mud baths and room service, with no responsibilities or anyone calling "Mommy" through the bathroom door. Now, it doesn't necessarily have to be for a week, but escaping every now and again and going somewhere new on your own can be very refreshing.
When traveling on your own, you are depending only on yourself and you are responsible only for yourself. You can connect, breathe, and just enjoy the experience of being somewhere different, without worrying if you packed enough diapers or snacks. This is not something that is always feasible, especially in the early days when your babies are little. But, it is something to keep in the back of your mind and try to treat yourself to every now and again. Who knows, maybe there's a real Rancho Relaxo out there somewhere!