Consider the advice of a person who has been through it: Alteration occurs, and it can take you by surprise at times. Having children does not (necessarily) mean giving up your status as a woman, a wife, or a working professional. Because of this, it’s important to remain flexible and open to change so that you may take advantage of the many learning and development chances that will present themselves to you. In the midst of the beautiful wildness of parenting, it’s important to remember who you are and give that importance a place of prominence.
To maintain our sense of self from before we had children, many of us have taken to appending new, often acronymized, labels to our names. As a result, many of us choose to become SAHMs (stay-at-home mothers) or WAHMs (work-at-home mothers) (work-at-home moms). It’s possible that the terms “attachment parent,” “first-time mother,” and “working outside the home mom” (WOHM) now apply to us (work-out-of-home moms).
It makes sense; when we realize that being a good mother requires us to sacrifice some of who we are, we want to find some other identity to cling to in order to make up for it. When we must sacrifice a part of who we are, we must find a replacement.
We’re constantly reminded that happiness and fulfillment come from knowing and accepting who we are as unique individuals. Yet, clinging too strongly to that feeling of self can lead to issues and prevent us from enjoying genuine moments of happiness.
Wanda Thibodeaux writes on what she’s learned from author Kitiara Pascoe in an essay titled “Why You Shouldn’t Cling Too Hard to Your Sense of Identity.” According to Pascoe, “Inadvertently preventing yourself from taking wonderful travels and having experiences that actually improve and develop you when you cling too hard to the definition of who you are. A bottomless hole of “can’t” and “not” can trap you.”
Anyone who has ever raised a child should be able to immediately relate this to motherhood: if you dwell too much on your past life, you will miss out on the unique opportunities and happiness that motherhood brings. You’ll miss out on experiences and joy that can only be drawn from a life outside of your child if you hold too strongly to your new, usually self-applied identities and roles linked to motherhood (but not without them).
Since the day I found out I was having a kid, I’ve been interested in two things intensely: becoming the greatest mother I can be, and continuing to care for myself in ways both inside and outside of parenting. It hasn’t been a bed of roses, but there have been bright spots.
Mothers, first and foremost, should prioritize their own health and well-being. There’s a wide range of possible interpretations. This may involve leaving your newborn to wail in their cot for 10 minutes so that you may get a shower.
It’s gross, and you’ll feel terrible about it, but your child won’t be traumatized for ever (since you’ll be right back!) and neither of you will get sick. It’s time to get clean, so hop in the shower.
However, an integral part of self-care is making it to regular checks with your doctor. In other words, you need to go in for those regular checks. This includes seeing a doctor about any new or strange moles or spots and scheduling an appointment with a gynecologist if you’re experiencing unusual ovarian pain.
Simply put, it necessitates a visit to the dentist. This usually involves taking part in some form of psychotherapy. This entails getting together with pals at least once a month.
Taking pride in how you present yourself through your attire is an important part of self-care. To clarify, I’m not suggesting that you suddenly start dressing in a way that you haven’t previously, but rather that if it’s killing you to wear the same yoga pants five days a week, you should spend the extra ten minutes switching things up.
It’s not vain to care about what you wear, and it’s not extravagant to put on a little makeup every day if that’s what makes you happy. Does it matter if people see you as being too dressed up for a day at the park? The joy you experience and the confidence you exude about your physical appearance will rub off on your children.
Unfortunately, not everyone can rely on a trusted family member or friend to keep their children while they enjoy some time alone with a good book or even just some fresh air. However, you should seize such chances when you discover them. You don’t have to spend a lot of time away from your kids, but making and caring for something that’s just for you might help you feel more like yourself again.
This could be anything from reading to knitting to gardening to helping friends find boyfriends online to playing The Sims.
If you can’t imagine life without your children, think of ways you can accomplish the activities you enjoy doing together. Planting flowers with a three-year-old isn’t the same as planting flowers alone, but as a parent who has attempted all of the above with her child (maybe not internet “research” on potential boyfriends… yet), I know it’s something.
I really believe that until we learn to love ourselves, we will never be able to love another person the way they deserve (or even the way we want to be loved). That not everyone will agree with that is perfectly OK. What this means to me is that if you want to build a healthy, stable relationship with another person, you must first build a healthy, stable connection with yourself.
Like mothers, I believe they need to learn to love themselves just as much as they love their children. This can be extremely challenging, as we are often our own worst judges. I think when kids see their moms entirely into themselves, they learn that it’s OK to be radically in love with themselves, too.
It’s hard to break the cycle of self-doubt and self-criticism.