I recently read a post in a Facebook group in which a young mom asked, “When do you start to feel like yourself again?”
This got me thinking about when I started to feel like “Erin” again in my own motherhood journey. I have been walking this mom path for a decade. The first six years were spent either pregnant or caring for a newborn as we grew our family (four kids in six years!). During this time, we moved four times, I went from working full time, to being a full-time stay-at-home mom, to working part time. There were some huge identity changes in that time span. I feel like I lost parts of myself somewhere along the way.
Prior to being a parent, I loved to read, I loved my job as a nurse, and I had the ability to binge watch an entire season of a show and not be interrupted. My house was mostly clean, and I was able to keep up on laundry all the time. I could pack up and leave home without a second thought because I had no one else to worry about. I enjoyed being able to go on dates with my husband. Then we had our first child. Don’t get me wrong, being a parent is the best, most challenging, and most rewarding job of my life, but it is so incredibly hard and frustrating and all-consuming.
All the sudden my life became all about this little baby that needed me, physically and mentally, all the time. Each time our children gained a little independence, we would start all over with the next baby.
Another joy of motherhood I wasn’t prepared for was the way my body would change. Sure, I got back to my pre-pregnancy weight with my first quickly, but none of my pre-pregnancy clothes fit the same. I have clothes in my closet that range from a size 6 to a size 14. Because over the last 10 years I have been in all those sizes more than once. I have found it harder to “bounce back” after each child because, now, not only was I caring for a baby, but also a toddler, or preschooler, or both.
When I read this new mom’s question, I started to think back on when I finally started to feel like me again. My youngest child is now 4 years-old and a preschooler. There is no one left in diapers and they can all feed themselves. They all still need me, but it is a different kind of need now. They need me to help with homework, and to provide comfort and reassurance. They need me to guide them to be kind and accepting.
They need me to teach them right from wrong, how to be a good friend, and how to open themselves up to others. The job of being a parent is now less about keeping them alive and more about helping them live.
I have also found time for self-care over the past year, or maybe instead of saying “I have found time” saying, “I have made time” is more accurate. I started working with an amazing trainer last summer who preaches that being healthy is more than being skinny. It is about accepting who you are, making time for yourself, and being strong–both mentally and physically. She has changed my perspective on who I am as a woman, a mother, and a wife. She has taught me that I am a work in progress. As a newly 37 year-old woman, I see that who I am is worth something.
So, what is the answer to this new mom’s question? For me, my answer is roughly ten years. It has taken me ten years to realize that I am enough. That it is okay that I don’t have time to read or can’t binge watch a show without interruption. It is okay that my date nights with my husband are still few and far between. My house is a disaster and there are currently four loads of unfolded laundry in my laundry room. Life may look a lot different than the picture of what I had in my mind, but right now, I am okay with that. My kids are happy, my husband loves me, and I am enough for me.