My oldest is only three years old, but it’s hard to remember life before kids. It feels like I’ve always been a mum, but of course, I haven’t, and before kids, I actually did stuff for myself. When I went shopping, tiny baby onesies didn’t get me excited, and I wasn’t on a time crunch or working around nap schedules. Instead, I could wander slowly through any shop I wanted, not worried about whether my double stroller would fit. I could grab a coffee and sit and actually enjoy it.
It’s hard to remember those times, and it’s hard defining myself as anything more than a mom of three. Late nights that were once spent out with friends have been replaced with pacing the floors with cranky babies. Last minute trips to the movies, or anywhere, are now nonexistent without a babysitter lined up weeks, if not months, in advance.
It’s important for any relationship to have time away from parenting, and that includes the relationship we have with ourselves. It can feel impossible to find any time to do something completely for ourselves, while we work tirelessly to keep our children and partners happy.
It took my high risk pregnancy for me to rediscover something that I love; writing. I started blogging to share what was happening with the babies while I was inpatient, but then it reminded me how important it has always been to me and it quickly became something I looked forward to doing, as well as a way of healing from my girls’ premature births and subsequent complications.
To be honest, I don’t do much for myself beyond my writing. It can feel like the person I was before kids is harder and harder to find, buried somewhere beneath the schedules, errands, and everything else that goes on in a mum’s brain. But, of course, that person doesn’t really exist anymore. Sure, the fundamentals that make me me are still there, but we all change when we have kids; our priorities change, our goals shift slightly, we mature, and we stop putting ourselves first.
But that doesn’t mean that we have to give up ourselves, the things we love, or time alone. It just means becoming creative. Luckily, I can do my writing at home while babies are sleeping, but that means when there’s a nap protest or a million other things going on I can’t write. I could always find something better to do; a house to clean, meals to make, laundry to do, even TV to watch, but I’ve made my blog and my writing a priority for myself. Yes, that means that the house will never be spotless (and whose is with kids?) but I will be happier and more relaxed, and will feel better about myself and my parenting, even when I have no clue what steps to take next.
My only other true indulgences actually take me out of the house and allow me alone time; getting my nails done and doing the grocery shopping. Admittedly, going for groceries isn’t fun or exciting, but I go without the kids, list in hand, pacing the aisles, and enjoy the minimal interaction with other people.
There will always be reasons to not take time for yourself; always be something else that should get done, always someone who needs to be cared for. But, if we’re honest with ourselves, we know that even taking a little time makes us calmer, more relaxed, and better prepared to tackle life’s messes. It keeps us human, and makes us better parents.
I will always define myself as a mum first, and my children are the most important parts of my life, but there is more to me than being their mom. I struggle with reminding myself of that when I am out of the house without the kids, who feel like my safety net. It is so much easier to connect with other people when we can talk about the kids. It feels strange to have a conversation that does not revolve around my parenting in some way. Of course, there are parts of me beyond my parenting, yet it can feel as though I’m exposed when I’m heading out in the world without the kids.
There is still a me in there, a different me than what there was before my kids, but not a less important me. My identity as a mother will change as my family grows and faces new challenges and adventures, but as long as I remember to take just a bit of time for myself, I will always be me, and I’ll be a better mother because of it.
Alyssa Keel has worked as a social worker in both Canada and the U.S. for several years. Living in Toronto, Alyssa is mum to a rambunctious, curious, and loving two year-old boy and one-year-old identical twin girls. During her high-risk mono mono twin pregnancy, Alyssa began blogging, an extension of her love of writing. Alyssa loves taking photos and impromptu dance parties with her son. Follow Alyssa and her family’s adventures at adventureswithmultiples.com.