Motherhood. So many emotions are involved with that one simple word.
Joy—Your kids bring it to you, being their mother brings it to you, and their laughter brings it to you.
Sadness —They’re growing up. They’re calling you Mom, instead of Mommy. They tell their first lie. They hurt themselves.
Responsibility—You are raising real human beings. You want them to be kind, to know they’re loved without a shadow of a doubt, to know themselves and where they stand. You want to keep them safe and protected, to let them grow in their independence.
Fun—You get to play! You get to teach the rules to Hide and Seek and that caterpillars turn into butterflies. You get to laugh with them and go for walks with them.
Stress/Mom Guilt—you want to do all of these things equally for all of them. You still have to keep house and cook and possibly work while balancing it all. You want to be a good mother, a fun, kind, and listening mother, but you also want to be a spouse, an employee, a friend, a daughter and still spend enough time with them.
Tears—You’ve lost your temper. Or they learned to say “Mama”. They crashed their bike or chewed your favorite book. They said they loved you for the first time.
One thing this word shouldn’t do is define you. Although motherhood is one of the most beautiful, important, and challenging things in this universe, it is not all that you are. This is something that I almost feel guilty for typing out. If you’re like me, you are in a constant battle between wanting to focus all of your attention on being a certain kind of mother to your kids and wondering when you can put the motherhood second on the list and just be with yourself for a bit.
The balance between motherhood and self is a delicate and tricky thing. I have found that I go through times where I lose myself completely in motherhood. I mother day in and day out; getting everyone fed, cleaned, changed, slept, safe, played with and over again the next day. It’s easy to go into survival mode, especially during teething time. Living in survival mode with your kiddos isn’t a bad thing. It’s sometimes a very good thing. To survive is a victory. You are doing it!
But when survival mode becomes the norm with no hope for more, that’s a problem. As most parents can probably attest to, it’s almost inevitable that survival mode will be what you do for the first bit. So how is it that we can possibly try to remember who we are as people, not just as mothers (or fathers) during this time?
I have a few things that are helping me through just that. I write this as we are currently going through a couple of weeks of survival mode. Between sickness, teething, and lack of sleep, I am struggling to remember that I am also a person (so this is for me too.)
5 Tips to Cope When You’ve Lost Yourself in Motherhood
1) Find 20 Minutes to Be Alone – Whether this is when they sleep or whenever some help can arrive, just be alone. Try not to use Netflix or play on your phone during this time and just sit wherever you feel charged. For me, this is outside, in nature. Sit in the sun. Relax your muscles and focus on not having any responsibility at this moment.
2) Talk to Someone – Somebody who knows you very well. Tell them how you’re feeling, about what you would like to do when you have the time. Dream with them about future goals and things you’d like to complete one day. This doesn’t necessarily help you do the things you miss doing right then, but it does help you remember what they are and that one day you’ll be able to do them again.
3) Take Care of Yourself – I don’t just mean the kind of self-care that’s a spa or salon day (although these can be great too) but literally, take care of yourself. This will look different for each person, but there are some basic categories here.
- Try to get a shower in at least every other day, you will feel much better when clean. This can also double as your alone time—multitasking healthily win-win!
- When you need to cope with the stress, ditch the chips and pick up an apple. Not as fun, but your body will thank you for it later.
- If you don’t have time or energy to workout (I did not until my twins were over a year old) then just going for a short walk with them to get your body moving and your brain invigorated can do wonders.
- See a counselor, read self-help books, worship, meditate. Do what is good for your mind. This immediately improves everything else and decreases the overwhelmed feeling.
4) Slow Down – It is so easy to rush, especially during survival mode. I am constantly trying to be everywhere all the time so I get frustrated with my toddler for going slow, or stressed about all I need to do with the babies and the house. I turn into a ball of anger and stress and these emotions take over and I forget who I am. I am the opposite of that—positive and joyful. If you notice yourself rushing or telling your kiddos to hurry up, take a breath and slow your pace. The world will not end if you are late for something.
5) Night Out – When you are able (I try to at least once a month now) go out! If you have a partner, leave the kids with grandma or another trusted source and go for a date night. Remember what it’s like to have fun together as a couple. This is part of who you are; you’re one half of a team. A team that doesn’t just work, but also has a good time together and falls in love over and over again.
Get a sitter and go for a girl’s night! It usually takes me a couple of hours to actually relax, but it does happen! I then have more fun than I used to because having a kid-free evening with the girls is now an adventure. The laughter is healing to my soul and reminds me to enjoy this life, this now. And it’s a healthy reminder that I do have a sense of humor despite the hours spent cleaning poop off things.
I know there isn’t much time to do these things in the beginning so try picking at least two things off this list for the time being. It will help.
If you find yourself feeling like you have lost your way, or pieces of your personality, don’t worry. We have all been there, are there, and will be again. But those pieces are not gone forever! You’re just focused on a specific part of you right now; a lifelong part of you that is so important. You will be able to focus on other parts of you soon, maybe even sooner than you think!
You’re still you—you’re a Mother, Daughter, Lover, Artist, Singer, Thinker, Loud Laugher, whatever you are, you’re it. And you’re amazing and impressive and I’m right there with you on this journey.
Stephanie Peters is a happy, tired 27-year-old wife & mom to a 3-year-old girl and 1-year-old fraternal boy/girl twins. She lives for her family, honesty, and relatable memes. She loves nachos, singing, and striking things off lists (i.e. shower?). She’s a procrastinator and an extrovert (who also just wants to be alone & watch Netflix). Keep up with her thoughts & film photos on her blog or Instagram.