Today we have a special treat, our first Guest Blogger is the fabulous Chelsea Stevenson of Birth Under Wraps. Her writing speaks to the hearts of women who feel like they may have lost a little bit of Superwoman to Supermom. (Hint: She's speaking to all of us.) Enjoy!
I remember life before my children. While fleeting, I do recall a time when I could pick up and go wherever with whomever at whatever time without thinking twice about it. Childcare wasn’t a concern, bedtime wasn’t a curfew, and the daily agenda of feedings and naptimes didn’t take priority in my scheduling. I could grab my clutch and keys, brush my face on, and say hello to whatever adventure the day threw my way.
I adjusted well after the birth of my first child. I seamlessly upgraded from my clutch to a cute diaper bag. I enjoyed my new time at home, reveling in the new life motherhood spelled out for me. Bath times and snuggles were undoubtedly the best thing I could ever experience. When the occasional cabin fever hit, it was easy to make arrangements for my son. After a small dose of alone time, I was ready to get home.
When I welcomed my second child, I moved from the cute diaper bag to a very functional backpack. With two children needing my now divided attention, I became more attached to my home than ever before. I felt it most important that I spend my time with my littles, and the fear of doing them a disservice because time was split between them was often overwhelming. Plans? Forget about it. Unless the kids could be with me, I simply wasn’t interested.
Last year, my family grew by one more, and something in me changed. In a moment filled with equal parts of clarity and vulnerability, I realized that the woman who used to carry that clutch was nowhere to be found. While I expected that I’d be able to catch back up with her one day, I instead returned to an empty space.
The evolution that takes place over the course of motherhood truly is all-encompassing. Seasons change, the kids outgrow their baby fat, and suddenly you find yourself face to face with a stranger in the mirror.
The question begs to be asked: How do you reconnect with yourself?
The concept of reconnecting is often tied to the person who you remember yourself to be back in ‘06 (or whenever!), but let’s really consider that. If you were able to sit down for coffee with the person you were before motherhood, would you? If she were to call you today, would you pick up? If she invited you for an evening out, would you accept?
If we’re being honest here, I wouldn’t.
While there are days that I wake up feeling a bit resentful of the fact that I’ve become known mostly as “So-and-So’s Mom,” I know for a fact that I wouldn’t give my pre-parenthood self even a bit of my time today. The truth is, while I am able to romanticize about what life was all of those years ago, motherhood truly has brought out the best of me.
My value as an individual, like yours, is not dependent upon whether or not I spend every waking hour in service of my children.
On the contrary, quantifying time spent with them tends to create a larger monster. When you feel shame, worry, or even guilt - causing you to cringe at the idea of spending time away from them - then you’re likely positioning yourself for a challenge down the line. You see, as lovely as it is to be in the company of your children, it is easy to find yourself forgotten. Life envelops you in obligations and the day in-day out routine compounds until one morning you wake to the realization that it’s been far too long since you did something solely for yourself.
This is where I found myself, and I’ve made the decision that enough is enough.
Beyond being a mother, I am a woman. Beyond being Mom, I have a name. Beyond planning activities for my children, I have hobbies of my own. Beyond caring for my children, I have the both the desire and the right to care for myself.
Perhaps that woman feels distant from you now, but with some coaxing she’ll return. Perhaps it’s been so long that those hobbies need be rediscovered or reinvented, but they exist beneath the surface. Perhaps self-care has been so neglected that it seems unreasonable, but you can rest assured that it is not only priceless it is also necessary. To be the best mother possible, you also need be as healthy mentally and emotionally as possible. Caring for yourself each day is an investment not only for your own wellbeing but also for that of your children and family.
As we make our way into a new year, I challenge you to be more than a woman named Mom.
I challenge you to make a conscious effort of recognizing, nurturing, and loving yourself as an individual. In lieu of quantifying time spent with your little one (or little ones), try focusing on quality instead. By enjoying moments of uninterrupted, raw joy and engagement with your children, you’ll feel fulfilled. You may find that a sense of affirmation that you’ve met your child’s emotional needs is helpful in justifying time spent to yourself. Make it a priority to dedicate at least thirty minutes a day to self-care and connection. Fill your cup. Value the individual in you. She deserves it. YOU deserve it.
As an added bonus, I’ve created a FREE More Than A Mom Workbook to help you reconnect with the individual you are. Enjoy!
P.S. This time around, I ditched the backpack. I got the fiercest bag (and clutch to toss inside) I could find.
Chelsea Stevenson is the proud owner of Birth Under Wraps, the first doula agency by and for Muslim women. When she's not supporting her clients in Maryland, DC and NoVa, you can find her in the kitchen trying new a new recipe, watching anything on HGTV, or window shopping for the perfect vacation packages for herself and her family of five. Please visit her website here, or connect with her on Facebook here.