It is really easy as a stay-at-home mother to let yourself go. The relentless pressures of motherhood do not afford much time to nurture a personal identity. A mother can be absolutely killing it in the mom department, while letting every other aspect of herself slip away, until one day the glaring reality of how far gone she is comes crashing down.
When my husband of nine years unexpectedly left me with two young children so he could sow his wild oats, many people offered me the advice to “just focus on the kids,” thinking that if I could only redirect my focus, things would be just fine for me. The problem with that line of thought was that I had always just focused on the kids. I will never forget the time my husband casually said that my only identity was that of a mother. When he said it, I thought he was crazy, that he simply didn’t know me at all.
Hindsight usually affords a better view, and looking back, I can see how my world completely revolved around my children. Every aspect of myself was tied into giving them the best life possible. Looking in the mirror, I had no idea how I had changed so much. I didn’t recognize that woman as anything other than the shell of a mother. Where had my personal identity gone? I realized that I had to be more than a mother, not just for myself, but also to teach my children the value of putting yourself first sometimes.
My plan to find myself again started outwardly. I spent a small fortune on new makeup, a haircut and a few new items of clothes. I started working out every single day, even when the kids would complain that they didn’t like riding in the stroller while I jogged. I told them that was my time, and they needed to respect my time as much as their own.
For months, it felt like nothing was changing, but I didn’t even care. I finally had some power—the power to act—so I was doing as much as I could to get me to my goal. There was so much in my life that I couldn’t fix, and huge changes were coming at me faster than I could manage. I had no control over that, but I did have control over myself.
In the evenings I started writing. I would let everything pour out of me and breathe a sigh of relief as I laid my head down to go to sleep. I remembered how much I loved to write and share my stories. I started taking time during the day to work on articles. Again, the kids would complain that they needed me, and I would remind them that they needed to respect my time as much as their own.
One afternoon, I overheard my 4-year-old son telling a little boy at the park that his mom was a runner and a writer. My son could see my identity forming beyond that of a mother. I was so proud of that moment because I could see how far the effects of taking care of myself were extending. He was proud of me, proud enough to tell kids on the playground about me.
One day, my friends stopped looking at me as a victim. I could see the change. I could see the respect and wonder. They would tell me how great I looked, and how amazed they were by how well I was handling everything. They told me they couldn’t imagine going through a similar situation as gracefully as I had managed. I appreciated every sentiment, because I was doing all that and more, and I wanted the whole world to see my strength.
I lost myself. I got divorced. I seized control over myself. I realized all that I was capable of. Don’t ever lose sight of all that you are capable of. You are more than a mother.