How I Learned To Live My Best Life, Even Though I'm A Tired And Stressed Out Mom

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 

Recently, two octogenarians busted out of a nursing home and ended up at a heavy metal concert. We thought it was a cute story. We thought it was a fun story. But we missed the real message: YOLO, dude. Hey mama, when’s the last time you YOLO’d? When did you last do something just for yourself, something that you love? What do you love, anyway?

Do you even rememer?

I forgot. I had kids and got really into attachment parenting and breastfeeding and babywearing. It became who I was. I lived for my kids, for taking care of my kids, for loving my kids and enriching my kids and toting them around in expensive-ass baby wraps. Maybe I read a few books. But that was it. I didn’t do stuff for myself beyond the usual clothes and make-up and basic self-care that keeps us all from going bonkers. I had my kids. I didn’t have anything of my own. I was Mama. That was all of me.

My kids grew bigger. Kids do that.

I was sort of screwed. I had to find out who I was, and fast.

YOLO, motherfucker. Slowly, I started to realize that I could be whomever I wanted to be. I could do whatever I wanted to do, no matter what anyone else thought.

So I started sewing. I started crocheting. I started training my dog. I stopped pretending I watched America’s Next Top Child Pageant Dance Routine in the Alaskan Wilderness. I told the truth instead: I watch, like, three shows. They’re mostly weird esoteric sci-fi and you probably hate them. IDGAF. I have a collection of Harry Potter t-shirts and homemade skirts.

I can sit at home and take care of my kids, but I need more. I need to be myself. I need an identity that isn’t Mama. And YOLO, dammit. I don’t want to die and realize that I just stayed home and made glitter slime.

Because so many moms, after they pop out kids, just become Mama. And they stay Mama. And people: you need to be someone other than a person in relation to others. You need to live for yourself. You need to do what you love, and love what you do, and stop caring about what other people think.

I saw a dear friend move away, and I watched her struggle with this. She isn’t crafty. She isn’t into gardening or taking impromptu trips or the outdoors or exercise. She drifted sadly until she decided to become a foster parent. She found a cause, and she is much happier now. Because she found an identity beyond her own two kids.

YOLO doesn’t just mean jumping off waterfalls and parachuting and visiting Bali. It also applies to the little things in life, the ones you do just for yourself, the ones that get lost in the shuffle if you don’t take care. You might get into gardening or cooking or running marathons. Maybe you always wanted blue hair, if just temporarily. Maybe you want a unicorn sticker on your car. Maybe you want to make something that uses a lot of glitter because fuck it.

You need a thing. You can make stuff: crochet or knit or bake or sew or decoupage cigar boxes. But you can also get into other stuff. Maybe you’re super into old movies. Maybe you love musicals. Maybe you want to teach Zumba.

But you have to love something. You have to do something. You have to live beyond your kids.

Because your kids will grow up. Your life will change. And you will be left with empty arms and worse, an empty life. Be someone other than Mama. Be what you love. YOLO.

Eat that fucking coconut cake. Write down the most beautiful moment of every single day. Plant some flowers or basil or cucumbers. Get into ballet or take violin lessons or fling yourself headlong into living history. You only live once, so do what you love.

But whatever it is, do it for you. Do it because you love it, because you want it, no matter what society tells you. Wear a tutu to Target. Have good sex. Sing along to Storybots if you feel like. But be and do more than just Mama. Your kids will thank you for it. Your spouse will appreciate it. And most of all, you’ll discover yourself unfolding, taking flight, becoming more than you were before. Slap that unicorn sticker on your minivan, bitch.

YOLO, folks. YOLO.

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