I am sitting in the bathroom after a big blowout with my husband. Somewhere between the baby, the blowout, and this bathroom, it occurred to me that I may have lost myself. The lack of sleep, the crusted clothing covered in spit-up, my mommy muffin top, and the bags below my eyes are more than subtle reminders that I have fallen so far from the girl my husband met before all of this.
Once upon a time, I was confident, I was cool, my clothes were clean, and my hair smelled good. It was easy to smile, easier to laugh. I think I may have even been fun. He liked being around me; moreover, I liked being around myself. Now as I sit here in this bathroom, the doubts grow larger and turn into self-loathing, and it is at this point that I wonder if I will ever be more than a mom ever again. Must I accept this new identity, and let that old girl who was so cool and carefree go, and spend the next few decades in a haze of halfhearted mommy moments?
“Why don’t you go to the gym? Take a Class? Go out with your girlfriends? Get your nails done?” I do not want to do any of these things. I just want him to want me. “Why don’t you love yourself?” I just want him to love me, to spend time with me, to tuck the kids in and devote his time and attention to me rather than the television. Why does it seem that he wants to be farther away from me when I need him most?
Wait a minute… Why does it seem that I want to be farther away from me when I need me most? Why don’t I go the gym? Why don’t I take a class? Why am I not going out with my girlfriends, and why am I not getting my nails done? Could it be that the baby brain has gone viral and taken over my sense of self-esteem?
I look in the mirror and realize that perhaps he has had enough. As much as he loves me, he could never love me back into the person I was. As much as he could hold me, he could never embrace me enough. As much as he could compliment me, I would never hear enough to make it true for myself. I was looking to him to refill my empty tank after a full day of mommyhood. I was looking to him to validate, appreciate and initiate when I needed to be looking to myself. I need to be enough. I need to be whole and complete and able to fill up my own tank on the days when it runs on fumes.
A few days after the blowout, we are back to business. But this time I have made a promise. I did not promise I would never get frustrated or insecure again. I did not promise to be the perfect patient wife with a kiss and a clean home upon his arrival. No, I made a promise to myself. I made a promise to go looking for that girl, but I am not going to find her by going backward. The past has passed, and my experience with motherhood and marriage can bring about a deeper awareness of myself if I allow it. So I go looking forward, I go looking for the woman, and not the girl—the woman who is enough for herself and needs no validation to feel secure and valued in this world.
I go to the gym, but not to melt off the muffin top. I go to the gym to get away from the kids, turn my music up loud, and reconnect with my body. I go to the gym to feel more comfortable in this body that has birthed two amazing children and manages to keep up with them on a daily basis. I refill my tank by taking the time to put the energy into my body that equals what I give out.
I sign up for a class. I have always wanted to learn tai chi. I sign up for the class to understand myself better. I take the class to connect with myself and others and renew my energy. I take the class to learn how to take a deep breath in the thick fog of motherhood. I take the class to take time for myself.
I connect with girlfriends; no one can understand burnout like my besties fighting the good fight of mommyhood just like me. I used to put all my problems on my partner; rationality won out every time. Around my friends, I’m allowed to be irrational, and in the way only women can, they would compassionately guide me back to a healthy balance of emotion and reality.
I decide to go get my nails done, maybe a massage if I have the money—not because this is what women do to keep up appearances in our society, but to feel touch after touching someone else all day. In deciding to take small steps to pamper myself, I am able to give my touch back to those I love with a renewed sense of energy. In doing little things to care for myself, I am able to better care for those around me.
I am enough. Yes, I am a mother and a wife, but I am also a woman. In my journey to discover my identity outside of my home, I found that all I need is within myself, and the compliments, care and compassion of others are an added bonus. No one knows how to treat me better than myself if I allow it, and there is so much strength and confidence in knowing that. At any given time when I run low on energy and come close to burnout or a blowout, I can now close this bathroom door, look into the mirror, give myself a great big hug, and love the woman I see before me. She is enough for her children, and she is enough for her husband, because she is enough for herself.