Don't Lose Yourself To Parenthood
Women wear a million hats. And we look pretty good in all of them.
When my twins were born three years ago, I became “mom.” It’s the best title in the entire world, if you ask me, and my favorite “hat” to wear. (Good thing since that sucker never comes off.)
Up until recently, I had no life outside my boys. I had friends, but only saw them through the Internet or text messages. Much of the time, I wasn’t even good about responding to text messages.
When I was a stay-at-home mom, the excitement of the week was my women’s bible study, church on the weekend, and whatever kid-friendly events I did with my boys – the zoo, the science center, the library, etc. There was never a time I wasn’t with my boys. Literally, never.
I loved that. I thoroughly enjoyed spending my life with my boys. They were my life.
They still are.
But things have shifted a bit.
When I went back to work full time, the mom guilt was thick. Like a heavy fur coat I wore all the time.
Suddenly, I went from never leaving their little sides to being separated from them 45 hours a week. I felt like any more time away was complete abandonment. Like I was leaving them for dead and they’d hate me forever and be scarred and damaged by the lack of love they felt through my absence. After all, they had a mostly absent father, and now I was leaving them to be raised by daycare – or at least that’s how it felt in the beginning.
On top of the guilt for the time spent away from them, there was the financial weight from the cost of child care so I could be at work and away from my sons. The whole thing felt like a cruel joke. Sometimes it still does, to be honest.
The cost of child care, whether it is babysitters for a night out or daycare while you’re at work, is high. I couldn’t stomach the thought of paying someone else again to go have “me time.” My wallet wasn’t big enough, and emotionally, it didn’t sit well with me.
So I never went anywhere except work and church unless they could be with me. I tried hard to be as emotionally present with them as possible, and to be physically present every second before and after work.
That shit is hard though.
I started getting bitter and snappy. I wasn’t as good of a mom as I wanted to be some evenings after work. I was feeling resentful of my lack of a life, and it was starting to affect me as a mom.
As my boys have gotten older and I’ve adjusted to the single working motherhood thing a bit better, I’ve realized the importance of having a little bit of a life outside of just being “mom.”
People would say it all the time. “You need to have some you time. Do something for yourself.” That sounded nice in theory, but logistically, it just didn’t feel practical, or even fair.
But as I continue to learn, it’s necessary.
This applies to ALL moms. Stay-at-home, work-at-home, part-time work, full-time work, single, married, and anything in between. It applies to the dads too.
Parents need time away from their kids in order to be better parents. We pour everything we’ve got into our children, and we never take that parent hat off. That’s good. It’s what we are supposed to do. But just like a bank account, if all that ever happens is withdrawals and there are never any deposits, eventually you get a zero balance. Or worse, you get overdrawn. Then you start getting overdraft fees and it’s just a big mess.
Did I get off track there?
It’s true though.
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
We have to deposit things back into ourselves. We have to take care of ourselves. We have to get away from our children sometimes for more than just work. We have to have time to be us.
Before we were mom or dad, we were us. We probably had friends. We probably did things. We probably had adult conversations. We probably drank occasionally or went places that required an ID. We may have gotten dressed up sometimes and worn things besides yoga pants and spit-up.
And that was good.
As much as I find pure joy in spending time with my boys and doing all the kid/mom things, I have discovered I’m a much better mom and enjoy those things even more when I give myself small opportunities for breaks and fun that doesn’t involve them.
“Mom” is the best name in the world. But outside of being mom, I’m also Rachael.
It’s taken me a long time to find her again. I lost her amidst bad marriages and unhealthy behaviors and damaging choices. I forgot her between the poopy diapers and sippy cups and food spills. I didn’t know who she was.
Truth is, becoming a mom three years ago helped me begin the journey back to myself. I needed the time of being nothing but mom to regain my footing. My sons were my sanctuary and my survival throughout my marriage and divorce.
They still are my sanctuary. But these toddler years have given me reason to find other sanctuaries too.
I’ve discovered that I also need to do Rachael things outside of strictly work things and mom things.
It’s easy to get lost in parenthood. It’s why so many couples struggle after having kids and why so many marriages fall apart after the kids have all left the nest. We lose ourselves. We lose each other.
Our children need us not to do that.
They need us, yes. But if we lose ourselves in them, do they really have us anyway?
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