The transition into motherhood is beautiful, glorious, and life-changing. But it's also extremely difficult at times. It's easy to lose oneself when caring for a new little human. It's baffling how remarkably strong and capable women are emotionally but this strength is often feigned. Behind the scenes in the lives of the many women who put on the perfect front, appearing put together as they care for kids, manage the house and support their husbands, can often be found an overwhelmed mom who hasn't made time for self-discovery.
How do you make time to figure out who you are when there is always something that needs to be done for your family? It's not easy. Motherhood so far, in my life, has been less about how to parent, and more about how to find balance in my day-to-day life. Caring for my son is the easy part. Caring for myself, however, has proven to be a difficult task.
For a long time, I put myself on the back-burner, desperate to give my all (and then some) to my son and my husband. I did this until I ran myself into the ground. Only then did I realize that I can't give my all to anyone when I'm not fulfilled and taken care of first. It's been a long two years, and I have many more to go. I'd love to share 20 things I've done to find myself again after motherhood, in the hopes that other new moms may take the time for self-discovery before burning out.
You probably hear moms talk about the importance of self-care all the time. That's because it really is something that you need to make a priority in your life. It's easy to let yourself slip when there are so many things you need to get done. Dishes, washing the bedsheets, feeding the baby, the list goes on.
I put all of that in front of my own well-being for a very long time, and after a while, I found that I was suffering for it. I've never been a girly girl. I don't need to put on makeup every day or shave every time a little stubble grows back. But taking the time to put on makeup at least a couple of days a week, doing my nails and putting on face masks every so often, it all helped me rediscover who I am outside of being a mom.
I've started several hobbies since becoming a mom. Some of them have fallen to the wayside, and others have stuck. Either way, it never fails to make me happy and give my life a little purpose beyond the day-to-day chores.
It's important to do things that you enjoy. I honestly don't even know what I would do if I didn't have hobbies. I'd probably watch way too much television, and my house would be spotless. But a spotless house is not worth losing my mind over.
It's hard, especially in the first few months of motherhood, to make time for yourself. But it's so important. When mom thrives, the entire family thrives. Do you enjoy reading? Read! Even if it's only for 20 minutes a day. It will do wonders for your mental health.
After months of feeling inadequate, one day I decided to stop beating myself up over everything. It was hard to accept that I wasn't the perfect mom I always envisioned myself as, but it was so important in allowing myself to heal and grow as a person.
Before having my son I told myself I would always be patient, always be kind. I would never lose my temper or break down from exhaustion. I would just "push through". It turns out my expectations were way too high. I'm the same person I've always been. I'm a better version of myself, really. But I can't control how I'm feeling, it's just not possible. Sometimes I break down, and I had to allow myself to feel it, understand it, and accept it.
There's no way of sugar coating it - pregnancy really did a number on my body. Honestly, I don't struggle with it often, which is a miracle in itself. Practically every inch of my stomach is covered in stretch marks and the skin will be loose probably for the rest of my life.
Even still, it was a hard adjustment. Your body changes slowly throughout pregnancy. After giving birth, it's kind of shocking. You don't have your baby safe inside you anymore and your body suddenly looks completely different. Accepting the fact that it's different and allowing yourself to believe that you're beautiful is life-changing.
Anyone that knows me will tell you - I'm a little bit obsessive. I write list after list, I love planners, and I have a hard time when my schedule gets thrown off track. I'm proud to be organized, but the stress isn't really worth it, trust me.
After my son was born, it quickly became apparent that schedules just don't always work out the way you want them to. Babies have no concept of time. It doesn't matter if they just ate 30 minutes ago. When they're hungry, they're hungry. There's no way you can control what a child may be feeling on a given day, and you have to be willing to change plans at the drop of a hat. It's a hard thing to get used to but it's worth it.
Allowing myself to break free and just take things day by day relieved so much stress. Instead of feeling in control of my schedule and my belongings, I now feel in control of my emotions. It's a wonderful trade-off.
Before having a child, I envisioned motherhood as this fantastic, beautiful journey. I knew it would be hard at times, but I never thought it would get as difficult as it does. I figured the frustration would be masked by my feelings of love and affection for my son.
Let me tell you something - All the love in the world is not enough to mask the emotions I feel some days. And that's okay!
I don't take my feelings out on him, and I keep it as cool as I can when he's around, but there's no denying it: I am not always in love with being a mom.
Once I accepted this as an unavoidable truth, I stopped feeling guilty. It's not always easy to remember that we're only human.
Finding time to relax and be completely alone is vital to your attitude during the hours your child is awake. At least, that's been my experience.
My alone time is pretty high on my list of priorities now because I know what it does to me when I don't have it for long periods of time. Finding balance and rhythm in life is easier said than done. The days start to blur together and before you know it, it's been a month or two since you last took the time to care for yourself and take a breather. Now I make sure that doesn't happen. I squeeze in my chill time where I can get it. Sometimes I wake up an hour or two before my son does, and other times I stay up a little later than I should.
I always thought I would love being a stay-at-home mom and don't get me wrong, I do! But I have to admit, it gets pretty boring and monotonous. I don't know if I can handle spending all of my waking hours only tending to the home and my son. I wanted more than that and I wanted to contribute to our household funds without having to put my son in daycare.
I have found all kinds of creative ways to make money from home and in turn, it gave me a sense of power and purpose. Blogging, freelance writing and editing, making and selling crafts, you name it. There's no time for boredom now and that's just how I like it.
I don't know what it is about babies, but people just cannot help themselves from going overboard and buying them everything they can find. I'm the worst about it. It's like I can't even go to the store without bringing home a new toy or sippy cup.
I still spoil my son, but I started buying things for myself as well. I started realizing that all of my clothes had holes or stains. After thinking about it for a few minutes, it hit me; I hadn't bought myself any clothes, shoes, or makeup in almost two years!
I was so wrapped up in giving my son the world, I forgot about myself. Going out and buying some nice things for myself really did the trick. When you look good, you feel good!
This was another thing that seemed to come out of nowhere. I didn't even realize it was happening at first. Time starts flying after you have kids, and before you know it, an entire year has passed.
Somewhere along the line, I stopped putting on makeup altogether. I've never been one to wear it every single day, but I used to put more thought into my appearance. With nowhere to go, and no one seeing me except for my family most days, I stopped concerning myself with all of that. Once I started taking the time (even though I have very little of it) to do my hair and makeup at least a few days a week, my mood improved drastically. It didn't matter that no one was going to see me. I felt better about myself, and that's what it's all about.
Finding other mom friends isn't easy. Especially when you're a young mom, with her stuff together. I don't fit in with the super young moms who leave their kids at their parents' house to go out and party, and I don't fit in with moms with older kids.
It's a struggle. But finding a few other women you can hang out with and take on playdates is huge. I won't lie, I still don't go out enough. Most of the time I just chat with other ladies I know through text since we're all so busy. But even that has been amazing. I love my husband, I really do. But we've been together for years. There's only so much to talk about. And I know for certain he's not interested in talking about The Real Housewives, or my latest craft idea.
Alternatively, taking the time to just be with my husband has done wonders for our marriage and my mental health. The one piece of advice I heard frequently while pregnant was to "make time for dates". I didn't take it too seriously back then. After all, we had all the time in the world outside of work.
Now, going on a simple date takes days of planning and a few calls to coordinate. It's easy to fall into a pattern where you're too overwhelmed to put the work in to go out together, but I promise you'll feel better once you do. Being able to hold a conversation without a toddler throwing something at me or yelling when I don't look at them is really all I need to tackle another week or two of chaos.
It was so much more than my body that changed during and after pregnancy. Pretty much everything about me changed. I stopped caring about things that used to mean a lot, and my focus completely shifted. It's all wonderful! It's not a negative thing. But it was something that took me a long time to realize.
I didn't feel different after I had my son. I didn't think my actions and feelings were caused by pregnancy or giving birth. I just... felt what I felt. Once I realized that I was different, it was kind of a wake-up call. The changes are beautiful, but it's strange to feel like you don't know yourself anymore.
My son was hospitalized off and on for about two months as a newborn. He caught RSV and was almost moved the ICU. Needless to say, I was a tad traumatized, and because of it, I never wanted to see family or take him anywhere. It took a long time to finally feel safe taking him to the park and to restaurants. But once I did, it felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
This may not be relatable to everyone, but for the moms out there who are terrified of their babies getting sick - take the risk once they're a little older. Follow your gut, for sure. But if your kid is obviously going stir crazy inside all of the time, you might consider going out and doing something fun. It's good for the both of you.
When my son turned about a year old, I started gardening. I'm not good at it, but it sure is fun! I'm a bit of a hermit, so moving to the country where it's quiet was just what I needed. I started spending more time outside, mostly replanting vegetables that had died on me, but hey, I've had a blast. We also have 8 chickens, so sitting outside with them is relaxing and gives me time to think to myself.
If you like spending time outside, whether it's by yourself or with your kids, I can't recommend gardening enough. You can't be afraid of failure because you'll see plenty of that. But it's so healing.
Taking joy in the little things and slowing down to hold on to memories is a hard thing to do when you're a busy mom. I'm the type of mom that always wants to be on top of everything. If there's a fun moment, I want to stop and snap pictures for my scrapbook. I fill every moment of free time I have with a task or chore. I have a hard time sitting still, basically.
Making the decision to put my camera down and enjoy the moment, to make the most of every day has been life-changing. I don't let holidays pass me by, either, and I think that's a big deal. Make the most of the time you have with your kids, and you'll thank yourself later. Don't forget, you only get 18 Thanksgivings, 18 Summers, 18 Christmas' with each of your kids.
This is different than making time for self-care, or "me time". I mean, straight up, taking a few minutes to myself when I need to. If my son has been screaming nonstop for hours, I've started allowing myself to step away for a moment. It's easier said than done, I know. But you have to get your mind right.
I used to be so afraid of leaving his side. If he's crying, I have to be strong and keep holding him as long as he needs, no matter what it's doing to my emotions and my well-being. I quit doing that, and we're better for it. Unless something is wrong, when I get to a point where I feel like I'm about to lose my cool, I put my son in his bed and walk away for about 5 minutes. That's all the time I need to come back with a fresh new attitude, which is good for both my son and myself.
Who says the dishes always need to be done, or the laundry should always be kept up with? Well, I did. I used to, anyway.
Now I let it roll off my shoulders. There is no way I can possibly keep up with everything at all times. All I can do is my best, and sometimes my best is sitting on the floor playing with my son instead of worrying about the laundry on the table. I used to be so hard on myself as if the house had to be pristine at all times. I finally realized that it's just not worth the fuss. I get to chores when I can, and I focus on what's really important - bonding with my son. Besides, in order to keep things 100% dust-free and sparkly clean all the time, I would be left with about one hour a day to spend quality time with my boy. Yeah, no thanks. I think I'll take the dirty sink full of dishes, thank you.
This probably only works for me, but if you're feeling lost, it's worth a shot. After having my son, I started making more and more of my own products. Not only does it give me something to blog about, which provides a creative outlet and a source of income, I feel better about my life as a whole. I'm not a super "crunchy" mom. I see the danger and harm in continuously using products with bad ingredients in them, but I'm not above buying them for the sake of having zero waste in my house. But it feels nice knowing that (for the most part) the products I use on myself and my baby are made with love and contain only natural ingredients. It's fun to make your own shampoo, and you feel proud when you use it!
For whatever reason, when I got pregnant, I suddenly had an aversion to animals. I can't begin to explain it, but it honestly was pretty heartbreaking for me. I've always loved animals, dogs in particular. But once I was pregnant, I couldn't stand having them in my space. I still do love animals, I just don't like them interfering with my life and my things. I wish I understood it, but that's the best way I can phrase it.
If you know me from my blog, I'm a homesteader/hobby farmer. Homesteading and animals go hand-in-hand, don't they? I love my chickens. I love my dogs. I love my future goats, pigs, ducks, and horses. But it's been a struggle. It's just one of the many ways pregnancy has changed me, and it's one thing that I refuse to give up on. Feeling stand-offish towards animals is not one of the changes that I'm going to just accept as a part of who I am.
Getting animals has pushed me to care for other living things and not let my world revolve around my son 100%. It's been a struggle trying to connect with other people and animals ever since I became a mother, and taking myself out of my comfort zone has led to growth. Besides, who doesn't love seeing their kids bond with their pets?
Reference: This one mom's experience.