September 21, 2008 around 9 o’clock in the evening my whole world changed. That first moment when my daughter, brand new to the world, grabbed my hospital gown with her tiny hand I knew I was done. Motherhood took hold of my heart and it was never letting go.
But what does that mean? When I gave birth, did Maryea walk out of the door and Mommy walk in? That person I was before I brought a tiny human into the world, what about her?
Do you ever feel like your identity is wrapped up in being a mom and it’s hard to see the person you were before entering the world of motherhood? Who are you, exactly?
Wife.Mother.I spent a lot of time in my 20s dreaming about becoming someone’s wife and someone’s mother. What I didn’t think about much was what would happen to Maryea once I gained those titles.
It isn’t easy to hold onto a personal identity after you’re married and start a family. I distinctly remember feeling it slip away after Meghan was born, and it’s one of the reasons why I started this blog. I needed a role that relied on my personal talents outside of being a good wife and mom.
As a new mom, I realized right away that while I wanted to be a good wife, a good mom, and cherished those roles, I also really wanted to maintain my personal identity.
Last week, I traveled alone to Salt Lake City, Utah for the Everything Food blogging conference. Wednesday through Sunday, I was away from my family and focused on work alone. I have only traveled alone a handful of times since being married, but every time I’m reminded of its importance.Yes, I miss my kids and husband when I’m gone, but at the same time, it’s good for my soul. I get the chance to stop for a minute and just be me. Not Maryea the wife or Maryea the mom. Just Maryea.
How often does that happen for you?
Sometimes I think of my own mother while I was growing up, and this is probably why I’m acutely aware of not losing my identity through motherhood. She never traveled alone without my dad or at least one of her kids. Never. Not once.
The week before my high school graduation, she cried every single day. Every time I saw her, she’d just burst into tears. I didn’t realize it at the time, but now I see it. So much of her identity was based on her role as a mother, and I was her baby, getting ready to go off to college.
She not only had to face her last child leaving the home, but was also being forced to look at herself and rediscover who she was outside of her role as mom.
Today I want to challenge you to work to maintain your identity, even as you rock motherhood. Your identity is not singular. Be the best mom you can be, but also remember who you were before giving birth. That person is worth knowing. That person’s identity is worth maintaining.
How to Not Lose Yourself in Motherhood
1. Maintain your personal interests.
It’s cool that you love Disney World right along with your kids, read Harry Potter with them, and spend your weekends at soccer games. But remember those things YOU liked before motherhood? Those are important, too.
2. Set and work towards personal goals.
Working towards achieving something outside of motherhood is important. Whether it’s work-related or health-related, or something else, as long as it’s something you’re working towards achieving for yourself, it will help you with having a personal identity separate from your role as mom.
3. Insist on time alone.
I understand that not everyone is able to take a trip alone. But how about an hour a week where you are totally alone in your bathroom and get to take a bath and read a book? Every mother needs at least a little time alone, away from her kids, in her life. Be resourceful if you need to, but make it happen.
4. Avoid isolation.
No, this isn’t a contradiction to #3. I’m talking about isolation from friends and/or other adults. When my first child was born, I stopped working and became a stay-at-home mom. I didn’t have any friends near me who were also moms and also staying at home. The isolation was stifling. I immediately started to seek out mom’s groups so I could connect with others. Being around other adults can help you remember the person you are outside of being a mom. Online groups can be equally helpful.
If you’re looking for a group of health-minded moms for ideas and support, check out The Happy Healthy Mama Community private Facebook group. I’d love to have you join us!
5. Keep up your appearance.
I get it. It’s easy to forget about this when your main focus is keeping tiny humans alive. But it’s just as important for your mental health as your marriage that you allow yourself to focus on how you look. Looking good can be a big help in feeling good. So try your best to stay active and fit, take time to fix your hair, and remember to treat yourself to new clothes every once in a while. You can be comfy and casual and still look good! Check out this post on the perfect white tee to see what I mean.
Clearly, I identify as a mother. I named my blog Happy Healthy Mama! But doesn’t mean mom is the only part of me. Becoming a mom doesn’t have to mean losing yourself. Motherhood is one of the greatest joys of my life, but I know I wouldn’t be my happiest self if it was my only source of joy.
Don’t you ever feel guilty about wanting to find yourself outside of your role as a mom. The truth is, I’m a better mom because I do have an identity outside of motherhood. You are, too.