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This blog post was originally published on September 14th, 2016.
Update: I was going through the archives of my Happily Eva Answers posts from years past, and I stumbled upon this post. I reread it and realized how the feeling of experiencing a separation between ourselves as parents and our former selves (or future selves) is more prevalent than ever during Pandemic Parenting. It’s hard enough to get through all of it ourselves, let alone to prioritize and protect another (or several other!) humans. How do we separate out who we want to be as women or men, from who we need to be as parents? Is there a reconciliation of those two roles that feels balanced? Times have obviously changed from the last time I wrote this blog post and answered this reader’s question, but it’s re-inspired me to take a hard look at my own life and habits.., and to ensure that I’m filling my cup in ways that feel sustainable. I’d love to get your thoughts on this topic as well, so feel free to share once you’ve read below! Also, please write to me at Hi@HappilyEvaAfter.com if you have a question that you’d like to see answered in this format.
I love your blog and the advice you give, you seem very balanced and level-headed– and wanted to ask how you found the balance between being you and being “Mom”. I’m 28 and have two girls, one almost 5 and one 4 months old. I have gone through postnatal depression and on the other side of it I’m wondering how I strike the balance between being myself and being Mom.
My husband and I never have date nights and I spend a good 99% of my time looking after my children or my house. I never get the time to be myself – and I’m not even sure who that is anymore. I feel a lot of judgment from the other Moms at my daughter’s school and worry that me being me, might result in my daughter being left out of party invites or out of school activities if Moms don’t like me. I’m not an awful person, don’t get me wrong – I just feel the need to behave a certain way around them (best foot forward and all) but it means that they don’t get to know me. They know “Mom” me and it’s exhausting. I should mention that most of my pre-baby friends stopped contacting me when I had my first child. Because I couldn’t do plans spur of the moment they left me out. This means I’m alone a lot of the time and as a Mom, I’m sure you know making new friends is difficult.
Do you ever feel conflicted about your roles or feel like you need to put on a front in front of other mothers to be accepted? What can I do to strike a balance between me and “Mom” me? and do you have any tips on making new friend circles? I miss having connections with grown-ups that don’t demand pudding cups or spit up on my top.
Ms. Mom Minus The Me
My Dearest Mom-Minus-The-Me,
I’m declaring a state of emergency – I won’t allow you to keep on going feeling this way! Your letter really moved me. I can relate to that internal struggle between being there wholly and completely for our children, and celebrating and preserving our own senses of identity. In fact, Happily Eva After was born out of an intense period of questioning and thinking as I worked through my own balance when it comes to this concept. I’m so sorry you’re having such a hard time, and I do have a few things to say that hopefully will help you feel stronger, more positive, and perhaps inspire you to shine your light as brightly as humanly possible.
I think the first step is knowing who we are, but I think that the other half of the battle is liking who we are. At the moment, it seems that you have lost track of both. And I don’t blame you. Two children, a relationship, and a bout of depression are enough to send anyone gasping for air. There’s a lot on your plate. But let’s get right to the bottom of this and agree that you desperately need to invest more time and energy in YOU.
I can tell that a lot of your reluctance to shine as brightly as you can has to do with not feeling enough as you are. I hate that you feel insecure around other Mothers at your daughter’s school– that must be a terrible feeling, and I know that your main concern is for your daughter’s happiness and inclusion. Let me tell you, however, that what all our children need the most is for their parents to shine their authentic, vibrant light as brightly as possible. How can we expect our children to be all that they can be if we don’t show them firsthand who we ourselves are? Unapologetically. Believe it or not, your children know you. They really, really know you. They’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly (parenting can get not-so-pretty at times) and they absolutely adore you. And it’s not because you feed them, and clothe them, and put a roof over their heads. It’s because they love YOU. All parts of you. Allow their estimation of you to be the one that counts, and start to project to others the person that your children know you to be. I truly believe that so much of what makes us each excellent Mothers in our own ways are actually the things that we sometimes let slip into the background when we have children. All of our life experiences– our imaginations, our senses of humor, our wildness, our loudness, our creativity, our contradictions, our appetites for adventure– are all the things that we MUST maintain as parents. After all, Human children need to be raised by real live Human parents. Not robots.
You also need to go on Date Nights. It doesn’t have to be every week, but it does have to be at least once a month. Get dressed up. Make yourself feel like the woman you were before children, before self-judgment, and exhaustion, and pudding cups, and spit-up. She’s still in there! Start thinking about something or some things that you can do for yourself. It can be something small like joining a book club or learning something new (fun dance class, online yoga course, cooking, knitting fabulous cashmere hats for Winter, a language you’ve been dying to pick up) or even something bigger like finding the time to leave your children with their father for a weekend while you go visit a friend out of town. Go to a museum once a month without the rest of your family and remember what it was like to take something in and experience it through your unhurried gaze. Eat lunch by yourself and read a magazine. Enjoy the quiet! Whatever type of “Me Time” you choose, you need to value your own experiences and needs a little more– it will make your entire family happier, trust me!
As far as the friendships go – your old friends sound terrible! Good riddance! I can’t believe they basically abandoned you at your most vulnerable with zero understanding about your very fresh transition in life. How selfish and short-sighted. I think as you begin to explore your own needs a little more and nurture who YOU ARE as a woman, you will begin to meet some like-minded people. When we like ourselves, we definitely attract friends who like us too! Maybe even join a Mommy Group with your little baby and see if there are any fellow Moms in there that you connect with! Even if there’s one cool chick in the bunch, it will be a great connection. You ladies can pick a date and go out on the town together! You definitely deserve it.
And by the way, your husband won’t believe the sassy, sexy, vibrant woman his wife turns back into as soon as she is investing time and energy in herself. He will be your number one fan! Lucky guy…
I wish you all the best!!!