Being a mom is tough, but it’s also incredible! We gain so many wonderful experiences and memories that would never exist without the special bond and relationship we have with our children.
If you’re not careful though, there’s a hidden danger! Lurking. Some mothers get so deeply immersed in their kids’ lives that they forget who they are. They lose their identity.
Let’s look at the lives of two moms, Samantha and Ada.
Samantha is 42 years old and has an 8 year-old boy and a 11-year old girl. She works full-time as a nurse, does all the shopping, cooking, school-lunch preparation and household chores and drives her kids to and from school and between all their activities. Samantha’s partner works full-time and is usually home by 6:30 p.m. each workday. He joins the family on the weekend, but after dinner, he sticks to himself mostly, fixing an old motorcycle. After making the kids’ lunches, Samantha reads to both children and ends up exhausted by the time both kids are asleep, around 9:00 p.m. She spends most of her free time during the weekend on social media or talking to other parents about their concerns about their children. She also uses a considerable amount of her time planning and preparing for special events for her children, like parties, playdates and activities on the weekend. She has very specific ideas in her mind about what, when and how things should happen. Samantha tells her friends she is happily married and loves being a mom. In fact, she often says she couldn’t imagine her life not being a mother.
–Twelve years later, at age 54, Samantha is divorced, and her children have moved on with their lives. She did not anticipate the divorce and feels empty and alone. She doesn’t know how to be happy by herself and can’t think of any hobbies or activities she might enjoy. Samantha spends the majority of her time trying to connect with her kids by phone or on social media. She desperately wants to feel needed by them and to have something to do. She has grown to hate her job and wishes her life was different. Samantha goes into a depression, and reduces her workload to part-time, which impacts her income significantly, causing more stress.
Ada is 42 years old and has an 7 year-old girl and a 10-year old boy. She works as a lawyer full time. She does most of the cooking, although she and her partner have an arrangement where she cooks dinners Sunday to Wednesday, and he’s on chef duty Thursday to Saturday. Each night after dinner, Ada and her son make lunches for the week for him and his sister. Ada’s partner works full-time and is usually home by 6:30 p.m. each workday. He and Ada take turns reading a story to each of the children before bed. On one night Ada will read to their daughter, and her husband will read to their son, and on the next night, it happens in reverse. On the weekend, Ada does all the grocery shopping and errands, and her husband takes care of many of the household chores while she’s out. Ada spends most of her free time reading, gardening or working on a novel she’s always wanted to write. When she plans family activities, everyone provides input and helps in the preparations. Her husband collects cigars and cycles regularly. Ada tells her friends she is happily married and works at living a life that is balanced between work, play and family.
–Twelve years later, at age 54, Ada is divorced, and her children have moved on with their lives. She continues to work as a lawyer on a full-time basis. Now that her children have become adults, moved out of the house, and she is single again, Ada has been able to put more attention toward her own goals. Although she had not anticipated the divorce, she is not dependent on others for her happiness and recognizes the opportunity for her to focus on herself. Her first novel was published eight years earlier, and she now wants to write another book, but this time, a how-to book on raised-bed gardening. Ada feels excited and energized about the next stage of her life.
Although these two stories are simplified, it’s easy to see which life we’d choose. As you read each narrative, did you notice how you felt?
Samantha’s story is sad, but we know that she was doing what she thought was best for her children. She thought she was supposed to give up her life and devote it entirely to her kids. Samantha forgot that her happiness was equally as important, and in the end, she lost her identity.
What makes Ada’s life better? She…
- makes sure household and childcare duties are shared with her spouse
- teaches her children to take part in household tasks
- involves family members in preparing for activities
- has her own interests, separate from her children and her husband
- focuses on caring for her children while also caring for herself
Overall, Ada has ensured that she isn’t responsible for doing EVERYTHING, and she specifically makes time to do the things she’s always loved doing, and that are a part of who she is. Ada consciously works at keeping her identity, as well as being a great mom.
If you feel like you’re running the whole family show and you just can’t take any time for you, please know that Ada’s life is possible. Even if it doesn’t seem that way.
Being the amazing women we are, WE have control and can prevent an identity crisis like Samantha’s. If you are already in the middle of an identity crisis, you CAN stop it in its tracks! Don’t you know how powerful you are? You kick ass as a mom!
Moms pretty much save and rule the world.
Because of that inner power moms have, WE decide how our lives will play out on a daily basis. Even though parenthood seems to take over our lives now and again, our children should not be our obsession. We CAN keep our identity in tact and still love our children to pieces.
I know we can’t control every aspect of our lives, but we can speak up to our partner when we see the need for a balance of the childcare and household workload. We can find creative ways to maximize our time, so there’s time left over for us. We can make changes that will make us happier, and ultimately, our family happier.
As moms, we have responsibilities and have to make sacrifices. Agreed.
BUT… if you’re not true to who you are, and you lose yourself during parenthood…then you’re not doing yourself or your kids any favors.
Keeping your identity and being authentic to yourself, so you are happy is critical. Getting fired up about what you love allows your kids to see that it’s important to take time for themselves, so they can be authentic and happy. (They’re watching you.)
If we give every single ounce of ourselves to our kids, there’s nothing left. Divorce or no divorce.
What are your dreams and goals? What do you like to do?
Without your kids! What fires you up?
Don’t lose your love of yoga, painting, cycling, reading, knitting, martial arts or whatever you love to do (or used to love doing). Capture those precious moments in the day or week and nurture who you are. Make those moments yours.
Whether you have a career or a job or you’re a stay-at-home mom, take time to feed your soul. If you’ve misplaced a bit of yourself already (or a LOT), it’s not too late to carve out the minutes and hours you need for you.
What was your dream? What IS your dream? Keep it alive and burning. Find a new dream if you can’t remember.
Even if you don’t have a particular dream or goal, or even if you can’t think about something you love doing…FIND something that is YOURS.
Just you. Not something you do with your kids. Not something you do with your spouse.
Just for you.
Maybe you decide to read a good book every evening for 30 minutes before you go to bed. Maybe you take 1 hour every Saturday morning or Sunday evening to cycle. Maybe you get out of bed 30 minutes early each morning to work on writing your book. Maybe it’s a weekly walk with friends or neighbors. Maybe you just sit in the car with your favorite coffee listening to a podcast while your kids are at soccer practice. (No…you are not a bad mother if you are not watching their practice!)
If you want to work on rekindling or keeping your identity, you don’t have to have it all figured out right away. However, if you think you’ve lost yourself to the magical kingdom of parenthood, decide today that things are going to change.
What is one thing you will do today or tomorrow that will be a first step you take to rediscover the courageous, curious, fired up person you once were?
Will you make a list? Have coffee with a friend who will help fire you up? Whatever it is…
Then do it.
Wishing you joy, strength and balance,