Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How to be a Mom without Misplacing Yourself

Keys, pacifiers, babies. You name it, I’ve probably misplaced it. But I wasn’t always like that.
Before Children (it feels like 100 years B.C.) I rarely misplaced anything. I was highly organized and even knew where other people’s keys were. Then I got married and had babies. Poof! No more mind. No more me.
After becoming a stay-at-home mom with my first son, I struggled with the feeling that I had lost myself somewhere along the way.
It took a while to find myself again—the real, true me—and I learned a few tricks to make sure I don’t make the same mistake twice.
Keep your hobbies. Before having children I was a reporter for a small newspaper and loved to write. I stopped when my son was born because I was sleep-deprived. Strangely enough, by the time my third baby came along I was able to find adequate time and energy to write—and my life is now much more satisfying because of it.
If you used to enjoy dancing, take an evening class once a week when your husband can watch the kids. Join a club, or get together with other moms who have a similar interest. Even simply talking about your hobby with a fellow enthusiast can help you feel energized and human.
Maintain old friendships—and make new ones. Many first time moms seem to drop off the face of the earth. I should know, I was one of them. I had nothing interesting to contribute to any conversation. My day was filled with spit-up, and most people didn't want to hear about that, no matter now politely they smiled and nodded.
Eventually my son got a little bigger and we joined a play group, more for my sanity than his. And I read more books, dabbled in writing fiction, and went to interesting places during the day so that I would have something to talk about. Now that I am knee-deep involved in writing and editing, I also have new friends who share the same interests and we have plenty to talk about besides toddler-tantrums.
Ask for what you want. Your husband can't read your mind. If you wish he would change more diapers, don’t give him the silent treatment in hopes that he will eventually figure it out. Tell him! And don’t worry if he moans when you ask for help. Having a baby is a partnership and those groans are his problem, not yours.
Sometimes it's hard to put into words what you want. My first baby was born right before the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake, and my husband was heavily involved in that. In his “spare” time, he would get together with a buddy and write music. That left me home alone with our son pretty much all the time. I didn't know how to tell him I desperately needed time for me, when I couldn’t even imagine what I would do with that time.
But that was the misplaced-me. I ask for help now. The bonus is that he can see I’m often a happier wife and mother after doing something I love.
Do not become completely indispensable. Many dads feel judged when they try to help because, as moms, we have started to perfect our own techniques. So don’t critique the way your husband does things. He has his way, you have yours, and neither one is absolutely right. Just appreciate the fact that he's willing to chip-in. Hey, it’s his baby, too—give him a chance to show what he’s made of.
Do something as a couple. The first wedding anniversary my husband and I celebrated after our son was born was awkward for me. We hadn’t gone out much since his birth and I didn’t have anything to talk about except our baby. It was supposed to be a happy occasion, but it left me feeling empty and alone. There I was, eating at a nice restaurant with my best friend, and I had absolutely nothing to say.
That was when I realized I had misplaced myself. I needed to find me pronto or risk going crazy.
So I went home and decided to start writing again, and make a few new friends. My husband and I made an effort to spend more time together, both as a family and sans baby. It definitely strengthened our friendship and made me feel much more supported in our endeavor to raise good kids.
Unfortunately, I still misplace my keys and kids—and even myself—every so often. Having children just does that to you sometimes. But I can usually find myself pretty quickly now. And that definitely makes me a happier me.

6 comments:

  1. This is an AWESOME article. Very clear, and very useful.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Martinelli. I know I have to work hard at it, so I imagine others might, too.

    ReplyDelete
  3. this is so great! i feel like even with knowing the things i love to do, every time a major change happens in my life (new baby, new job, move, etc), i have to find myself again in all of it. still working on that one with this move to CA...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Very well put, Gaylene. Let me know if you run across "me" out there somewhere because I am feeling very misplaced myself lately. If you can find the sleep gene that Jared is apparently missing, that would be very helpful too. I will gladly trade the sleep gene for the extra helping of scream that he got by mistake. haha :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. You're right, Wendy. Sleep definitely helps you feel like yourself, too. Hope you get some soon!

    ReplyDelete