Becoming a mother. Whether it is for the first time or the tenth, becoming a mother is among the most profound experiences a woman can have in life. Your tearful eyes meet those of your bright innocent little baby, and you are forever changed. Your heart, your mind, your very soul explodes with a heretofore unimagined love, a love beyond measure. As any mother can tell you, however, this tremendous flood of newfound love does not travel alone. A new baby is often accompanied by other feelings, many of which are both unanticipated and potent. Joy, fear, pain, sadness, jealousy, elation, embarrassment. It would certainly be fair to call this new group of emotions a bit of a mixed bag. It is then not surprising that some of what we held dear before baby’s arrival seems to be lost in that flood. Before we know it, somewhere in our transition to motherhood, we feel as though we have lost ourselves. Those “selves” we so completely identified with and served as our lens through which to interpret our world? Poof! Gone. Perhaps we look at an old picture or have a chat with a dear friend to reminisce. And a new, uncomfortable question presents itself. Where is that person now? Who am I now?
If this sounds familiar to you, know that you are not alone. In fact, you are one of a great many women who are accidentally left behind by their own mothering selves in the hectic, beautiful whirlwind that becomes daily life. The good news? You may have found your needs, along with your “self”, lost in the shuffle…but you’re still here. Always have been and always will be. The truth is you have simply been conditioned to believe in order to be a mother you must be as selfless as a martyr, absent of all personal needs and, naturally, to push through it all with a big smile on your face. Think about the concept of “self-less” for a moment. Who wants to live without a connection to themselves? Why should you have to? You can shed this conditioning and begin a healthier, more complete and more compassionate relationship with yourself. Becoming a mother does not mean you only exist for others. Here are some ideas on how you can re-establish your connection with “you”.
1. Say “Hi!” to you
Make it a point each day to remember that you are there. Whether it be a quick glance and a smile at yourself in the mirror in the morning, enjoying a hot cup of tea before the kids wake up, or offering yourself a positive “I” statement out loud in the shower, you can find small yet meaningful ways to remember, respect and connect with yourself throughout the day. You can even say “hi” out loud. Hear your own voice acknowledging you. No judgement. No agenda to follow. No schedule to recite. Just pure, simple recognition that you are the one existing in this moment. And you matter.
2. Take time to breathe…REALLY
We often hustle through life without thinking about what we are doing and why. This is a norm in our society. Busyness is celebrated. And with this “normal” way of life we inadvertently create abnormal circumstances for our bodies: we hold our breath. We (hopefully) don’t hold our breath until we pass out, but we do often inhale small, shallow breaths. Our exhales are minimal. We breathe to function, to survive, but not much else. In breathing this way, we remain disconnected from our bodies. To take a conscious, deliberate breath in WITH a purposeful, equally long (or longer!) breath out is to begin to heal and connect through breath work. Conscious breathing in this way provides a signal to the body that all is well. This in turn allows you to settle into your body more deeply and creates a space for peace and tranquility to come through. Ahhhhhhh…There you are!
3. Be a mother to yourself, too
Every mom has that mental checklist for their kids as they navigate the day. Did they eat? Do they have everything they need? Did they brush their teeth? Are they happy? Part of being an engaged parent is keeping our kids’ well-being as a priority and ensuring we look after them on every level. But what about ourselves? Did I eat? Do I have what I need for my day? Did I practice self-care today? Am I OK? Taking time for self-inquiry at least once each day can be an opportunity to acknowledge the beautiful, unique human being you are.
4. Give yourself reminders of the life you’ve lived…And are still living
Remember that playlist you and your college girlfriends always played when getting ready for a night out? Or that picture of you and your family cracking up at some mishap that became a classic memory? Remember the smell of Mom’s cookies baking or tomato sauce simmering as it would fill the air with the loving comforts of home? Things like music, old photos and familiar smells can reconnect us with our beautiful life story and remind us of the many layers of life. Just because we have entered a new phase it does not mean we have to let go of the nostalgic, fun and comforting memories we hold so dear. Take a moment to listen to those songs, look at those photos and bake those cookies. Let it all stir up those big feelings of excitement, gratitude and joy. Bring your past into the present with the intention of filling yourself with goodness. Remind yourself – you are still “you”.
5. You can take her with you…
You know those adorable nesting dolls? The ones where there is a large wooden doll that opens to show it is holding a smaller one inside, and then a smaller one, and another? Think of the nesting doll as symbolic of the self. We do not leave the little girl, the teenager, the twenty-something, etc. behind us. We take them all with us for the ride of our lifetime! They are, and always will be, a part of us…integrated and weaved into the person we continue to become. We can appreciate our youth without longing for it. We can move forward without feeling we are losing the past. We can pack it all up and take it with us. We can bring our inner child to play with our kids in the backyard. We can remind ourselves of our astounding resiliency through the eyes of our teenaged self, remembering all we survived. We can use all the strength and endurance that we have shown along the way as fuel to keep moving forward.
As you move through whatever phase of motherhood you are in, you owe it to yourself to remember the woman you are, respect her and practice nurturing her even as you do the same for your children. You will experience a deeper sense of joy, peace and compassion for yourself that will ultimately also benefit the relationships with others you hold dear to your heart. Just make sure to keep “you” close to your heart, too. Learn more about our services here.