Having a baby changes you. It changes your body, your mind, and your entire life. We often lose ourselves in motherhood and forget who we were pre-kids. Finding yourself again after you’ve had kids is important.
Eventually, the kids you give so much to will grow up and start lives of their own. While this is what we want for them, it can also leave us feeling adrift. We’ve given them so much and now that they don’t need us anymore, what do we do with our time? Who are we if we’re not Savannah’s or Liam’s mom?
You don’t have to wait until your kids are grown to find yourself again, though. You can start even while your kids are infants. In fact, the sooner you do this, the better. The sooner you do this, the easier it will be to avoid losing yourself in motherhood and completely forgetting who you are.
But what do you do? How do you find yourself after motherhood?
Reconnect with people who know you
Your partner, friends, co-workers, siblings and parents all knew you pre-baby. Reconnect with all these people (yes, this includes your partner) so they can help you remember who you are as a person rather than just someone’s mom.
People will ask you about the sport you enjoyed, the books you’ve read, movies you’ve seen, or if you finished that artistic project you were working on. These questions might initially make you feel bad — you’ll likely have put those things on the back burner to focus on your new family.
But those questions are what will help you find yourself. Being asked about those things will remind you of what you enjoyed before you had kids. While people change over time, and you won’t necessarily continue to enjoy every interest you once had, it gives you a starting point.
Make time for yourself
Parenting is a full-time job. There are no sick days or paid vacations. Once you become a parent, that’s it.
But you can, and should, still make time for yourself. It doesn’t have to be anything huge. Making time for yourself might be as simple as spending 30 minutes reading or enjoying a bowl of your favorite ice cream after the kids are in bed.
Or you can make it bigger and hire a sitter while you go to a movie or go into your studio to paint.
Making time for yourself is important because it gives you time to enjoy your hobbies and interests without interruption. But it’s also important because it gives you a brief break from the duties of parenting.
Some people will try to make you feel guilty for wanting or needing those breaks. They’ll tell you that you shouldn’t have had kids if you didn’t love them enough to want to spend all your time with them. They’ll say you knew it was a full-time gig going in.
But wanting or even needing a break from your kids doesn’t mean you’re a failure as a parent or that you don’t love your kids. It means you’re human and, like anyone else, you have needs that have nothing to do with other people — including your kids.
Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for taking time for yourself.
Also, make sure that time for you is a habit rather than a “when I remember.”
Do things that give you strength
Exercise creates a strong body, but there’s also emotional and mental strength. And sometimes we don’t forget who we are because we became a mother, but because we stopped making sure we were strong and resilient.
Exercise is important, and if you can’t find time for the gym, do it at home. Wear baby and take a walk. Get a jogging stroller and go for a run. Do pushups at home.
Focus on your emotions and mind, too.
Do crosswords, word searches or read books that keep your mind curious, active, and growing. Watch documentaries, join book clubs, or find other activities that help you feel like you’re still learning and expanding.
Keep a journal or have frequent chats with a good friend or therapist. Get treatment for mental health issues if you need to. Hire a life coach to help you find forward direction if you’re feeling stuck.
Engage in simple self-care. Make sure you shower often, brush your teeth, eat healthy meals, and get as much sleep as you can.
Being a mother is just as much your identity as being a daughter, a sister, or a reader. But being a mother is an identity that changes over time. It transitions from being an active identity with a role you play to being just one way to describe yourself and very little for you to actively do.
It’s because of that shift that you need to make sure you hold on to the other things that make up who you are. That you don’t forget the other things you enjoy, the other qualities and values and everything else that make you so much more than just someone’s mama.
Wendy Miller is a Certified Happiness Coach, freelance writer & meditation teacher. After years of settling for abusive and otherwise toxic relationships, she got fed up. Using meditation and other tools, she got to work on healing herself, setting boundaries, and only engaging in relationships (romantic and otherwise) that bring her joy. She wants to help other single parents find the love & happiness they seek, including and going beyond romantic love. She lives in Florida with her two sons, where she homeschools while solo parenting, while surrounded by what feels like a zooful of animals.
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