I once read that motherhood is like watching a piece of your own soul walk about the earth. It’s a beautiful and terrifying anecdote. From the moment we see two pink lines appear across a piece of unwrapped plastic, we’re already knee-deep in it. That little one has our heart; hook, line, and sinker.
But this concept of a part of one’s self wandering about the world also carries with it tremendous mental and emotional stress. Yes, the calling of motherhood is magical, but it’s also all-consuming, leaving mothers feeling drained and empty; like a shell of their former selves.
It may seem honorable to give the entirety of yourself to raising your children; it may even feel like there’s no other way to do it; but remember that your identity is more than motherhood. You have skills, desires, and goals that exist outside your role in the home, and it’s important that you continue to nurture them too.
Consumed By Motherhood
After a difficult labor with my first child, I felt the innate pull to wrap my entire world around this little miracle. My husband and I would literally jump for joy when we heard the rattling noise of the nurse wheeling his tiny bed to our room. We were excessively aware of his whines and would respond with immediate concern. We fed him at every fuss, questioned every cry, and worried about every whimper. It was totally and absolutely exhausting.
But what we discovered after the first few weeks, was that our nervous demeanor and over-parenting was doing more harm than good. We were creating an anxious child. He would cry at a stranger’s sneeze and scream when he wasn’t held. He needed more than attentive parents; he needed parents that weren’t consumed by him. We hadn’t just lost hours of sleep, we had effectively lost our entire selves in parenthood, and we needed to get them back.
The First Date
There does not need to be a massive lifestyle change to begin rediscovering parts of your identity. For us, it started with coffee. We have the unique gift of living next door to a small, family run coffee shop, which makes a quick solo coffee date easy to do. So, we’d switch off every once in a while, taking turns enjoying a warm cup of coffee and a scone without the background noise of parenthood lingering around us.
I took time to reconnect with friends; I scheduled 30-minute massages; I took long walks and signed up for a yoga class.
We developed an attitude within our home in which my husband and I felt free to seek outside stimulus and comfort, and we encouraged one another to do so.
Me Time Is Different For Everyone
Not everyone’s “me time” will look the same. Utilize this free space to explore your own desires and goals. Always wanted to try painting? Look for a local class. Feeling like you need some social time? Take a solo happy hour trip to a local restaurant. Head to a movie alone and get the biggest bag of popcorn they have!
I have friends that use this time to hike, and others that use it to veg on the couch. My husband often uses it to hit a bucket of golf balls. There’s no right way to take yourself on a solo date!
Getting Over The Guilt Hump
One of the biggest hurdles for parents to overcome when considering solo dates is the immense feeling of guilt. But remember, needing to explore other parts of ourselves does not take away from our devotion to our families. The Houston Center for Valued Living discusses this concept of both loving one’s child, while also needing a break:
“Sometimes you want to be with your kids, and sometimes you don’t. And the times that you don’t, do not, in any way, erase the times that you indeed do dearly want to be with them. We are not all-or-nothing beings. Having one emotion at one time does not erase, discount, or nullify the moments in your life that have the opposite emotions. We are allowed to have them all. It does not make us love a person any less. Love is an action. “
It’s estimated that mothers work approximately 98 hours a week. Mama – you can enjoy one of those hours guilt-free!
Go On, Date Yourself!
When I became a mother, I didn’t magically stop being an individual; and neither did you. When we take time to nurture other parts of identity, we not only establish better mental health for ourselves, but we also model healthy habits to our children. It allows us to function better in our role as a mother; it keeps bitterness at bay, and it helps us to serve with joy instead of annoyance.
So, date yourself! Be the best mother you can be, but work to remember the woman you were before giving birth; because she’s pretty awesome too.
Sources: Mom on the Side, The Houston Center for Values Living, Motherly