It’s no secret that once another human being exits our bodies, us mothers are expected to be all-sacrificing martyrs. Our fashion choices, the way we cook, what we do with our spare time, hell, even our personalities are supposed to change or be tamed for the sake of having young children.
It’s pretty bogus really, not only are we “not allowed” to eat certain foods or engage in certain behaviors for the 10 or so months we carry our babies, we’re expected to continue this self-sacrificing mentality long after birth.
Sure, many of us make these changes naturally and willingly. I mean, booty shorts are a tad inappropriate not to mention super uncomfortable when chasing – read: bending over – after a toddler.
But the fact that these choices are often made for us or “suggested” by others is what’s truly inappropriate. And, blame it on socialization or whatever, but us mothers tend to embody the peacemaker/people-pleaser role. We often go along with what society expects of us even if it's not what genuinely makes us happy. Instead, we secretly smolder with a fire for more and just wait for the moment when we can hopefully be our true selves again.
One beacon of hope is the blunt fact that it won’t be this way for long.
Life is a pattern of seasons and our children are going to grow and need us less. It’s hard to picture right now in the throws of spit up, teething, and pull-ups, but the days of being the end all be all to our babies are drawing short.
If you’re like me, you can’t wait for the relief that is having a “school-aged” child, but even I think beyond that to the tween and teen years and get just a teensy bit choked up. I am so not ready to lose my little girl, but I AM SO READY to pee alone. And take however long I want in my favorite store, and keep my candy to myself, and to not be a 24-7 freaking role model...
Another shining light is that we are not alone in this emotional tug of war. Many moms want to both keep their babies close and have more space at the same time.
The idea of wanting a bit more out of life than motherhood is in the forefront of many of our minds. And yes, we will eventually have all the time in the world to ourselves while our teens are sneaking out and experimenting with all kinds of things we’ll hopefully never know about.
But, we don’t have to necessarily wait 10 or 20 years for a few ounces of freedom.
In fact, here are five things you can start doing right now to retain your identity despite being a mom.
And if you're worried about how this will make you look to other moms, you can grab these free worksheets to battle mompreneur comparison.
Keep Nice Things
I think the first thing to go once I had my daughter was my favorite pair of pricey sunglasses. At first, I couldn’t manage to get dressed in more than a baggy t-shirt, let alone an outfit that was worthy of accessories. Then, once I was managing to throw on a bit of lipgloss, I was too hurried to remember where I put them let alone bring them with me. Nowadays, I’m pretty sure my toddler would break sunglasses within five minutes of even seeing them.
But, these are the exact reasons to keep them. Having nice things allows us to feel entitled to more than snot rags and baggy t-shirts. You see, too many time we let our things get ruined or lost. Or, we sacrifice what may make us really happy for the sake of ease. It's easier to go without than to protect special things from tiny hands.
Well, here's my argument. Whether you have to hide them, bring them out on special occasions only, or constantly take them away from your little one, having nice things means you are choosing to invest in yourself.
Now, I'm not talking possessions that are super extravagant or expensive because the chance of something happening to them is high, but A $15 – $30 – $50 phone case that is really pretty and makes you happy when you see it is worth investing in.
Plus, this is an easy baby step in keeping yourself accountable to the kind of life you want. To keep your prized possessions in pristine condition requires diligence, and focus. Incorporating these habits now is a great starting point for building to bigger and bigger goals.
Invest in Your Appearance
Again, I'm not talking designer labels or $500 haircuts.
But a great way to have an identity beyond motherhood is to take the time to feel beautiful in whatever way works for you. If this means full on makeup and a daily blowout, go for it. But, if a simple swipe of lipstick and a bit of mascara does it for you, please, go ahead a feel pretty.
You can also sneak away and shop for you once in a while.Forgo the baby section and actually spend a few dollars on yourself. Pick out some clothes that make you feel good and that aren't covered in a tiny person's bodily fluids. Hit the sales racks at Target or venture into TJ Maxx, your new outfit doesn't have to be super pricey, but it can be super cute
Lastly, you can always spring for a new 'do. Update your look with highlights or chop off a few inches. Nothing changes your appearance and gives you new life than getting your hair done.
The point in investing in your appearance is to do something that makes you feel confident - maybe even a little sexy. It is so ok to feel like a beautiful woman even though you're a mom. Just because a human exited your body does not mean you have to live your life in a rut. Rather, this is a great step in finding motivation to be the best you and to put yourself above motherhood.
Don't go crazy and overwhelm yourself by trying to fit another thing into your day, but I'd love to challenge you to do one thing daily that will impact your mood and self-esteem.
Take the Time to Cook a Nice Dinner
In this season of your life you're probably not going to eat at fancy places anymore or even leaving the house after 5 pm.
If you're anything like me, cooking dinner is one of your biggest, and most dreaded, tasks of the day. However, I'd like to challenge your thinking on this and encourage you to look at cooking dinner in a different way.
First and foremost, the act of cooking can be a great escape from the monotony of raising little ones. It is a great way to engage your mind in something that requires actual brain feels and concentration. Gathering ingredients and following a recipe requires you to plan, organize, and execute tasks in a way that you rarely get a chance to otherwise.
Another benefit of taking the time to make a good meal is the potential for self-care. Not only are you literally feeding your body and your family, cooking can be used as a way to feed your soul. Getting in the kitchen by yourself can almost have a meditative quality. You can take the chance to reflect on your day, your goals, and your passions. What's more, knowing that you are investing in your health can give a great boost to your self-worth.
Watch your Shows/Listen to your Music
One of my biggest pet peeves is when my mommy clients talk about how they put their personal preferences on the back burner for their children. This is pretty much the exact opposite of maintaining your identity while still being a great mom.
I mean, there is certainly a time and a place for self-sacrifice in parenthood. What we do with our money, our time, and our resources should absolutely be tailored to our children' speeds. However, this has absolutely nothing to do with what we listen to on the radio or watch on TV.
Too many times we put on what the kids want as a way to placate them and make our days easier. But, all we accomplish by doing this is sitting through another day without one ounce of comfort for ourselves.
Sure, I'll totally join the camp that says no R-rated movies or gangster rap for young ones. But why should we dull our brains with Baby First TV or KidsBop Radio when they hardly pay attention to them anyway. I honestly see no harm in having HGTV or The Food Network on in the background while we change diapers, do flash cards, and read stories.
Use your discretion about shows like The Bachelor or Real Housewives, but know that getting through each day is as much about keeping yourself happy as it is about keeping baby happy.
One simple solution is to create a custom Pandora Station for the car. You can create a playlist that alternates between your toddler tunes and current favorites. This can be a great way to create a driving ambiance that suits every member of the family.
Start a Naptime Hustle
A final way to have a personal identity beyond motherhood is to start something that is all yours. There's nothing like having a piece of life to call your own. Whether this is a new hobby, a business, an exercise routine, or anything else that's solely for you, having this arrangement with yourself will bring you so much closer to the fulfillment you crave.
For those of us who stay at home/work at home, a naptime hustle is one of the easiest ways to start focusing on our personal time. A great way to start is by identifying the tasks you can squeeze into an hour or so. We all know how unreliable naptime can be, so starting small and growing as you become more comfortable is an awesome plan of attack.
Let me just say, I am right there with those of you who say, "but it's just so easy to just lay around during naptime, if not nap myself."
To this I say "hell, yeah!" In moderation.
I wholeheartedly believe there are days where resting yourself may by exactly what you need. However, there are others where you can be productive. Personal growth never comes when we're comfortable. Therefore, if you'd like to see changes in your life, you have to make them happen. Maybe this means upping your diligence and will power.
I really want to encourage you to dedicate some specific time to your passions. It may sound really hard right now, but I'm telling you, there will come a time (sooner than you think) when the seasons will change and you'll have plenty of time by yourself. Starting to pursue and grow your passions now will ensure you're not struggling to find something to do come empty nest.