Becoming a Mom changes things. Let me paint you a picture.
My mornings used to begin with a cup of coffee while reading an interesting book. Now, they begin with apple juice and cartoons. My days used to be filled with exercise regimens and ambitious career endeavors. Now, they’re filled with playing chase, changing diapers, and if I’m lucky some chores. My nights used to be filled with my favorite TV shows and dates with my husband. Now, they’re filled with lullabies, and just as soon as we get the chance… sleep, precious sleep! I used to be Wonder Woman, and now I just wonder what day it is!
I used to be Wonder Woman…
Now, I just wonder what day it is!
Boy, has life changed! Somewhere along the way Motherhood rolled in like a giant bulldozer, flattening whatever balance I once had into Mickey Mouse pancake dust! I remember feeling like I had lost myself entirely. Every ounce of my energy went towards caring for my tiny newborn. There was no time for relaxing and no energy for hobbies. I remember feeling guilty over just about everything… guilty for needing a break, then guilty for taking it, then guilty for enjoying it, then guilty for wanting more of it. I needed to snap out of the guilt/shame cycle fast before it consumed me entirely! I wanted to find myself again.
I wondered if there was such a thing as balance in Motherhood, and I wondered what it would take to get there. I quickly learned that living a balanced life would be a choice, and acknowledging that was vitally important in beginning my journey toward feeling fulfilled. I knew that I would need to recommit to that choice everyday if I wanted to remain sane and happy. This realization propelled me into action and I made five significant choices that led me to the full, happy, imperfect life I lead today.
First, I enlisted the help I needed to lighten my load and recommitted to the pursuit of balance. Second, I picked up some good books and began reading my way through the joys and pains of Motherhood. Third, I joined some communities and began riding the roller coaster with the support of friends. Fourth, I learned to set boundaries that would protect my precious time and energy. And fifth, I began to embrace the chaos and let go by lowering my expectations.
Choose To Enlist Help
As a new Mom, I fought this one for nearly 6 months. I wasn’t going to trust anyone to watch my child, or clean my dishes, or run my errands. Because if I wasn’t in control, the world would definitely stop spinning, right?! Not! That BIG, BAD bulldozer came rolling in again, crushing this control freak into little, tiny bits. I couldn’t have a perfectly clean house, while maintaining a happy marriage, while pursuing the activities that I loved, while getting back in shape, while caring for a newborn 24 hours a day… not without help that is! I hired a nanny to come in a few hours a week and help with the chores. I started asking my husband and relatives to babysit, even if just for an hour or two. I forced myself to get out of the house for a few hours every day and enjoy personal time.
I remember how awesome it felt to go to the grocery store alone. It first hit me when I stepped out of the car and felt naked. Yes, I was naked without the diaper bag, the baby, the toys and the loads of other “luggage” that come along with our kids. I felt light as a feather as I slowly walked every aisle of that store. I didn’t care browsing the pharmaceutical aisle or even notice the chill of the freezer aisle. I just enjoyed being alone. I enjoyed having no other responsibility in that moment than to pick up an item off the shelf and drop it into the basket. Yes, personal time comes in many forms.
What surprised me the most was that my patience and tolerance grew vastly during my short break. My arms would ache to hold my precious child, when just hours earlier you watched me sprint out the door at marathon speed, seeking freedom and escape. Enlisting help improved the quality of my life and more importantly, the quality of my relationships.
Choose To Develop Personally
Motherhood is humbling, it reveals to us every day that we still have so much to learn. For me, making the choice to stay inspired might be the most important of them all. You see, I chose Motherhood. But when I’m stretched thin and exhausted, it’s easy to forget that. For that reason, I need to be constantly reminded of my vision.
I wondered what a balanced life looked like. Once I decided, I wrote it down. I read it every day. I read good books. I signed up for seminars. I hung around inspiring people. I chose to become the best version of myself. Because I didn’t want my son to remember a tired, stressed out Mom. I wanted him to remember a peaceful home environment, not one that had to be perfectly clean. I wanted him to remember me having the energy to build forts, take walks, and jump in puddles with him. I wanted him to remember a happy Mom, not a perfect Mom.
The book Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford made a significant impact in the way I viewed technology and their impact on our relationships. The book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Women by Kristine Carlson taught me how to lighten up and not take myself so seriously. I took breastfeeding support classes when Dutch and I were in the throes of nursing during those early months. Wes and I took parenting classes. Through the community I met amazing teachers who were also Mothers. They would become a resource for questions and concerns all throughout pregnancy and Motherhood. All of these things and more made up my personal development plan. Rather than just going through Motherhood, I chose to grow through it.
Choose A Community
Pain and joy. How else can I describe Motherhood? We suffer labor pains only to rejoice in the birth of our child. We endure countless sleepless nights, only to stare dreamily at them while they sleep. We clean up messes all day long, only to laugh at their funny antics. We cry when we drop them off at school for the first time, only to enjoy the freedom it allows us. We feel guilt around pursuing our hobbies and careers, only to feel renewed and refreshed after doing so. Yes, Motherhood is a roller coaster. It takes us to the highest heights and the lowest depths. It pushes us to the edge all while fulfilling us like nothing else.
I couldn’t possibly expect to go through such an intense experience by myself. Getting involved in community groups has been invaluable for Dutch and I. It’s given us a chance to venture out of the house and socialize in learning environments. My first community was a prenatal yoga class that I stumbled upon in the middle of my pregnancy. I met some great friends who were also expecting. When Dutch was 6 months old, we joined a Mommy & Me class with that same group of friends. We’ve spent the last few years riding the Motherhood roller coaster together. Through the ebbs and flows we’ve shared stories, laughed, and shed tears. Together, we’ve been able to watch our children mature and develop into little, rambunctious toddlers. These groups have offered valuable discussions, creative parenting ideas, and unwavering support.
The online community might offer the largest support group of them all. I joined online forums and subscribed to Mommy blogs and as a result, I’ve made friends from all over the world. I’ve learned that we Moms are really not all that different. We often have the same worries and struggles, same joys and triumphs. Relating to one another is sometimes all we need to feel better.
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Choose To Set Boundaries
When I first heard the term “setting boundaries” I cringed. It sounded so mean. Maybe I’m just a people pleaser, but it’s always been hard for me to say no. The book Boundaries in Marriage by Doctors John Townsend and Henry Cloud offered me some perspective. It revealed to me that boundaries were about protecting myself: protecting my health, protecting my feelings, and protecting my precious time and energy. We can’t make more time, it’s our most precious gift! And with all that life demands, I had no choice but to get deliberate about how I spent my time.
It’s easy to get over committed as a Mom. Whether it’s work, PTA meetings, fundraisers, church events, birthday parties or soccer games, we are pulled in every direction. While there’s nothing wrong with involving ourselves and giving back, there is a lot wrong with drowning ourselves in commitments. I have gotten really good at noticing when I’m over committed. Feeling impatient, rushed, and hurried are all signs to me that I’m losing sight of what’s important.
What’s important is for Dutch to remember a patient Mom, one that was present physically and emotionally for him. It’s important for him to be able to rely on the consistency of my calendar, and my moods. It’s important that he learn that he doesn’t have to seek perfection to feel valuable as a person. It’s important that he comes first.
Choose to Let Go
Being a perfectionist my entire life, this was a hard choice. I felt inadequate if I couldn’t get everything on my list done. I felt inadequate if I wasn’t achieving some great business feat. I felt inadequate if I wasn’t following a regimented plan. It was as if I called up the construction company and personally invited Mama Bulldozer to play. Come on in and demolish any feelings of worthiness I might still have, why don’t you!? If I didn’t learn to let go, I was sure to transfer these negative dispositions to my most precious child! It appeared to me that letting go was the key to everything.
Life took a huge turn, and it demanded huge growth. My new, imperfect life was shockingly different, messy, and unplanned. I was tempted to cling to the past with all my might, but I chose to let go. I knew I couldn’t have it all without choosing to enlist help. I couldn’t get the help I needed without choosing to learn and grow. I certainly couldn’t find friendship without choosing a community. I couldn’t manage my time without choosing to set boundaries. And I finally accepted that until I learned to let go, that balance would never be possible.
So I said goodbye to my pre baby body and sparkly clean floors. I said good riddance to my never ending to do lists and back to back meetings. I said sayonara to my outrageous expectations, and c’est la vie to the pursuit of perfection. And I welcomed balance and fulfillment back into my life, through making simple, everyday choices. Yes, becoming a Mom changed things. I’d say the most important change occurred within myself. When it came to finding myself again in Motherhood, I learned that my identity need not waver if I choose to nourish and protect it.
How has Motherhood changed your life? What are some choices you make everyday in your pursuit of balance? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
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This post is Part 2 of the 5-Week Motherhood Series I’m conducting in May. If you missed last week, click here, and be sure to check back with us next week for a collaboration post on Motherhood & Fitness! Subscribe below to have each post delivered to your inbox!