Let me start off by saying, I truly love my life as a mother. I am blessed beyond measure to be able to fulfill my dream of being a stay-at-home-mom to both of my boys during this fleeting time in their young lives.
With that disclaimer being shared, I will be completely honest with you and say that since the day we brought our first-born son home I have put myself last. That’s what motherhood is; it is about putting your cherished little loved one’s needs above your own, and then usually your spouse’s, and so on. Somehow the house ranks higher on this list of care than yourself. (That doesn’t exactly seem right…) By the time bedtime rolls around, especially when my husband is working his 10-hour days, I am physically/mentally/emotionally exhausted. I would enjoy nothing more than to curl up with some chocolate as a “hey, you did good today” treat and become mesmerized by a glowing television screen to a TV show I will remember nothing about in roughly two weeks. And I did that, for 2 and a half years until the realization came to me: I give absolutely everything of myself to where there really isn’t any part of “me” left. My identity as a mom and wife was all that there seemed to be of me now. I didn’t exactly exist separate from them. I mean obviously I can’t just go “off-duty” and stop being a mother (or a wife for that matter,) but there was a time when I was more than that, before I became a mother. I was a writer, an artist, a “Renaissance woman” as some liked to call me, who always wanted to learn new mediums and new ways to be self-sufficient in creating something.
Have you ever felt like you do so much, but there really isn’t anything you do that is just for you. Just for the sake of your own enjoyment? That was the last 2 and a half years for me. I graduated with a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing and hadn’t written a single word in three years. If I created anything artistically it was usually a craft for the house in an attempt to make it more warm and inviting, and I really hadn’t read any books which was always a favorite past-time of mine. I was stagnant. There were some days, and they happen more frequently than I would like now, where it felt like all I could do was to get through the day. “Just make it to bedtime,” I would tell myself. But then the little time I actually had to pursue something…anything…that I felt passionate about was squandered “zoning out” to refill my cup for tomorrow’s responsibilities and demands.
When that realization came to me, that I no longer possessed an identity separate from my title as a mother and a wife and that I had let all of those beloved passions slip away entirely, I decided that I am the one in control of my life–if I don’t like something about it then I am the only person capable of changing it. Let me tell you, that spark ignited a forest fire. I became so driven and inspired to create that I now struggle with feeling lost as to which goal I should tackle first. That idea for a novel that I have carried around with me for years, or that idea for a children’s book that just came to me that I am so excited to explore? It can be truly frustrating to feel like I have more dreams and ambitions than time, but at least I am dreaming again. At least there is some part of me that lives on from my life before motherhood.
I will tell you, although it might have come across as such, it isn’t always easy and it doesn’t always look like what you think it would. Most nights that I devote to calling and rekindling those long since neglected friendships, I have to “push pause” on our conversations countless times as I hover over my 4.5-month-old’s crib railing, my phone nestled between my shoulder and ear as I try to lull my son back to sleep for the umpteeneth time. Or writing the paragraph before this one, I had to toss my laptop onto the couch and run to his crib to sooth him back to sleep while pondering what it was I was trying to say next so I didn’t forget. Some nights it can be frustrating to be constantly interrupted when you have longed for this “me time” all day, but remind yourself “at least I am doing it.” That takes determination. Give yourself credit for saying, “I may be sleep-deprived and emotionally exhausted from reasoning with a toddler all day, but I’m not going to let this time slip away from me.”
I will be honest with you, most nights that I decide to pursue something it comes at a cost. I have to weigh out: do I want the dishes done and the house picked up or do I want to brainstorm and write. But you know what, your happiness ranks higher than having an empty kitchen sink. If you feel motivated and inspired tonight of all nights, neglect the chores. I promise you that within 24 hours of doing the dishes, the sink will be full again. C’est la vie (“that’s life.”) But what will not be easily replaced is the joy that you gained from doing something just for you. It’s okay to choose your happiness and your needs (emotional needs totally count) first.
This goes to anyone in any season of life, if there is any part of your life that you are unhappy with, whether it is your work life or your home life, you are the only one in control of it. It takes one moment of truth to say, “I’m so sick of this, I want something better” to make your aspirations that much closer to reality. In relation to motherhood, it is when we don’t neglect ourselves that we are better mothers. It’s okay to need time to refill, in fact it isn’t just okay–it’s necessary. We aren’t machines. There is an end to our patience and peace eventually, unfortunately somedays that end seems closer than others… (If you just felt like shouting “Amen!” to that last one, I encourage you to check out “Who fills a mother’s cup?”) Take time to read that book, or paint your nails, or catch up with that friend that you keep thinking about but haven’t spoken to in months. Whatever those neglected dreams are, stop telling yourself “I’ll do that when the boys start school” (that’s the lie I kept telling myself.) Whatever the dream, whatever the excuse, know that there is not a better time than the present and you deserve to do something that brings you joy. It doesn’t need any other reason than that.