Isn’t it laughable how when we’re younger we think we know exactly how our lives are going to go? And then when we actually grow up – how vastly different reality is from our preconceived notions? Like when you say your children will never be the ones throwing a fit in the aisle at Target. Ah, it’s so extreme it’s laughable.
I always assumed I’d be a mom. I always wanted to be a mom. But I didn’t exactly picture myself getting so lost in motherhood that I forgot what it was like to just be me. You know – who’s Natasha and what does she want out of life? Allow me to introduce you to my mom identity crisis.
There are parts of me that feel like I spent the first few years of Cooper’s life just trying to adjust to being a parent. An extended postpartum. This little fiery redheaded kid came cannonballing into our lives and changed everything. I was no longer focused on discovering what it was I truly wanted in life, because I was so dialed into being a mom that I felt guilty if I took my eyes off him for even a minute to consider chasing a dream.
“It is full of complex emotions of joy, exhaustion, love and worry all mixed together. Your fundamental identity changes overnight.”Kate Middleton, on becoming a mother
And then one day I saw a post on social media (because that’s where we get all our news, right?) It talked about how easy it can be to feel like we’ve lost our identity once we have children. And I thought, “YES!” This is what I’ve been feeling. Lost in my new roles as wife and mom that were so completely different from the way I thought my life was going to be. I wasn’t Corporate Natasha anymore, even if my job title said that I was. My heart wasn’t in it the same way it once had been and it confused me.
My life used to be dictated by deadlines, career ladders, and fancy lunches with clients. Almost at the drop of a hat, it turned into finger paintings, car pool lanes, and self portraits hanging on the refrigerator. And don’t get me wrong; I wouldn’t change it for the world. But it took me awhile to adjust and find my own path and understand that I can be both Natasha the Mom and the Natasha who wants more.
So while it may not be accurate to say I had a true mom identity crisis, there were times over the years when it honestly felt like that was the case. It took me a few years to understand that what I wanted before was superficial. I cared about my social status. I cared about the job title, and the recognition that came with it. And now that these new priorities were right in front of me, my wants had changed. I still wanted a career, but I wanted it to be something that felt more meaningful, and something my son would be proud to watch me build.
Getting Through a Mom Identity Crisis
Being a mom doesn’t automatically mean that our goals don’t matter. Sometimes, becoming a parent is just the catalyst we need to light a fire under our you-know-whats and actually push us toward the very thing that lights a spark within us.
But, just like anything in life, distinguishing YOU from the mom version of yourself isn’t always easy to do. Luckily, there are few simple reminders that can help us overcome our sometimes unavoidable mom identity crisis.
Ways to Feel Like You Again
Find Friends Who Get It
If your best friends from years ago are still your closest friends, then consider yourself extremely lucky. The reality is, as we get older and our priorities shift, so do our relationships. And while this can feel like a loss, it isn’t always a terrible thing. There are a few friends in my corner that I can say I’ve drifted away from over the years, but then thee are also friends that even if we only talk every few months, or see each other once or twice a year, the minute we’re reunited it’s like no time has passed at all.
Finding friends as adults isn’t always easy, but look for a tribe that is happy for you when you’re happy. That will celebrate your triumphs and encourage you to step out of your comfort zone. The kind of friends that will be there for you through the good times and the bad. And the kind of mom friends that will laugh with you when you show up covered in throw up or the same clothes you wore yesterday.
Surround yourself with other mamas who understand the daily hustle and the daily struggle. Friends who know that sometimes you’re just going to be too tired to leave the house and meet them for a much needed girls night out. But that even if you bail, they’re still going to invite you out next time. And they won’t care that your house is a mess, or that you have more dry shampoo in your hair than you can even find in a brand new bottle. They’ll love you regardless.
Schedule Time For Yourself
You have to. Your sanity is depending on it. Even if it means you’re putting yourself “first” – God forbid. Let go out of the mom guilt right now. Schedule a night every single week where you do something just for you. Even if it’s simple and you never leave your house. Read for an hour in the quiet of your room before bed. Take a bubble bath. Go for a walk. Get your nails done. Watch something YOU want to watch on tv. Just make yourself a priority – you’re allowed to have more than one, your family can still be on that list, too.
And keep in mind, mamas, that going grocery shopping, or cleaning the house, or folding laundry by yourself, does NOT satisfy this requirement. Those are still mom jobs (Heck – ADULT jobs. The point is they’re unavoidable once we’re responsible for a household; whether we’re mom or dad). I’m asking you to take a break from them 😉 There’s a difference.
Get Out of The House
This goes hand in hand with doing something for yourself, even if just for an hour each week (which is SO MINIMAL, moms). Getting out of the house is SO important. Especially during a time when so many of us have been stuck at home during 2020. Even if you don’t have somewhere to go; go anyway.
Chad even has to say this to me sometimes – multiple times – before I take him up on it. Leave. The. Dang. House. Sometimes, taking 30-60 minutes to just drive somewhere and get coffee ALONE is all you need to recharge. There are days when I’ve had my fill and Chad will look at me and say “why don’t you go somewhere?” and of course, feeling guilty, I always say no. But when I do, I usually come back feeling refreshed, focused, and a little bit like the old Tash.
Get out of the house. Get away from the distractions – the loud televisions, the dishes in the sink, the dog that won’t quit barking or the kids that are following you around complaining about how bored they are. Everything – especially the laundry, will be there when you get back (I know from personal experience). Go take a little time to sneak in some quiet and deep breaths. Everyone will be better off for it, trust me – especially you.
Create a Vision Board
I love creating vision boards (even though I’m not crafty AT ALL) because it helps me keep what’s important to me in sight and in the forefront of my mind. That way, I don’t get too caught up in the daily grind and forget about my goals.
Create a vision board that captures what YOU want out of life. Maybe it’s to be more present when you’re with your family and not so distracted by your phone or social media. Add that to your list. Write out your goals regarding your health, your career, your time. Whatever it is that means something to you – put it on there, and then make the time to work on achieving those goals.
Introduce Yourself to Your Kiddos
Show them who you are, deep down, under the layers of finger paint.
I actually read this on another blog and thought it was genius. Show your kiddos who you are as a person. Invite them to get to know YOU. Not their mom, but the woman they look up to who could conquer the world.
Let them see some of the pieces you keep private (but not all, it’s good to have things that belong to only you, too). Show them what’s important to you, involve them – but don’t let them take over. Explain what it is you love about your job, your hobbies, and your passions. They’ll grow up knowing a part of you that will mean so much to all of you as the years go by.
Let your kids know that you have a whole other side to you besides the maker of school lunches and the chaser awayer of bad dreams. They can love you as their mom, but teach them to admire and respect you as ____ (fill in the blank).
Learning to be a mom and still feel like myself has taken a lot of time to figure out, and I’m still working on it. Mom guilt has a way of rearing her ugly head far too often. But there’s also a comfort in knowing that I can still be me while also being a pretty dang cool mom (or mediocre, I mean, depending on the day. I have my moments).
I can’t tell you exactly what to do to find that YOU deep within, but what I can say with certainty is this: your dreams matter. Your goals matter. And there’s zero reason to feel guilty for wanting more in addition to motherhood. Those kids are amazing, yes. And we can love them with every ounce of our being. You can be both a great mom, and a great YOU. Don’t forget that.
A variation of this article was originally published on Natasha Funderburk.