How to stay true and connected to yourself when you have a child
Becoming a mother is the best and most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me and I don’t say this because I am supposed to say it. Before I had a child I could just guess how this unconditional love that transcends every other love you have ever experienced will feel. I wouldn’t want to miss it in the world.
On the other hand you can just comprehend how your life will change with a child. You know it will not be the same but you can’t imagine what this really means. The first months you are living in a symbiotic relationship bubble with your baby, especially when you breastfeed. The baby is totally dependent of you and you feel a responsibility that you never did for another human being. This is a very huge and deep experience which can also be pretty scary.
There are the physical challenges to deal with from pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding, the lack of sleep, the momentary loss of privacy and independency. I will not lie to you. I had more than one moment in the last two years where I thought I could not handle another sleepless night or where I just burst out into tears mourning my old life where I just had to take care of myself. I believe every mother has these moments, but sadly we women don’t share them with others very often. Somehow we think we have to appear like we have rays of happiness beaming out of our buttocks all the time because it wouldn’t be appropriate to complain. When someone asks “How are you?” we always smile bravely and report how wonderful and magical our life is.
In times of social platforms we are used to painting the perfect picture for others. Literally. We post the one selfie out of fifty we took before, the one that makes us look like a photoshopped higher version of ourselves, we use filters on every picture we take to make our life look like it’s out of an interior magazine and we overall just like to share stuff that makes us and everything around us look special and spotless. Forbid the average, forbid the ordinary!
BUT THIS IS NOT REAL! This is just a microscopic little pimped piece of our life and there are so many aspects and layers, good and bad, happy and sad. We all fight our battles and sometimes we forget that and think we are alone with our normal, humane problems.
We should not be so hard on ourselves. It is okay to not be perfect, to feel unhappy from time to time, to admit that being a mother is not the holy grail of happiness and life’s purpose. I once read an article where it said that we have too high expectations on our children because we want them to be the miracle that makes everything right in our life. What a huge pressure we lay upon these little folks. It is not the child’s purpose or task to complete and fulfill us. Happiness, satisfaction, peace. We all search for them outside of ourselves but actually we can only find them within us.
We need to emancipate ourselves as mothers, take care of ourselves, feel and respect our needs outside of the roles we hold. Without feeling guilty all the time.
But how do we do it?
Here are my essentials on staying connected to myself on a daily basis…
WRITE IT OUT OF YOUR SYSTEM
“What do I want in life?” Such a little question that can be so so tough to answer for all of us. What I love to do is to take a piece of paper, set a timer for, let’s say, 30 minutes and write everything down that would make me happy. And I suggest you try it, too. It can be everything big or small. From getting a new haircut, building your own business, visiting London on your own for a weekend, start painting, do a mother and child yoga class, get a massage, go out for girls night or date night once a month, etc. etc. etc. There are no limits. Just get it on a piece of paper. Once you have your list you can do with it whatever you like. Maybe you want to go more into detail with some points, like when you want to start a business which action steps would you need to take, or you find a date for that trip you want to do and plan everything. Keep your list somewhere you can see it (fridge, office space, or scan it and use it as your desktop wallpaper). It should be always in sight and if it doesn’t feel up to date anymore, make a new list. But please don’t fall into the trap again and put yourself under pressure that you have to do everything that’s on there or otherwise you fail. That is not the point. The point is that you get all this stuff out because most of the time we don’t actually know what’s there inside of us, what desires, what longings, what ideas. It should get us more connected to ourselves.
Easy? No! (Ha, I said it!) We are not comfortable to say this little word, right? We want to please everybody and we think if we reject something we could hurt someones feelings. But always saying yes is not healthy. Every person just has a limited amount of time and energy and they should both be sacred to us. If you are not clear about your priorities, again: make a list. Having your calendar packed with events and appointments will not serve you or anyone else and only contributes to mummy burnout. Try to create little spaces instead in your everyday life where there is nothing to do, yes, I will say the nasty word, where you are LAZY. We all forgot how laziness works. Yes, sloth is one of the seven deadly sins, but hey, so is lust and I wouldn’t want to miss that out! And I don’t want to hear from you that you can’t find time to do nothing. Start small, with half an hour on Saturday or Sunday where hubby goes out with the little one and you just sit in your favorite chair, read a book or glossy magazine or watch a re-run of Friends. And don’t you dare to touch that dishwasher! I wrote a whole post about the topic here.
CHERISH YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
When we transform to mothers it is normal that other stuff takes a backseat. And that is totally fine when everything is new, exciting and magical. But I also believe that it is essential that after cocooning with your baby for the first weeks we open ourselves up again to the world and the people in our lives. I know it can be difficult, even with your partner, because there is this little precious life that gets all your attention and you feel like there is nothing left for anybody else. But our children grow more and more independent from us and so should we stay independent and cherish other relationships. Get a babysitter / ask family or friends once a month to babysit in the evening so you can go out with your love, ask your man to take care of the little one to connect with your girls and in reverse do the same for him as well. Say nice things to each other, let people know, how important they are to you and how much you love them. Don’t alienate yourself from your friends just because they don’t have kids. Finding topics with your girls other than baby talk can be really refreshing. My best friend for example has no children yet but that doesn’t disrupt our friendship in any way. We respect each other and enjoy being together as much as before my motherhood and I integrate her in my life as often as I can. We do things together with my son, even go on vacations together, but we also balance it out with time alone where we just hang out in our favorite café, eat enormous amounts of food, read magazines, gossip and drink Chardonnay. It just works and we are the best example that girlfriendships can survive motherhood.
BE PRESENT WITH YOUR CHILD
This is the most difficult one I guess. Well, not in the beginning when the baby is born. There it is actually quite easy to be in the moment and just snuggle along with the little munchkin. But when kids get older we tend to get stuck in a negative communication with them. My boy is two years old now and I know what I am talking about. “Don’t do that”, “Don’t throw this”, “No, no, no”, “Watch out!”. These are sentences you often hear in our house. It is a very challenging time and it can be frustrating for parents and children alike. So often I am sick of scolding and think I just want to have fun with my son. Isn’t that absurd that we have to remind ourselves to enjoy our child? So, since he is in daycare now since August I try to do all my work, my household, groceries, etc. when he is not at home, so that when I pick him up I don’t have any tasks in my head and can be fully present with him. We go to the playground, run around the house singing and dancing, visit the goats in our garden or cook delicious imaginary food in his little wooden kitchen. I really have to train myself to let go, but when I do it is so freeing and so much fun. Do I still scold? Of course I do, but way less than before. You can start with one hour allowing yourself to be fully present with your child. Disconnect your phone and just play along together, paint, read, go out, whatever. The funny thing is if you are fully present in this time, there will hardly be anything to scold about because your child feels your presence and is so happy and grateful for it. It definitely made a huge difference for me. Funny how the simplest lessons are always the hardest but also most effective.
I am burning to hear your experiences. What do you do to stay content and true to yourself as a mother? Do you also find it hard at times? Leave a comment below.
Giggles and tickles, Anu.