It is often said that women lose themselves in motherhood.
After we give birth, we start "getting our bodies back" (whatever that means). We become "dairy cows" (if you're lucky enough to breastfeed). We have a small life depending on us, so it's easy to feel like our identity becomes flattened into one idea. Many of us spend weeks, or if you're lucky, months, away from work; and some will end up quitting their jobs because it becomes more cost effective. It's more difficult to make plans with friends, especially in those early months, and we find ourselves watching more TV or listening to more podcasts to keep our minds occupied.
Here's a quote from Mia Redrick in her piece, How Women Lose Themselves in Motherhood:
It's good to know I'm not the only one who had one of these moments.
Before I had Forrest, I ran, I worked out, I wrote constantly, I kept meticulous journals, and I read voraciously. In the long, hard months after I had Forrest, I didn't do any of those things. I read a few books in the first year of his life--maybe 6 or 7 total--and I wrote some blog posts that I only recently went back and deleted. Mostly, I pumped. I fed him. I read about formula online. I chatted with fellow moms. And I watched a lot of TV. It took me a good two years before I started feeling like it was ok to let myself indulge in the hobbies that seemed, well, kind of frivolous.
I've often seen the argument, not necessarily from outsiders, but from mothers themselves, that they feel selfish when they take time for themselves. I don't necessarily have this feeling, but I do struggle to plan in time alone during the week. I do a lot of work throughout the week--my day job, plus running this blog and doing freelance work--and that tends to take up the time that I would otherwise spend indulging in my hobbies.
Yet, it can still feel very selfish. When Forrest is playing or watching TV, I start to feel a little bad that I'm sitting at the kitchen table with my headphones in, listening to a podcast. Or, when he's napping, I start to work on the short story idea I've been outlining and re-outlining in a notebook for weeks--then I realize I have laundry to do, or lunches to prep, or the living room to vacuum. I feel caught in the web of having to do things that are "productive"--or that are beneficial to the entire family, not just myself.
You know how on airplanes, in the safety guidelines, they always say to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others? That's motherhood, at the end of the day. You have to give yourself time to be a whole person before you can effectively help anyone else become a whole person.
It's difficult to find the balance, however. It's easy to go all or nothing in our lives. But finding a balance that works for you and your family will help you be a better mother in the long run. I know it has made me a better mother to have an hour to myself in the evening, to write, read, exercise, or sit on the couch watching the ID channel. Learning how to schedule in time for yourself is a hugely personal task; there is no right way to do it, and no single method that works for every family and situation, especially if you have a child with a disability or illness.
I always tell people that there is more to my identity than being a mother. Yes, being Forrest's mom is the biggest part of who I am--it's definitely the most important, in a lot of ways--but it's not the only thing about me. I also love learning about makeup. I love watching trashy reality TV. I love true crime. I love German music. I love writing, about anything and everything.
If you let motherhood consume your entire identity, you're doing not just yourself a disservice, but your child a disservice. This isn't to say that your hobbies should come first (that's absolutely not the case); but it is to say that as a mother, you matter too and it's ok to take time for yourself.