When you’re a mom you tend to lose yourself when you have kids. This isn’t something to feel bad about; it’s just life. But when RedLily contributor Leslie Campos had children, she felt an unnerving feeling as her newfound role as a mother took over her life. She loved her kids but the “woman” in her was screaming to get out. We are grateful to have Leslie’s raw and real reflection right before the holidays—when things undoubtedly get busy and stressful and we lose ourselves in the chaos. Her submission is straight from the heart and written with inspiration in the hope that every mom (or dad for that matter) realizes that parenthood doesn’t have to mean you stop being yourself. It’s actually a time for renewal and loving yourself. Here’s a look at “Finding Yourself Again” and all that goes along with raising kids—and yourself. Find more inspiring personal success stories at RedLily.
-By the editor
Finding Myself Again
I lost myself when I had kids. I went from a career-driven woman with an active social life and interesting hobbies to a person who existed only to clean, feed, worry, repeat.
It’s not that I don’t love being a mom. I do. But becoming a mother changed so much. I didn’t feel in control of daily life — instead, an infant was running the show — and the freedom I enjoyed as one half of a DINK household felt like a distant memory.
I’m not the first mother to experience a postpartum identity crisis and I won’t be the last. But I couldn’t get it out of my head that not only was I not being my best self, I wasn’t being the best mother I could be either.
Thankfully, I got through those early dark days, and today I can confidently say I’m proud of the woman and mother I’ve become.
A big part of the answer was time
The first two years of motherhood are hard. When you have a little one who relies on you for everything, it’s natural to put their needs above your own. As they grow older and more independent, suddenly there’s time for you again.
The problem, as I discovered, is that when you put yourself on the back burner for too long, it’s hard to remember what being you looks like.
Mothers need to see themselves as more than “mom”
That’s not easy when your daily routine revolves around your kids. The first thing I had to do was scale back my expectations. I couldn’t volunteer as much, exercise as often as I’d like, or enjoy spontaneous romance with my spouse. I also no longer had the mental space for my former high-stress job. However, that didn’t mean all of those things were off the table. I just had to accept that they looked different after motherhood.
Finding time for me-time
The concept of me-time sounds comical when you can’t even shower in peace, but I promise, it is doable. The key is to identify the things that matter most to your sense of self.
For me, it’s mental well-being, so I committed to a 10-minute meditation before the kids wake up and taking a walk when my husband gets home. For you, it may be a weekly chat with friends, scheduling hobby time, or hiring a sitter so you can get that hour in the gym. Whatever renews you, make it a priority.
Don’t forget about “we-time” too
Just like it’s important to nurture yourself, you need to nurture your relationship too. Don’t make kids and chores the focus of every conversation with your significant other. I love the Gottman Institute’s advice of asking open-ended questions to create a sense of “we-ness”.
Reinventing my career
Eventually, the crazy sleep-deprived phase passes and you have time to think about things beyond just getting through the day. As a woman who always found validation and identity in her career, this meant thinking about going back to work. The question was: How?
Instead of returning to a job that no longer fit my lifestyle, I earned my Master’s degree which allowed me to pivot into a more flexible role. And because I earned my degree online, I was able to study at a pace that worked for me.
Keeping the spark alive
Admittedly, this was the hardest part of finding myself again after motherhood. Pregnancy and childbirth changed my body in ways I wasn’t ready for, and no matter how much my husband assured me I was still sexy, I felt anything but in my new mom body.
The most impactful thing I did was also the easiest: I bought clothes that actually fit my new body. This achieved two things: Avoided the angst of not being able to squeeze into pre-pregnancy clothes and kept my mind off my body so I can enjoy the moment instead of stressing about the waistband digging into my side.
Letting go of mom guilt
These things made a huge difference in my happiness after becoming a parent, but making time for my own needs also brought up feelings I didn’t expect.
It might sound silly to someone who doesn’t have children, but mom guilt is real. Even though I needed it, even though I knew my husband was totally capable, mom guilt consumed me the first time I left the baby at home to do something for myself.
I did the best I could to ignore it, to remind myself that my needs matter too and that by taking care of myself, I was setting a positive example for my children. I also unfollowed momfluencers after realizing their perfectly curated content made me feel worse about myself. And over time, it worked! I started to cherish the time I spent on myself instead of worrying about what’s happening at home. And when I did spend time with my kids, I had the presence of mind to enjoy it instead of teetering on the verge of losing my patience.
Being in charge again
At the end of the day, finding myself again is one of the best things I did for my family. Instead of a burnt-out, stressed-out shell of a woman, I feel confident, capable, and connected to my husband and children.
That’s not to say I don’t still fumble through some days with unbrushed hair and Cheerios in my bra, and “me” today certainly doesn’t look identical to “me” pre-kids. I do, however, feel in charge of my life once again—and that’s a wonderful thing.
About the Author:
Leslie Campos hopes to provide relief and tips for other busy parents through her site Wellparents.com. Parents can find a variety of information from stress-busters to exercise ideas to healthy eating tips.
Quote from Leslie’s website:
“…If you ask me, there is nothing more wonderful than being a parent. Watching a child flourish into their own unique being and knowing your love and care plays a part in their development is the greatest experience I’ve ever known. Still, parenting is stressful. And because we love our children so much, we often sacrifice our own wellness in favor of theirs. But to be the best parent we can be, we have to take care of ourselves—if we don’t, how can we possibly care for our kids?…”
Editor’s note: If you enjoyed this article about motherhood, stress tips, self-love, and relationships, you will like our other Personal Stories.