There are some things that are easy to drown in. Large bodies of water. Paperwork. Bills. Lin-Manuel Miranda's earnest brown eyes. Oh, and motherhood. The thing that makes motherhood so easy to drown in is that we — necessarily and with abandon — completely fling ourselves into it. then motherhood flings itself back and before you know it you've been subsumed. Not all is lost, though. While claiming a small island for yourself amid all that tumult can be difficult, it's possible. I asked moms who have such a refuge how to have a life outside of motherhood.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with identifying strongly or even primarily as a mother. Being a mother is a huge part of who I am, how I see myself, how I want others to see me, and how I want to move around in the world. But I also just want to be Jamie. I've been Jamie all my life and I really don't want to stop just because I'm also "William and Gioia's mom." So, for me, being able to go and be social is restorative and crucial. I'm able to keep in close contact with the part of me that is in no way preoccupied with children or their care. It's not like I forget about my kids when I spend the night out with friends, either. In fact, like many mothers, I wind up showing pictures and FaceTiming our bedtime routine. But time away from them enables to be myself around them, and it's important to me that my kids know me for who I am, not just as their mom.
So how do other moms do it? In general, it would seem the answer is, "With intention, with difficulty, and with help." But more specifically, the answers run the gamut, which means at the end of the day you have to do what's best for you and leave everything else behind.
"Honestly? I have a full-time job that I find intellectually fulfilling where I'm well-respected. I get to talk for eight hours a day with creative people I like about important stuff that's not parenthood. My job isn't the most important thing in my life, but it's definitely life outside parenthood and I love it for that."
"Everyday I remind myself that something will slip through the cracks. Sometimes it's my personal time, sometimes it's my workout time, sometimes it's a healthy meal, and sometimes it's rest. We both work full-time with three kids. Each evening on the drive home, I strategize and remind myself I can't have it all and make choices accordingly."
Family. Family who are more than willing to abscond with my little bird while I write, teach, or dance for a few hours.
"Having a partner that is will to shove you out the door to see your best friend when he realizes it's been too long is a huge help. I also work outside the home and that is a huge outlet."
"Lots of communication and help from my husband. We're at point where I can take two nights a month to go out with friends, and if I have something that is important to me that I need to do, I will tag him in. He really gets that my sanity is key to the household harmony, so he's more than happy to handle chaotic weekend mornings while I go for a long walk with a friend. It's not always perfect, but we keep the communication open and work at it. Additionally, I have arranged my work schedule to allow me to have time to work out or run errands (which sometimes means a pedicure or shopping) most days of the week."
Post bedtime dinners with friends are key.
"I make it a point to get together with my friends, often. I have a weekly coffee date with one friend that just saves my sanity. Girls nights out and couples nights out. My husband and I do date nights, but we also recognize that maintaining friendships is so important. We each get one night a week out with friends, separately."
"The most important thing is extremely high quality child care. I only hire the assistant teachers from my kids child development center to babysit. They are well trained and the kids are probably safer with the sitter than they are with me. Of course, even more important than this is that you let your partner, if you have one, be equally comfortable with and responsible for caring for the kids as you are. That can be difficult because it means giving up some control. This relieves guilt and anxiety when doing things for yourself, and it's the guilt that makes having your own life difficult. Good childcare allows you to have a fulfilling job, girls night, travel for work or personal reasons, and have a life in ways that you simply cannot when your caring for children every hour of every day."
I haven't figured it out yet. Going back to work helped, my favorite part is the train rides full of 'alone time.'
"This has been something I have struggled with since becoming a mother. I just don't have much of a life outside of motherhood right now. I stay at home and my husband works crazy hours and when he travels for work, it can be for weeks at a time. I remind myself often that this is a short season in life and once the kids are in school full-time I'll have more time to pursue hobbies or go back to work if I so desire. In the meantime, my outlet is reading. I love to escape in a good book. I do recognize that it is important to have an identity outside of motherhood, but I haven't found that balance yet!"
"I have to be honest, until my oldest was old enough to babysit and young enough that she didn't have much of a social life, there was no life outside parenthood. Life revolved around parenthood. Once she were old enough, my husband and I turned Saturday night dinner out with the family to Saturday night dinner out just the two of us.
As for me, personally, the minute my youngest started preschool I started writing seriously. Every hour I had alone in the house was spent at my keyboard. I've maintained that to this day, while the first reason was for me, the second reason was to make sure my kids saw me claiming an identity that belonged to me and me alone. I wanted them all to know that being 'mommy' didn't make the whole of me. I wanted that for my daughters especially, so they'd never feel guilty claiming their own identity.
My husband's life still revolves around parenthood. And me. In time [when he retires], I'll be the sun in his orbit. All alone with all that attention. He'll need a puppy or something."
With summer on the way we're coming up on my re-charge season. We have an amazing backyard and even more amazing neighbors. Everyone comes over. Weekends are basically just a giant party (even if it's tame, since we all have our kids there). The kids all play together and we get to hang out.
"Yoga twice a week. Not only is the yoga itself wonderful and focusing, but I have little rituals around it. On my Tuesday night class the kids are already in bed by the time I would get home, so I pop into Starbucks with a book for a little while. Every other Saturday I hang out with a friend after. So it's making time for one particular thing kind because you love it and also as an excuse to fold other things into it."
"For me this about both personal relationships and professional growth. I sometimes have to sacrifice a girls night because I want to go a meeting or something. But the number one key to striving for both of those things is open and honest discussions with spouse about what you need and want. The second key is having a supportive spouse who knew what kind of ride he was in for when you got married."
"I try to make something every day. I've always been creative and artistic, so I'll go through Pinterest and see if there's a craft or idea I can bring to life, either while my little one is taking a nap or after she's in bed or even with her. I also continue to paint, even if it's not as much as I used to."