At just 22, I was fresh out of a failed marriage to my high school sweetheart and, in an attempt to figure out what I wanted from life and who I was without that life partner, ventured down questionable paths in hopes of stumbling onto the answers I desperately needed. It was a necessary journey that ultimately led me to where I am today. Years later, when I became a mother, the same lost feelings crept back into play. I quickly learned that it's not easy searching for ways to find yourself again after you have kids, but if I ever wanted to be a better person, partner, mother, and well, anything, it was of the utmost priority.
Much in the same way I searched for some sort of divine healing after that divorce, I experienced grieving period after pregnancy. Unlike my previous period of self discovery, when I'd moved on from that relationship and into the one with the father of my children, having those babies took pieces of me I didn't initially know how to get back. Both full-term pregnancies drained me (as well as the miscarriages I experienced in between), so by the time I could check the "mom of two kids" box, there wasn't much left of me. I'd given up so much to be a mother, I didn't know where my babies lives ended and mine began.
Becoming a mom doesn't have to mean the end of us, moms. Our lives don't need to revolve around our children while we simultaneously neglect our own desires. What motherhood's taught me over the years is that in order to be what my kids need, I have to do whatever's possible to be whole, first. With that, here's some of the ways to find yourself after kids. It's not as impossible as you might think.
Accept The Ways You've Changed
It may seem counter-intuitive, but the first thing I did once I set out to re-discover myself post-kids, was to do a little self-reflection. While my instincts were to run back to all the things I enjoyed before kids, none of it felt the same. I'd changed so much throughout pregnancy, it didn't occur to me that I'd lost my sense of self-preservation until I started looking for it. When I did, my tastes were different. Things that once brought me joy, didn't, and unexpectedly, things that never had before, did. Before any real change could happen, I had to accept I was no longer the same woman I was before my kids came into this world.
Acknowledge The Stage You're In
It's really difficult to find yourself when you're in the muddiest, most labor intensive parts of motherhood. Having a newborn? Hard. Having a toddler? Hard. Having a pre-teen? Harder, still. If you're just diving in to a major stage (as I am with my pre-teen right now), it's important to note how difficult things will be, and why that's OK.
Much like when I first brought each baby home, life has an unsettled feeling when approaching a new stage. I'm exhausted, cranky, and anxious, lacking in personal time to re-charge. The thing about all these stages is, they pass. Now that I have a little more time to spend on myself, I miss those newborn days. Well, a little, anyway. While they were happening, I took them for granted because I was so focused on getting back to my "old" self. Basically, when embarking on the journey to find yourself again after kids, don't be so hard on yourself. Every phase is a season.
Create A Vision Board
After the birth of my son (the youngest), I wasn't sure who I was. We'd tried for him for so long, what was I without longing for the pregnancy, grieving the miscarriages before him, talking incessantly about fertility problems, and finally, enduring the delicate nine months of carrying him so he'd survive? Somehow, my whole existence started to rely on his. When he was in my arms I had no reference to what made made me tick anymore.
Creating a vision board (a poster board or cork board where you pin/tape images of what you want your life to look like) helped me see past the present. It was a time I felt so grateful, but also so lost, so I needed to see, visually, what could become of me and my life beyond my kids. Doing this didn't solve the problems immediately, but gave me the confidence to take steps to get where I wanted to be.
Journal About What Fuels You
Writing has always been my refuge, even when it's just for me, because it allows me to release my thoughts any way I need to and, as a result, find serenity. It doesn't always mean my reality make sense, or provides a clear path to finding myself at any given time, but in putting the words onto paper (on on my laptop), I'm freeing the space in my mind for other things — things that might put me on the correct path. Similarly, by writing things out I might accidentally find ways that make me feel a little more like myself. It's self-care at its finest and most simplistic.
Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone
I'm extremely resistant to change, mostly because I find comfort in routines, rituals, and the familiar. After having children, everything changed. It didn't make sense to continue relying on what worked before, because life wasn't the same. In pushing through the discomfort, forcing myself to try new things (like running), I not only found myself, but discovered parts of me I didn't know existed.
Steal Small Pockets Of Alone Time
Everyday since the birth of both children, I've made it a point to sneak away to the bathroom each night for a bath. When time doesn't allow, I close the door and take a few deep breaths to clear my mind for a few minutes. Sometimes (especially on the harder days), these little chunks of time are my saving grace.
Finding yourself is a continuous process. Children are constantly in my face, in need of something or asking a question, so in taking just a little time for myself, I'm better able to handle whatever they throw at me. In doing this, I've learned that I can handle more than I think I can, just as long as I take a minute to breathe, alone.
Make Time For Friends & Family
Just because you have kids, doesn't mean you're supposed to forget about everyone you spent time with before they arrived. If anything, take the time to go out solo more often. Connecting with my friends after the birth of my kids reminded me of all the things I am besides a mother.
Make Date Nights A Regular Occurrence
My partner and I lost our personal connection after the birth of my firstborn and, honestly, it was hard to get back. I was dealing with postpartum depression (PPD), and truly believed I was a bad mother if I spent any time away from my baby. Not only did it catapult me into self-destruct mode that much faster, it ruined the romantic aspect of the relationship I had with my partner.
In scheduling regular date nights with my partner, we re-connected, igniting feelings that had been buried in motherhood. It became the starting point for finding myself again, and a stronger relationship that would benefit us, and our kids.
Wear Something That Makes You Feel Confident
One of the easiest ways I found myself after kids — even when I felt insecure about my post-pregnancy weight — was to wear something red. It sounds silly, but even if I applied red lipstick I instantly felt more confident, and when you're confident you feel like you can do anything. My red lipstick defined the new path I'd take, post-kids; the path of least resistance and one my kids could look up to and say "my mom rocks."