I’m a mom of three beautiful kids, and there was a point after giving birth to my youngest when I felt like that’s all I was. Don’t get me wrong, I love wearing my mom hat. To this day, I relish cooking up chocolate chip waffles and spending a few minutes each morning combing my 5-year-old daughter’s hair. But even through motherhood’s best moments, there’s always been a little voice in my head reminding me not to lose myself, and despite its constant reminders, by the time my newborn son was just a few weeks old, I’d officially lost touch of my personal identity. Suddenly, I felt that I only knew the version of myself as a woman smack-dab in the trenches of motherhood who always felt trapped somewhere between hurriedly running damage-control and throwing carefree dance parties to celebrate little victories with my kids. But even though I was giving my kids my all in everything I did, I knew they were getting a watered down version of me.
During a particularly low point, I sat on my bed surrounded by spit-up covered blankets feeling exhausted and completely defeated. On the surface, I had everything — a precious newborn, two older children who turn on the lights of my world, and a husband who reminds me every day that he loves me — but as I sat still in my room I couldn't help but let myself cry.
I realized in that moment that my life was missing something that truly felt like my own. A few minutes passed before my husband walked in, sat by my side, and let me cry until I was ready to explain. He listened as I told him that I was no longer familiar with myself, and how I didn't think I was being the best mother I could be to our kids. He continued to listen as I haphazardly proposed taking a day to myself, once a week, and the concept quickly moved from seeming like a selfish decision to something that might just be simple enough to work.
So, it was decided: Thanks to some flexibility in my husband's work schedule, Mondays had now been designated as my "work day." Each week, I would neatly pack my bag with my laptop, chargers, and headphones before walking down the road to set up at a local coffee shop. Though my itinerary for that first Monday was nothing glamorous — just answering some emails and working on maintaining my blog — I didn't realize until hours later how blissful it felt to spend some totally uninterrupted time to myself.
By the end of the day I had spent hours alone, writing without breaking to switch a load of laundry, and without interruption from little hands and voices asking for my help. With no constant distractions from people who needed me, and after years of drifting away from myself, I was slowly but surely beginning to feel a connection between the person I am now and the person I forgot I always was. I’m a mom, but I’m also a strong woman with interests outside of my kids, and it felt completely freeing to have the opportunity to focus my energy on myself. By the time I returned home that evening, I was already beginning to feel energized, more confident, and more like the loving and patient mom I know I am.
I've been carrying on this ritual for almost a year now, and it truly has started to bring back my sense of personal identity. In a way, it kind of reminds me of dating: you go out with someone to learn more about them, right? Learn their interests, their likes, what makes them tick. Does loud chewing drive them crazy? Does a certain song stop them mid-sentence and take them to another place? Spending time alone has not only helped me discover new things about myself — and rediscover old ones — but it’s taught me to actually love myself, too.
As a mom, making a point to spend time away from my kids has made me a happier, more patient parent. Whether I’m carving out time to work, or if I’m out for my monthly ladies' bunco night that I never miss, my kids will benefit. Having a firm grasp on myself makes me more forgiving, and hopefully, a lot more pleasant to be around. I don’t feel that knot in my throat anymore. And I don’t feel guilty for taking time away for my kids because I want them to have the confident, happy mom who knows she can do whatever she wants in this world.
To every mom out there who feels her own pressure to be the "perfect" mom, I want to remind you that there is no perfect way through motherhood. Your way, my way, your friend’s way — we will all mother differently. A friend once wisely told me, “You know why kids don’t come with instruction manuals? Because you’re the only one who could write it.” I see now that she’s so right. We as moms need to learn to trust ourselves as the authors of our own manuals. Whether you’re writing it from the epicenter of chaos with your family buzzing around you, or from a private table at the coffee shop down the block, remember this: you’re already doing an amazing job.
This post is sponsored by Baby Dove.