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Finding Motherhood Without Losing Yourself

Sometimes I feel like the change in my lifestyle from me to mom was like trying to fit a square into a circle. "It's all part of being a parent. You're a mom now." Well guess what? I don't want to "just" be a mom.
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Recently I've had to ask myself some difficult questions. I love my son with my entire being, but "Do I love the lifestyle of motherhood?" I always assumed these two concepts were connected. If you loved your child than you had to love being a parent. But assuming you love parenthood just because you love your child is about as relative as assuming you love scrubbing toilets because you love a clean house. I love being a mom, yet there are so many days where I mentally indulge in the fantasy of a child-free past. A week spent entirely by myself making decisions selfishly for my own satisfaction. I want to wake up when my eyes leisurely open in a quiet house, not when my retina is being threatened by tiny fingers. I want to make breakfast for myself without meticulously cutting eight different food groups into 1/4 inch pieces to avoid doing the Heimlich before 9 am. I want to plan my day around lattes with girlfriends and serene hiking trails, not sippy cup malfunctions and parks filled with screaming toddlers. I want my evening to be filled with quiet walks and random pub nights with friends, not highchair cleanups and perfectly scheduled bedtimes. I want to layout a future of possible travelling adventures, not calculated future pregnancies and breastfeeding timelines. Is it so bad to still desire parts of my old lifestyle? But how does a mom navigate between longing for something without feeling guilty for wanting more than the gift of motherhood? And yes, I know that I can still do all of these things as a parent, just not as often and it requires more planning. A very easy solution. However I thrive in spontaneity and whimsical plans, and sometimes feel as though my soul shrivels in a lifestyle of predictability and routine. The very same attributes that are so beneficial to raising children -- how ironic.

Do I love being a mom? Of course I do, I just don't always love the lifestyle of a mom, and I've accepted that it's okay to feel this way. It wasn't until I stopped judging myself for the way that I felt that I was able to release the guilt I carried. Becoming a parent instantly changes your identity, whether you are prepared for it or not. You are no longer independent because your life is instantly intertwined with someone who is completely dependent on you. Your decisions are constantly made with someone else in mind, and your lifestyle shifts to accommodate this change.

I am an extremely busy person because my creativity has shaped me to have a plethora of interests. I love painting, DIY'ing, reading, writing, cooking, baking, hiking, biking, camping etc. I am also a wife, sister, grandchild, daughter, cousin, coworker and friend. Yet becoming a mom has demanded that I take off some of these hats to make room for the hat of motherhood. Everyone makes different sacrifices when becoming a parent, I just feel as though some people naturally have less hats to set aside before parenthood, and others are simply more willing to set aside these hats. I pride myself in not falling victim to the habit of comparing myself to other women, whether that be body image, material items, personality, career, lifestyle, relationships or simply counting someone else's blessings instead of my own. But every so often I can't help but feel envious of moms who seem to fall so effortlessly into parenthood.

Sometimes I feel like the change in my lifestyle from me to mom was like trying to fit a square into a circle. "It's all part of being a parent. You're a mom now." Well guess what? I don't want to "just" be a mom. I know that sounds awful to some of you, but it's how I feel. Frankly I like all my hats, so maybe in a sense, I'm still struggling with how to wear all of them at once or none of them at all. I am hanging onto the very last threads of my own separate identity as a woman, and I am still deciding whether it it's something I'm supposed to hang onto or not. Giving up my hobbies and interests feels as though I'm giving up a part of what makes me happy; the very same happiness that makes me a good mom. So for now I am going to hang onto the things that make me me without feeling bad about it.

But sadly I feel that stay-at-home moms are expected to give their entire life up for their kids. Just this past week I spent two separate days at my girlfriend's lakeside cabin. So many of my fellow mommy friends and family commented "Wow, you're living the life," or "You have had soooo much freedom this week," or "You're so lucky to have that time" as if a day to myself was more like an all-inclusive trip to Mexico alone. Don't get me wrong, I was extremely grateful for the time away, but it only solidified the fact that society has made it unorthodox for moms to enjoy time to themselves. In the entire 168-hour time frame of a week, 20 hours was spent with one of my best friends from out of town. That's only 11 percent of my week spent aside from motherhood. How selfish of me, right? If 11 percent is abnormal than what is normal? Being a stay-at-home parent is a job that runs around the clock, but there has to be some opportunity to clock out every once in a while.

My work week used to be Monday to Friday 8:30-2:30. I filled my afternoons with hiking or coffee dates with girlfriends, crafting and late afternoon workouts before my hubby even got home at 5:30. Then I'd spend an hour of quality time talking over dinner. By then I still had 4 hours of free time before bed at 10:30. It wasn't unusual for me to be out almost every night with our friends, family or just doing my own thing when I felt like it. Prioritizing my time wasn't necessary because I had so much of it. As a stay-at-home mom my job now runs morning until night. I can still spend afternoons with girlfriends, but coffee dates aren't nearly as relaxing when you are unable to finish a single sentence without dislodging some foreign object from your toddler's ear, mouth, nose or eye. When my husband gets home at 5:30, my first priority has and always will be family time until my little one goes to bed. By then it's 8 pm. I have two hours of "free time" until bed if I'm lucky to stay awake that late. My priority for my health by doing yoga or going to the gym is now considered my alone time in order to kill two birds with one stone. I'm home at 9 pm and try to stay awake long enough to enjoy quality time with my husband. Where does that leave time to enjoy reading, crafting, painting, solo time with girlfriends, date nights, friends, BBQs or time with our extended family? It doesn't. Something's gotta give. So either I sacrifice our family time for date night, my alone time for time with friends or my personal hobbies for errands. It's a hard balance to find.

The only way I've been able to stay sane through this adjustment is by always making time for the things that still make me feel like me, no matter how small or how often. I've always believed that you should define yourself in terms that can withstand change. Defining yourself by possessions, roles or relationships creates attachment because losing these things entails losing not just what you have but also who you are. Some women who define themselves only as being a mom struggle with who they are when they aren't around their kids or when their kids move out later on in life. Same goes for individuals who define themselves solely by their marriage, career or materialistic things. A loss of job, an obstacle in their marriage or a loss of personal items leaves them questioning who they are and as a result their own happiness is jeopardized.

Spend time alone getting to know yourself entirely, and don't feel guilty for taking time to yourself as a parent. By doing this, you won't feel so detached from your life before kids. Remember your own passions and interests and accept what works for you regardless of what others think. And if you can find a happy balance of time as a mom, time as a wife, time as a friend and time to simply be you, than heck, let me know your secret.

"Parenting is an impossible job at any age." -- Harrison Ford