Motherhood in 2018 is Instaperfect and Pinterest picturesque so it appears online. We’ve witnessed the prototype, she’s got the best of both worlds: a phenomenal career and great family life. She seems to balance exceptionally well. The reality often is as mothers we find ourselves neck-deep in waters of uncertainty struggling to remain buoyant. Where is the lifejacket? the preparedness manual? Pregnancy and all of the sister circles in the world couldn’t prepare you enough for the lifelong task ahead. As women we struggle with family and societal expectations all the while, trying to maintain our sense of normalcy and find ourselves within it all as we strive to be perfect partners, mothers, and women.
Like no other archetype, the caregiver/nurturer has the ability to sense the needs of other people. Women are born as first responders, intuitively, as mothers, we prioritize the needs of our children above our own. Right? We often forgo once known necessities that we now label as luxuries. Before we know it neglect soon becomes our new norm. Yoga becomes a distant memory because if there are pockets of extra time spent it should be with your family or children. Five minute showers with door open is commonplace, using the restroom with a child in tow, eating in passing just is what it is because you’ve got more important things to check off your list. Social time with your partner or friends become abysmal and your leisure time is filled with “kid-friendly” activities. Lastly, your days have become so jam packed that “adult time” with your partner becomes a line item on your calendar… and get a Red Bull and B-12 shot for that!
We naturally gravitate to this lifestyle truly because our children are the center of our worlds and they deserve to have priority in our lives. There is also a looming pressure to compare your self to stereotypical ideals of what motherhood should be and/or look like. For all, we are consistently marketed to around being invincible and having the “Super Woman” complex. We are expected to balance all things well simultaneously giving off some semblance of perfection and got-it-togetherness. Attempting to meet this unrealistic status quo only places us further behind and leaves us running on fumes and stressed. Long-term effects of self-neglect leave us feeling depleted and unproductive in our professional and interpersonal lives leaving us no good to anyone.
As a new mother, I found myself feeling devoid of meaningful connection with myself that I once had. I broke the monotony after a serious “Come-to Jesus” conversation with my mother. Thank God for Mothers! I came to the realization that I was meandering in a constant place of lethargy and mediocrity. My days became nights and my weeks became months. I felt like a rudderless boat, I was consumed with trepidation and things began to dismantle slowly around me. My business was impacted and I was dishonoring personal commitments. That day I peered in the mirror and leveled up with myself, I no longer wanted to look or feel tired. I’d had it with wearing leggings and frumpy sweaters in the name of go-to quick mommy fashion. I remembered how I loved glamming myself up, I loved heels, I loved red lips, I loved feeling sexy! Sexy was once my thing! I recalled a conversation with a friend stating that I’d outgrown “looking sexy” Said no woman ever….Who had I become? I became a distant memory to myself. Somehow I had gotten so far from her, all in the name of Motherhood.
I had to deconstruct the lie I sold myself and reinvigorate my love relationship with myself devoid of guilt or the feeling of possibly neglecting my daughter in the process. Acceptance of my reality was daunting and I resolved that loving me was enough. Doing the work to be the best possible mother to my daughter was a worthwhile incentive. So that day I vowed to love myself fiercely and commit to what I needed for self-care; all the while, remaining committed to my routine with my daughter and being present for her.
Once you come to terms with yourself, you are accountable to yourself to fix it if you truly want to grow. I practiced the fine art of saying “No” and became comfortable declining activities that weren’t high on my priority list. My playdates and children social outings narrowed down from 3 per week to 1 per week sometimes every other week and my daughter and I are still considered quite social. I decided that I didn’t need to be the quintessential social mom and it has fared well. I break away for bouts of time alone without the guilt of rushing back home. I drop my daughter off to Grandma’s during the day to conduct client meetings or simply to have a daytime nap. Date night once per week has become essential and I have recommitted to my yoga practice and physical activity 3-4 times per week and I’m feeling like a new woman! I’ve learned that it’s not about being the “Snapback Queen” and getting back to yourself as it is about being gracious with embracing your evolution. Newness is a gift.
Inserting self-care time back into my life has allowed me to refresh and be present in moments. I no longer feel like life is happening to me rather I am co-creating to define the life I want for myself and my family.
The consequences of not prioritizing yourself can be dire. I have encountered quite a few women and have friends who suffer or have suffered from Postpartum Depression. Although I have never been diagnosed or been under the weight of depression, I understand how easily it can happen. I recognize the need to listen attentively to other women around me and respond. Sometimes what is needed is a sounding board, gentle assurance, and fostering an environment to support them in nurturing themselves. All mothers deserve a bit of R&R and reciprocity, for we know it is hard to pour from an empty well. Finding a community of women who are supportive is vital. I found myself early on feeling disconnected as a new mother being that I chose to have children later in life. Most of my friends are mothers of adult children and there I was soliciting advice from their previous experiences 18-23 years ago. One of the best things I could have done was create friendships with women who openly share their experiences and provide me with non-judgemental advice. This truly has provided insight into better understanding myself and my daughter as I navigate motherhood. Also, leaning on my village of Mother elders for lessons, approaches, and coping mechanisms have been invaluable.
Taking in sound advice and practicing self-care has allowed me to better cater to my needs, as a result, making me a better woman and mother. The best way I can honor myself is to pause in moments and take the time to actively choose me daily without apology. Creating space for yourself isn’t about neglecting other areas of your life, it is about ascribing value to every facet of your being to perfect the whole.