I’m a mom with a 2-year-old daughter. But I used to be a writer, a friend, and a wife and interesting person. I used to be the person my friends came to for advice on things like what movie to see, or what kinds of clothes were fashionable, or how to put ink in fountain pens and to see what erotic novel I was secretly planning to read that month. Now? I just work and come home. I don’t talk to my friends anymore except the ones that have kids, because all I can talk about is my kid anymore. People ask how I’m doing and I launch into some boring monologue. I hate it. I despise it, really. I bore myself! But I’m a mom and that’s not only what I feel like I’m supposed to be doing, it’s all I have time for: work and kid, and the husband if there’s anything left over. I miss pretty things: silk lingerie (back when I had a better body and my husband didn’t laugh at me for trying to be sexy). breakable dishes. wine. Movies without drawn characters. I read a lingerie blog post and for a moment I was excited about it until I realized, ‘nope, that’s not my life anymore. That’s not for me anymore. Maybe it never was.’
I guess my question is does it get better? Will there ever come a time when I can enjoy nice things again? Or am I doomed to t-shirts and athletic wear (which I swore I’d never fall into and LOOK! Here I am in wal-mart $4 Hanes shirts with oatmeal stains and sneakers and too-big capri pants!), and I haven’t been to the gym since maybe once a few months ago when my husband took pity on me? There’s a part of me that is more than a little sad about what I’ve left behind — and yes, I feel appropriately guilty about that — but is there anything for *me* to look forward to besides the gratification and challenge of raising a good and intelligent person? Maybe it’s wrong to ask or even want, but am I done with pretty things forever? And does it make me a terrible mom/person for missing them?
Oh Lisa, Can I ever relate to this. I think many moms can. Parenting is an all-consuming job, especially when kids are little. When you have a baby, you hand over most of your free time. You hand over your ability to get lost in a project or go to coffee on a whim. Spontaneity takes a backseat. Your body becomes a mechanism for keeping someone else alive. It’s really easy to lose your sense of self in that. And it certainly doesn’t make you a horrible person for mourning your loss of freedom.
I can’t speak for every mom, but I will share my own experience on this. I was exactly where you are when my kids were small. I was there for a very, very long time. I felt like I was a shadow of my former self. I felt like my time and my energy was 100% expended on caring for others. I felt like I had no mojo. And sex felt like just another person needing me to fulfill their needs.
About a year ago, my kids turned a corner and things really changed for me. My kids are much less demanding. I’m no longer needing to help with toileting. I’m not carrying around small kids. I can go to the store without a melt-down. My kids can dress themselves and make their own lunch. They need me less.
And my body – it feels like it’s mine again. Sure, it’s available for cuddling and consoling, but those moments are less frequent and demanding than they used to be. As I’m reclaimed a little personal space, I’ve definitely found that there has been a revived interest in other physical activities. If ya know what I mean.
As they kids have needed me less, I’ve found more of my former self. I have moments in the day where I am alone. Bedtime is not an ordeal. I can ask the kids to help with housework. I can hear myself think. I have more space – mentally and physically. I can leave them with a babysitter without a long list of instructions. It’s just easier now than it used to be.
As these changes have taken place, I’ve tried to fill my life back up with the things that make me feel like an indivudual and not just a mom. I’m in a book club. I’ve started running again. I have Stitchfix sending me clothes that I wouldn’t otherwise buy. I’m making plans with friends and chatting on the phone about things both deep and frivolous. I say all this to illustrate that I do believe that much of this is a season. Which doesn’t really help you right now. But here are some things that worked for me. Mileage may vary.
Remember this is temporary. Don’t resign yourself to this current season being the new normal, or The Way Things Are. There is a light at the end of the tunnel as your child gets older.
Do something life-affirming every day. This will be unique to how you are wired, but figure out small things that ground you and remind you of the stuff you love. Make a playlist and listen to it in the car. Practice a hobby that you enjoy. Find like-minded friends and make a standing appointment. Subscribe to the theater. Create a book club. Rotate hosting dinner parties. Do something for you, even if it seems inconsequential.
Get outside. Try to carve out small moments to be in nature. If you have a treadmill habit, try walking outside. If you take a lunch break, dine outdoors when weather permits. The vitamin D will do you good, but I also think there is something inherently zen about getting outside that helps put us in tune with ourselves.
Seek beauty. You were mentioning your concern that you’ll never have time for pretty things again, but start small. Buy the new lingerie . . . even if you don’t feel great in it, enjoy the way it feels against your skin. It’s still for you! Buy a few wardrobe staples that you feel good in. Listen to music. Light a candle. Make your home living space a place you like to look at.
Move your body. It’s trite but it’s true . . . exercise really is the best anti-depressant. It will help you clear your head and give you the space to think and reflect. It’s a perfect time to meditate and plan. And there is the added benefit that you will likely feel better about the way you look, too.
Have sex for yourself. As a woman, and especially a busy mom, it’s so easy to fall into the idea that sex is yet another thing we need to check off the to-do list, or yet another way that we have to take care of someone else. But chances are, you enjoy sex, too. So try to move out of the mindset of sex being an obligation. Indulge in sex for yourself. Try to switch up the dynamics so that you are the pursuer, at least part of the time. Figure out the things that keep your motor running, and don’t be afraid to ask your partner to help with that.
These are just a few of the ways I’m trying to reclaim my own identity in the midst of loving my kids well.
Readers, how about you? Any advice or experience on getting your mojo back?