Motherhood is full of sacrifice. From the moment you are pregnant, you are literally sharing your body with another person. Motherhood is giving your body, your heart, your time, your tears, your love, your patience, your sleep — your all. And I don’t know about you, but sometimes, in the midst of all the giving, I can start to lose myself. That’s when I’ve learned to pause and embrace the “and” with motherhood.
It’s taken me far too long to realize that while I adore motherhood, it does not define me. My identity is so much more than who I am as a mom or who my kids are. And so is yours. It is possible to love motherhood AND be a fantastic lawyer, teacher, friend, volunteer, or artist. When we fail to realize that we can be awesome, engaged moms and incredible, unique individuals, we short change ourselves and our children, because we are usually showing them that you can only be one or the other.
For a long time, I was in the thick of the physical — and physically exhausting — part of motherhood. Pregnancies, sleepless nights, rocking, feeding, changing, holding, bandaging, snuggling. And it was good. But it was also messy and hard and lonely at times.
But now, the diapers and bottles and walkers have quickly been replaced with training bras and video games and Barbies. And in the midst of it all, I’m rediscovering someone I set aside more than a decade ago as I began picking up those sweet babes: me. I’m finally caring for myself again, and I’m realizing that I can do both — I can love them wholeheartedly and pursue hobbies and dreams that bring me joy. It makes me better, and when I’m better, they’re better, too. I’m learning how to embrace the “and” in motherhood.
Tips for Embracing the “And” in Motherhood
Remember What you Love
Before you had kids if you had a day off what would you do? How did you spend your time? If you had a day, or even an hour, to yourself now, what would you do? Chances are it has nothing to do with Paw Patrol or Play-doh.
The answers to these questions are telling. They are your heart’s desires, and they shouldn’t be ignored. So, lean in and listen closely to these hopes and dreams — and then make them happen. We can’t all hop on a plane to Paris, but maybe we can escape to NorthPark for an afternoon or soak in a bubble bath.
I love Annie F. Downs and her “That Sounds Fun” podcast. (If you haven’t listened, I highly recommend it!) But last summer, I also read her book by the same name, “That Sounds Fun”. It’s a simple reminder to nurture, not ignore, those childlike instincts and desires that give us joy. I was left pondering my hobbies (current and ones I’d like to try) and thinking about how to create a bit of margin in order to pursue those. It’s not easy, but it is worth it.
Embrace motherhood and your passions.
What do I like? What brings me joy? And the answer lately has been riding my bike. So I try to sneak off a few times a week for an hour or so and ride. When I return, I feel better, my mind is clearer, and usually, my kids are impressed. They want to know more about where I went, how fast I rode, and how many miles I logged. And I love that I can show them that moms can be strong and independent and take time to care for themselves and their bodies in a simple, tangible way.
Find Your Tribe
As moms, we need other adults in our lives with who we can be transparent. These children we’ve been blessed with are absolute gifts. They are hilarious and sweet and humbling. But they can also be exhausting. And you need adult conversation — and that’s okay.
Sometimes it can be your spouse, sometimes it can be other moms, and sometimes it can be other adults who don’t have children at all. (Imagine a conversation about something other than sleep deprivation and potty training!) Whoever it is, find those people who speak life into you, and don’t let go.
I have met many of my closest friends through my children, their schools, and their activities. When you’re spending so much time with these people, you’re bound to find a few people you click with. There is something so encouraging about being able to talk to someone who is going through the exact same thing you are and realizing you are not alone.
However, one of my oldest and dearest friends doesn’t have children. And sometimes my conversations with her are my most refreshing. There’s no judgment. She loves my kids beyond measure, but she also sees me for me, not necessarily as a mom. Because of that she encourages and challenges me differently than my other “mom friends.”
Both of these types of relationships are important to me as a mom and as a woman.
Embrace motherhood and meaningful friendships.
Take the Time
Motherhood is demanding. In fact, at times it feels unrelenting. And it’s okay to admit that it’s not always full of warm, fuzzy feelings. That’s all the more reason to create time for yourself and take it, unashamedly.
We’ve all heard the adage “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” This is especially true in motherhood. Remember all of the giving? We have to create time to fill ourselves up in order to be the best we can be. And unfortunately, scrolling on our phones or spending hours in front of Netflix doesn’t actually fill us up. So use that time differently, wisely, and sometimes even selfishly. Sometimes you have to be a little bit selfish in order to give more and better later.
You won’t regret the time you take for yourself because you will enjoy motherhood that much more when your cup is full once again.
Embrace motherhood and time for yourself.
Over the past year and a half, I’ve been trying to figure out how to best embrace the “and” in my motherhood journey. It’s not easy, but trying to be intentional in these practices has been hugely beneficial.
I started a new job that I love after spending years as a stay-at-home mom, and my children find this new aspect of my life slightly mysterious and intriguing. My solo bike rides have sparked great conversations and are even developing a love for biking in each of my kids. And now, when I leave to go out for an occasional lunch or dinner with friends, rather than falling apart, there’s a confidence and reassurance building that they will be fine and I will be back, usually much more refreshed than when I left.
As my children are growing, so am I, and we are all learning big lessons together that I hope they will take with them for the rest of their lives. As they need my physical care less often, I’m realizing that they need me in a different — but no less important — way. I’m proud to be an example of a strong woman, wife, and mom they can look up to.