Most mothers have experienced that cute little moment when someone asks their child, “What’s your mommy’s name?” That moment when, without pause, the child’s reply is “Mommy.”
It’s a sweet and heartwarming declaration because, for a lot of children, mom is a shining light, the ultimate PB&J creator and ouchie kisser. It’s rare that kids see their mom outside of the motherhood role until they are much older.
While adorable, this “Mommy” naming moment also gently reminds me to consider the woman who exists separately from mommy. Someone who has personal goals and talents, who has interests and relationships outside of the ones she shares with her kids. She might be buried under boatloads of laundry and legos—but that woman is still in there!
“It’s rare that kids see their mom outside of the motherhood role until they are much older.”
I doubt my former self (prior to the birth of my son) would have believed my whole identity could be overshadowed by baby food recipes and sleep training. But this is exactly what happened. I spent my son’s first year desperately trying to keep hold of the life and identity that I had previously. I was juggling my Army ROTC career, my education, my job, social life, and anything else I could possibly squeeze in, all while being a new mother.
I strived for perfection and was convinced becoming a mother could seamlessly fit into my life without rearranging what I was used to. I continued attempting my overly ambitious pursuits and ultimately burned myself out. I was absolutely exhausted.
When it finally become obvious to me that I could not sustain that pace, I made adjustments. I reduced my workload and refocused my attention toward my role as a mother. With the loss of the identity I used to have, I strived for perfection in motherhood instead.
“She might be buried under boatloads of laundry and legos—but that woman is still in there!”
I didn’t get out much and spent the majority of my time in “mommy mode”. My family and friends kindly pointed out that I was hardly doing anything outside of that. In short, I had traded one extreme for another and neither was making me happy.
It was time for me to take a good, hard look in the mirror at myself, the woman now wearing a t-shirt stained with smashed blueberry and sweatpants to ask, “Who am I and what do I want?”
Between that time period and now I’ve learned three important things:
- Wanting and nourishing your identity outside of motherhood does not mean you’re not committed to motherhood.
- Having a strong identity outside of your role as a mother actually benefits your children and family.
- Mom guilt is ruthless but the more you practice self-care, the easier it gets to ignore.
Reclaiming (and keeping) your identity is often one of those topics that rarely gets implemented, however. Finding time to figure out the age-old question of “who am I” is too easy to label as low priority. This is especially true since motherhood plays such a huge role in our lives and in our identity. How do you separate yourself from something as monumental as being a mom?
I started small and let the progress snowball from there.
I began by talking to other adults, even if it was just connecting with other moms online or making more of an effort to engage in conversation with the other parents at my son’s school. I stopped shying away from the outside world. Even if you’re not a socialite, taking time to reach out and talk to a friend can really be a great reminder that there are things to talk about other than the latest Paw Patrol mission.
“I stopped shying away from the outside world.”
While I love connecting with other moms about things only another mom could understand, it felt good to have conversations about things that interested me outside of parenting. I tried different activities. I’ll admit as things got busy I had to remind myself to find time to do something I enjoyed. I tried my hand in bullet journaling, ballroom dancing, and painting, to name a few. I made a point to adventure off to fun events with and without my son as well.
I made a vision board and figured out what I really wanted. All too often my dreams were pushed to the back burner and overshadowed. With dreams and goals of my own to strive toward, it was easier to not lose sight of myself as an individual. And perhaps the best thing I did for myself: I made self-care a priority.
“Finding time to figure out the age-old question of “who am I” is too easy to label as low priority.”
Throughout this process, I actually uncovered a lot of passions I had swept under the rug. I rekindled friendships I had neglected. I became an overall happier person, which made me a happier mom! Now on top of describing myself as a mother, I’m sure to include that I’m a dancer, a writer and book worm. I take time to nurture the other facets of my identity.
So next time someone asks you to “tell me a little bit about yourself,” what will you say, my fellow mothers and human beings? Tell me in the comments below!★
Laneic Lavalle is a self-care and wellness coach for busy mommas and blogger at Makeit218.com. After spending her first year trying to be and do everything under the sun, she took a step back and started making self-care a priority and building a life she enjoys for her and her son. Laneic is dedicated to helping mothers take control of their lives and stop living on autopilot by reconnecting with themselves, building wealth and pursuing their goals fearlessly.