I think it’s safe to say that most of us go through a period when we just lose ourselves. More specifically though, women can lose themselves after having a baby. Or two… or three. Understandably so, mothers just have that instinct to put their children first and take care of the family. You give up your free time, your career, your friends. Things that brought you joy and happiness become distant memories. There are literally a thousand things going through your mind at any given moment.
Along with all the “I have to make sure I don’t kill the little humans” tasks, you learn how to prepare for the unexpected. Always on edge, so to speak, for that next thing that will inevitably happen. It’s not just you anymore. It’s you plus however many children, animals, and significant other. Sometimes there is no significant other so it’s all on you. And other times there is a significant other but it’s still ALL ON YOU.
I don’t mean to make it seem so daunting and like such a heavy burden … but in a way, it is. It is life changing. And there’s no mistake about it. It is life changing in the best possible way. It’s also a very scary change. For some, it’s a heartbreaking change. No matter what though, it’s a change, not only surrounding you but within you.
There are those women who just appear angelic to me. They have their act together, they’re patient, super loving and always know how to handle any situation. Then there are mothers like me, who have wanted this so badly for as long as we can remember. The desire to have our own children to love and provide for. Be the protector and the teacher. A dream finally fulfilled to ensure the most loving and nurturing environment for their own little family. Something prayed about for so long. And the reason is because they want to provide the family life they never had. But the constant mom guilt eats at you by the end of the day. You feel like a failure.
Growing up, I experienced life as the daughter of immigrants, living on the poor side of the economy and without much guidance from my parents. My home life was not filled with fun little family traditions. There was not that lovey feel. I’m not saying we had a terrible home life but it was more cold and rigid vs. warm and loving. And it was not anyone’s fault. It was the result of many generations of tough living conditions and tough love.
Adolescent years are a super confusing time to begin with but mix that with hardly any parental input and cultural differences and bam. There I was, trying to figure this thing called life on my own. Trying to discover who I was and where I belonged. A part of me felt like life had so much meaning and even the little things were so important. Yet I was surrounded by people who would mock that and were after superficial satisfaction and pleasure. I couldn’t be myself and talk about the things that mattered because then I would be the outcast; the weird girl who finds meaning in “coincidences” and synchronicities.
This feeling has been with me ever since then. I have never truly let the real me flow freely. Conversations would be draining because I would force myself to have these fake, small talks. Along with not allowing my true self to emerge, I also would suppress the want to speak up when things were happening that shouldn’t. It robbed me of building true, meaningful relationships with those around. The fear of what people would think stopped me from being me.
So, having a little-known identity to begin with, I added a marriage and two kids to this awesome menu. And let me just tell you, it was not a very cohesive menu. If there is no predetermined idea or theme, things just feel thrown together. I had an idea of how I wanted my life to look, especially my family life. But I just didn’t have the best tools to help me execute it properly. On top of being a new mom, I was figuring out how to be a mom while my own mother was struggling with the effects of a series of major strokes. So in a sense, I was motherless. Physically, she resembled my mom, but mentally, she was a tiny bit of what used to be my fearless, brave, smart and beautiful mother.
Not having a mother to turn to for advice when your baby has trouble sleeping, or what tips and tricks she used to help with gas or to just call up and ask for help, left me saddened. She should be enjoying my baby and staying with me for a weekend to let me sleep in. Instead, I threw myself into motherhood because I lost my mom a month before my second was born and this is what I’ve wanted … right?!? Forever my dream was to be a mom. So sacrifices were made and plans were ditched. Career went out the window along with maintaining friendships. The needs of this sweet baby came before a shower, food and bathroom breaks. And this was my life for the first year of motherhood.
All I knew was being mommy to my baby. Then his first birthday rolled around and the idea of going back to work part-time was thrown around. I would plan to meet with my old boss and figure out a work schedule. I could slowly start incorporating the old me back into my life. That is until that positive pregnancy test right before the said meeting and the one-year-old’s party. Honestly, I can’t say that I was too upset. Babies are my jam. I love them and will always love them. But back to square one with no sleep, constant attention and energy given to the littles and no time for myself.
Here we are, into the preschool years with my children. I’m slowly inching towards having a child in kindergarten!!!? So with this new phase of life approaching, I starting examining my life. And not just the big picture, which is pretty amazing, but the detailed part of who I am. Who am I?
My life has been all about my children and sacrificing parts of myself so others can go live their lives. But what I’ve been intentional about doing is setting boundaries and being OK with letting go. Letting go of all things, people, habits, thoughts that do not serve me or my greatest good. Allowing the real, authentic me to slowly peek her head out and stand proud. Dive into the things that matter to me and that hold the most value in my life. Those are the things that define me, not who I was, the things I used to do, or the way I used to live.
For now, building my relationship with God is at the top of my list. Believing in something greater than me or this earth is just … wow. And since I opened up my heart, I have been shown the immediate grace with which He can only provide. My faith has grown stronger through the toughest of situations, which make me believe even more. Through His promises to provide and not harm, I’ve seen the ways He blesses me and I’m that much more grateful for this life.
Volunteering and serving others is another top priority. Luckily I’m at a stage in life where my children can survive without me. They can communicate and behave pretty fabulously for others so it leaves me without worry when I can get out and give back. Volunteering my time and energy has always been a huge part of my heart and soul. I would volunteer at the local hospital twice a week during my high school years. It is truly such a rewarding experience every time. And it’s not just limited to organizations, it’s now also being able to help a friend or my church. There are so many events and ways to give back, some monetary and some with manual labor. Either way, it’s amazing.
Now I will live! I’m making it a point to meet with friends, reach out and send a text, let the people who matter to me know they matter to me. It is OK to take time for myself and surround myself with those who only improve my life. I want to add value and meaning to others’ lives just as I want them to do in mine.
Intentional living, intentional loving.