My whole life, I wanted to be a mom. It was my most treasured goal. Having my three boys meant my dreams came true and I loved (almost) every minute of it. Being a mom was such a
terrifying fulfilling, life-altering experience. It was everything I hoped it would be.
But somewhere along the journey of raising my kids, I slowly began to lose myself. My own identity became so wrapped up in being a mom that I wasn’t even sure I existed as my own person anymore. Seriously, if I had been pulled over by a police officer, I most likely would have handed over my children’s birth certificates instead of my driver’s license. “Here you go, officer. This is who I am.”
When my dreams of a happy family began to crumble and I became a single mom, I was suddenly forced to share my time with my children. I didn’t sign up to be a part-time mom. My children were my life. What soon became apparent to me was that it’s not healthy to be so wrapped up in your children. I was experiencing a mom identity crisis.
Regardless of my new reality as a single mom, I began to realize that for a while we moms are the center of our children’s lives, and then — if we do our jobs right — we’re not. This will happen to every mom. People who fall victim to identity thieves can get insurance and protection against the villainous acts of those who would try to take advantage of others. There’s no such insurance against our children. As a matter of fact, we are complicit in the theft of our identities . . . . We practically beg them to take it.
I learned the importance of protecting my own identity the hard way. I didn’t realize what happened until it was too late, and my journey to finding myself again has been a long, difficult one. Let me share with you what I learned. Whether you are just starting out on your motherhood journey — or whether you are well on your way — these tips will help you hold on to (or reclaim) your identity and your sanity.
- Always make time for yourself. No matter what is going on in your life with work, family, and everything that sucks up your time when you are a mom, always make time for yourself. Make “me time” sacred. You might have to get creative, but find half an hour when you get home from work or right after the kids go to bed. Sneak it in between dinner and the dishes. Relax in front of the television, read a grown-up book, or soak in a hot tub. If you can’t work it into each day, schedule it (put it in your calendar) for the weekend and make your time count. Spend time doing what you enjoy, and you will enjoy your time with your family that much more.
- Dare to dream. It’s important to have goals and dreams that have nothing to do with being a mom. Ask yourself what it is that you want. Name your dream, and then make a plan. During my mom identity crisis, I decided to get my master’s degree. The degree meant I was able to move into a position that allowed me to be creative and to enjoy the best parts of my job while leaving some of the more stressful aspects of it behind. It meant taking on student loans, but it also meant enjoying increased satisfaction at work — and it ultimately helped me become a better mom. I had always wanted to become a published author, so I positioned myself around people who could make that dream a reality, and I wrote my first book. Having goals to work toward helped me focus on myself.
- Nurture friendships. Take the time to make and nurture friendships that are just for you and not centered around your kids. Thirteen years ago, we moved onto the street we still live on today. I created friendships with neighbors who are still important to me. Relationships outside of your family provide biased (toward you!!) comfort and support. These friendships offer a place to go when you need to celebrate your accomplishments, or when you need to vent.
- Journal. Journaling is a fantastic way to share and process your thoughts. Whether you keep a gratitude journal, a prayer journal, a diary, or a bullet journal as part of your daily planner, journaling your thoughts will help you process events and emotions in your life and keep tabs on what’s going on with you. Writing down your thoughts can be cathartic.
When we become mothers, we knowingly and willingly put our children before ourselves. It’s in the job description, but mother isn’t the whole of our identities. Eventually you will transition from mommy to mom, and when you do, you’ll want to make sure you still know who you are beyond that title. The kids won’t need you as much. Don’t let yourself get into an identity crisis before you start taking care of yourself. If we are successful at our motherhood endeavors, our children will move on with identities of their own. Set the example now for them to be who they are, and set yourself up to still have a life when they do.