I recall a time before I had children that I swore I would be in contact with my friends as often, if not more often, than I was at that time. After all, how hard could parenting be? I had this aunt representation of parenting. My sister’s kids were for the most part really well behaved for me. I thought I’d have this whole parenting thing in the proverbial bag.
Then 6 years ago I had my first child and I discovered mommy guilt, mommy exhaustion, and all of mommy’s needs taking a back burner. Actually, farther than the back burner. I felt like my needs and wants were pushed so far back that I could barely see who I used to be. I felt that I lost my
identity old identity. Sure, I was now a mom with a beautiful newborn staring at me with her big, blue eyes. But I also felt like a cow that was needed for milking every 2-3 hours for 45 min at a time. But then there are the snuggles. Ahhhh, the snuggles. How I love those moments in life of feeling their breath on my chest and their warmth in my arms. But, was this what and who I was going to be forever?
As each day past with more feedings, playtime, cleaning, laundry, spit-up on my pajamas that I was still wearing at 4pm, I realized that I was losing myself. I could not go where I wanted, whenever I wanted. For goodness sakes, I wasn’t even getting out of my pajamas. Now, I’ve upgraded to yoga pants! Yes, I knew that having children would change my life. But, I couldn’t possibly understand how much until I went through it myself. It’s all just speculation until then. For example, I could not go and visit friends when my children had a nap coming up in an hour. Yes, I was the mom that worked around my children’s naps. It was hard not to. I needed them to take those naps as much as they needed to take them. For my own sanity, I worked around their naps. I swore my kids would never take over my life. I would not work around them. HA! Clearly, that was a person who was not a mother talking. You end up doing whatever it is that you need to in order to survive this roller coaster. Maybe that’s how I lost myself. Lost my friends. I guess I didn’t lose all my friends, but they all got pushed by the wayside. My kids came first, but that wasn’t what I intended.
In between the bickering and crying, the whining and demanding, the feedings and diapers, the meals and snacks, the gymnastics and swim lessons, the naps and bedtimes, I am EXHAUSTED. I’m so exhausted that doing anything more than sitting on the couch watching mindless TV once the kids are in bed and asleep (that’s the key word!) is requiring too much of my effort. And talking on the phone? No way. It’s my only peace and quiet of the day and I am unwilling to part with it. Does that make me a bad friend? daughter? etc? I don’t think so. But, that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel guilty about it.
I usually work 3 night shifts a week that each last 12.5 hours. I have about an hour drive to work each way. I like my drive and this is usually the time that I use to talk to family and friends on the phone. Or I just listen to music and enjoy the time I have alone (I don’t get many alone days). But, I love that I have the opportunity to be at home more that I am at work. Not that it’s always how it is. There are many weeks that I work extra shifts and I end up being at home a lot less. But sleeping during the day can be rough. The rest of the world functions during the day. Lawns are mowed, leaves get blown and snow blowers get fired up. Life continues and I have learned to adjust and ignore it most of the time. Every morning, I get the guilt trip from my kids about needing to go to sleep. They don’t see why I should go to sleep at all. I should play for an hour and then take an hour nap before I get up for the day. Oh, and I also work too much. It’s 3 freaking days a week!!! How much less can I work and still support this family. Not only am I past the point of exhaustion now, but I also have like 50lbs of guilt thrown on my back. Guilt for not playing with them. Guilt for needing this sleep. Now, I as I lay my head down on my pillow, I am a lousy mom. As if it couldn’t get any worse, after my last day of work, I usually sleep for 3-4 hours. I can be a bear after that nap. I am wound tight, even more exhausted, and it doesn’t take much before I lose my temper and holler about some socks that are on the floor, or the crumbs that are under foot. Ridiculous things that I should let slide because my husband is not superman and it’s not fair for me to expect him to do it all (he’s a stay at home dad). But, I’m on edge from the lack of sleep. Once again, I am exhausted. Too exhausted to participate in life. In my children’s life. In my life. I’ve thought about not working night shifts but then I’d be gone all day. I’d be gone before the kids woke up and I wouldn’t be home until after they were in bed. At least now I see them 1-2 hrs a day when I’m working.
The thought is always there, however fleeting. But it’s there. The thought to call a friend. Set up a date. Be
my old self some fraction of my old self. But, that takes energy that I can’t seem to muster. I know I can’t return to who I used to be and I wouldn’t want to. Becoming my old self would eliminate those 2 little beings that grew inside of me. Even on my worst day, when I could scream it to the heavens that I hate my life, I wouldn’t want to rewind time to before they were born. I just need to be more than a mom. I want to be me. I want to be a better me. A better wife, friend, etc.
How do I get me back? The me that would call a friend. The me take would take time for herself. I realized that after I met with a friend that I have only seen once in over a year, I missed her. I laughed for 2 1/2 hours straight. I had the greatest time and I vowed to finally make the change that I said I would this past summer after my father in law passed away. I wanted to live my life to the fullest, like he did. It didn’t matter that we talked a lot about our children and about mother hood. What mattered is that I didn’t just feel like a mom at that moment. I felt like myself.
I walked away from that night with a plan and I couldn’t wait to get it started! I love my children like nothing else. But, one day they will leave the nest and who will I be once they leave? Yes, I will always be a mother. But, they won’t need me as much. My life as a wife, friend, daughter, etc will come to the forefront. How will I be able to fulfill those roles later if I stop using them now?
First, I decided to work on myself and allow myself to have some me time. My wonderful husband has been trying to get me to meet with my friends frequently, but guilt always took over. No more. I wanted to get back to getting healthy and exercising. After all, I wanted to give my kids a good example. They will have to learn to not hang on my legs as I try to go outside for a run. Then after I get back, both of them are usually doing my exercises with me that I was given by my sports medicine MD. I also have started using the gym at work after I’m done with my shift in the morning since we seem to be starting the winter season earlier this year. I still plan on running outside, but I wanted to be able to have some variation in my workouts.
Also, I want to hang out with my husband more. We don’t get out together much because the closest family that we have is 35-45 away and babysitters aren’t cheap. Regardless, the attempt will have to be made more wholeheartedly. Even if it means that we pay for a sitter and just window shop or go to Olive Garden instead of a fancy restaurant. I don’t want to lose our connection and in 18 years wonder who we are to each other.
Then, there are my friends. I miss them. I miss them terribly. I miss talking about nothing and everything. I miss making plans and laughing at the dumbest thing. Yes, I do all of these things with Dave. But it’s different with my girlfriends. I realized after I met my friend, Katie, out for dinner and drinks that I let a part of me sleep for a long time. It’s not like I never saw my friends. I did. It was just few and far between. Each time I met with a friend, I felt that longing to do this more often. Each time I would say that I would and next thing I knew, months went by.
This time is going to be different. This time I will make more of an effort and for the past month or so, I have felt better. I’ve met up with friends after work, took the whole family over to another friends house so that we all get some friend time in and this weekend, we had 2 more great friends come over.
My life is feeling more whole. This whole parenting thing is hard and it definitely changes a person. I do think that putting myself first will make me a better parent, if not a more patient one. I love my kids immensely, but I don’t want to lose sight of who I am because I am not just momma. I am so much more.