Today’s article is a much lighter topic – how motherhood empowers you!
Lost and Found in Motherhood
In my article, How Motherhood Changes You, we talked about all of the ways that you lose yourself in motherhood. I cracked open motherhood to show all of the darker parts, the parts that no one likes to talk about. Going to the dark side is always heavy and uncomfortable, even Kylo Ren struggled with the dark side. But I did it for you, and all mothers, to not feel alone in your challenges. In all of our challenges. And now that I’ve cracked motherhood open, there is room to shine some light on it.
Meet Yourself in Motherhood
Gail Sheehy said “If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.” As scary and overwhelming as change can be, it’s an opportunity for growth. When I say that you are “meeting yourself” in motherhood, I don’t mean someone completely different from who you were before your baby. I mean a version of you who has grown from these new experiences.
Someone whose priorities and perception of this world have changed. Your world has grown and so have you. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing. For starters, your heart has certainly grown to love your baby more than you ever knew it was capable of. That’s proof of just how wonderful change can be.
Change is How Motherhood Empowers You
Change grants us a beautiful opportunity to create who we want to be. We have a chance now to look at this change in life and choose what’s most important to us. Having a baby gives you a new perspective on the world and your place in it, both as a mother bringing a new soul into the world and an individual existing in it.
With that being said, now is the time to remain curious as you are relearning who you are in motherhood. Explore any and everything that catches your interest. I’m talking about everything, from clothes to hobbies to passions. Find an outfit that you wish you could wear? Who says you can’t? You? Wear that outfit. Find yourself feeling jealous over someone who has an impressive garden or is really talented at crafts? Jealousy is a good indicator for an area to explore on your own. Go buy supplies and start doing it yourself. You might discover a hidden passion or purpose that you weren’t aware of. You are the only thing holding you back from doing these things.
If It Makes You Happy
Even though you are now directing more energy towards your baby and home life than ever before, it does not mean you have to throw away everything that makes you happy. It just means that now is the time to be selective about where you spend that energy. You can still chase your goals and work on your personal growth. And you can do all of this while caring for your baby. One does not negate the other.
Sure, your timeline might look a little different than what you had originally planned, but that timeline can still exist. Falling into a new routine or finding space in your life for your dreams can be challenging when you are caring for a baby. Truly, I’m preaching to myself here. Making small, actionable steps, ones that can remain flexible as your life evolves will be key. You can hear me dive deeper into this process in my post on Following Your Dreams.
Regardless of what you want to create in your life, having an idea of how to get to your end goal is important. That alone sparks hope in our lives, something to work for and something to look forward to. It can make a huge difference in your mental health, personal life, and how you show up as a mother.
Do Your (Own) Thing, Mama
Having your own hobby or personal ambitions in motherhood is so important. For some people, that is their career. For others, it’s crafting, exercise, or creative art. And sometimes it changes moment to moment! Whatever it is, having something for yourself and all to yourself can help you be a better parent. It’s good for your child to see you have a life outside of them. Your first instinct, just like mine, might be to argue that your child matters more and they come first. Of course, this is true. But you can have both. As I mentioned earlier, taking a break is healthy for everyone involved.
My hobby is this, Root and Rise. It gives me something to think about outside of parenting. And gives my brain that much-needed break. All while still allowing me to chase and commit to something I am passionate about. It’s both my promise and my treat to myself. Finding time to work on this can be difficult, which is why you don’t see posts coming out weekly. I’m not sure when I’ll be at that point, but I appreciate your understanding that I’m dedicating as much of my time as I have.
Make the Time
If your passion is your job, it’s nice because you already have a dedicated time to step away from parenting. But if you don’t, you have to make that time. Get creative with it! I try to utilize any time possible, even small chunks. When my baby is napping, I’m writing or creating. Time to put the baby to bed? I’m brainstorming, researching, or finding inspiration as I nurse him. And when my husband is home, I should be asking for a break to go record. I’ll be real with you, it’s still a work in progress for me.
And while I’m very intentional about being present with my son, I also try to take full advantage of the moments when he doesn’t need me. This is the time that I try to dedicate to myself. It’s not healthy to devote 100% of yourself to caring for another and leave nothing for yourself. You deserve more than that!
The Magic of “No”
But as much as I want you to learn how to say yes – yes to that outfit, yes to that new interest, or yes to yourself… I hope you also know when (and how) to say no. You don’t have to fill every second of your day with something productive. I did this quite a bit during my first six months of becoming a mother and quickly became burnt out. Sometimes caring for yourself looks more like doing nothing. Give yourself permission to rest, cancel plans, turn someone down, or do anything else that allows you to care for yourself.
Learning to say no, and truly being comfortable with it, can be a very uncomfortable lesson to learn. It’s important to remember that sometimes saying no to others means saying yes to yourself. It’s ok to say “no”, “not right now”, or “not anymore”. No matter what previous commitments you may or may not have made. Your mental health comes first. Those who love you will support that. Or at least get over their initial hurt. As I have said before, you cannot fill from an empty cup. Do what you need to do to recharge and fill your cup back up.
Another uncomfortable lesson to learn is asking for help. It can feel a lot like a failure or having to admit that you are incapable. But asking for help is healthy for you and your child. In order to really drive this point home for you, I’m going to repeat what I mentioned in previous posts. Admitting that you can’t do it all will give your child the grace to be human as well. It will take the pressure off of them to do it all by themselves. Because you want them to have help throughout their life, right? Letting your child see you ask for help will not make them think of you as weak or incompetent. It will teach them how to let others in. They will learn that they too can rely on and trust others for comfort, support, or wisdom.
If you find that asking for help is too difficult, try scheduling help. Schedule a time where your partner, a loved one, or a babysitter is expected to take over for you. If it’s on the calendar, you don’t have to deal with the stress of asking. And you will always have a break to look forward to. My cousin, Amanda, suggested this to me while I was still pregnant. I found that having that little bit of hope for a break in the evening helped carry me through some really difficult days.
So dedicate some time in your calendar for you. You are worthy of it. Accept that help and take a break.
Take a Real Break
With that purpose in mind, try not to spend all of that time tending to the house or laundry. That’s not a real break. It’s ok if chores aren’t done as long as you have a happy baby and a happy mom. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying: If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. This is because it’s true. If I am stressed out, my baby feeds off of that energy, which further stresses me out. Being with me in this experience, my husband then becomes stressed. And all of a sudden no one is happy.
If you reach this breaking point, a lot of those mental health struggles that I spoke about in my article on The Postpartum Period can come to the surface. If I am doing too much for everyone else and allowing the stress to build and build, I will snap. Whether that snapping comes out in the form of crying or anger, that pent-up energy is coming out one way or another.
So take the time to care for yourself. Tell yourself it’s for the good of your entire family if you must. To rephrase it, a happy mother makes for a happy baby. A happy mother makes for a happy home. Caring for yourself is caring for your family. Give yourself that permission and release all of that mom guilt.
Now, what do you do with that precious time to yourself?
First off, don’t be like me and start filling it with motherhood books, websites, or research and then wondering why you don’t feel any better once your break is over. Those are all helpful, at the right time and place. You need to not only give your body a break from mothering but also your brain. Learn from my mistake on this one. Parenting on your break from parenting is not a break at all.
Fill your Cup
Rather, take this time to do whatever it is that fills your cup. Whatever will bring you joy. At the beginning of your break, take a moment to really tune into yourself. And listen to what it is that you need at that moment. You might find that there will be something new that you need each time you get a break. One moment you might need some pampering. And the next time you check in with yourself, you might find you need to move your body or relax your mind. Our needs are constantly evolving like that.
If you are anything like me and it pains you to not be at least a little productive on breaks, I have a tip for you. During my breaks, I usually like to use part of this time to set myself up for success during times that I won’t have a break.
For instance, I’ve started using nail stickers, a quick and easy way to have my nails done for up to two weeks. Or henna dye on my eyebrows, this helps me feel a little more made up and confident on the days I don’t wear any makeup. If we are being honest, that’s most days. And there is nothing wrong with that. Either way, this allows me to feel productive while also caring for myself.
Another way to care for yourself is by spending time around other moms. The right moms. As a new mom, building your “mom tribe”, as silly as it sounds, can help you in motherhood. Having other strong mothers who can relate to your experiences will keep you from feeling alone in the challenges of motherhood. Sometimes just hearing another mother validate your feelings is enough to keep you sane on the hardest of days. Since society expects mothers to enjoy every moment of motherhood, hearing others admit they don’t is a massive release.
I wish more people would talk about the struggles of motherhood. How you lose yourself. I spent months and months feeling like it was just me – that I was broken. As soon as I started talking to other mothers, I realized it wasn’t just me. I wasn’t the problem. And I wasn’t broken for having all of these gloomy thoughts and feelings. Mom friends bring compassion and grace into your life. They accept you for who you are, flaws and all. And they will also respect your need to put your family first.
Expand Your Support System
Accepting More Advice
Sooner or later, you will be presented with another situation where you will most likely start receiving more advice from these new mom friends. As I mentioned in my article on Pregnancy, Labor, and Delivery, try to remain open to this advice. It is being offered to you for a reason, to help you in an area they may have needed help. This is wisdom being passed to you and shouldn’t be quickly dismissed.
As with anything in life, try to listen, do your own research, and make the best, most educated decision for you and your family. You know what is best for you, no matter what anyone else says. If you have done the research and feel strongly about your decision, make sure that any new friends you are introducing into your life are respecting these choices. There is a slippery slope with mom friends giving advice and mom friends who are mom-shaming.
Be Gentle with Yourself
So, remain focused on the direction you are heading. It’s easy to be too hard on yourself while you are meeting this new version of yourself. Especially when such an awful thing as mom-shaming exists.
Here is a not so gentle reminder to never shame another mother for their actions or choices.
Yes, there is a difference between shaming and educating. If you notice something unsafe, you can very kindly and very respectfully educate another mother, but you will quickly come to learn which topics are going to lead to a heated discussion. Stay in your lane, especially when it comes to mothers you are not particularly close with.
Try to remember that they too are experiencing a lot of these difficult challenges. Be gentle with other mothers. And definitely do not compare yourself to them. We are all on different walks in life and on different timelines. Just because someone else’s baby can roll over does not mean you have failed or that there is anything wrong with your baby if they can’t. You will find that babies are on their own timelines. When it comes to matters of development, weight, sleep, or any other perceived measurement of success, turn to your pediatrician. Comparison takes away time and energy from your true focus – your baby and you.
I ran into a mom at the store recently. Her baby was the same age as mine. Our interaction is so interesting for me to look back on. Her baby’s hair was much longer than my son’s, he had 8 teeth already and seemed to be twice the size as my son. At the beginning of the interaction, I was feeling down on myself for my baby not having any teeth, barely any hair, and for being so much smaller than hers. I was questioning whether my breastfeeding was the right choice and whether I was giving him enough to eat.
But then, she started saying that he wasn’t really crawling, pulling himself up to stand, or talking like my baby was. I ended up leaving the conversation realizing they were equal, but different, in their growth. And that is what makes our babies so beautifully unique.
The Perfect Mom
Comparing babies’ development, parenting choices, or anything else in life is just setting us up to believe there is a right or wrong way to be. There is so much pressure to be the “perfect mom”. In our heads, we have this image of what we think the perfect mom looks like. She is put together, chill as can be, and somehow looks like she stepped straight out of a magazine. This “perfect mom” can handle every situation fully composed, as the best version of her zenned out self, and always says and does the perfect thing.
Well, I am here to tell you that a perfect mom does not exist. Even that mother that you idolize in your life – whether it’s your own, a mom friend of yours, or that mom you see on social media. She does not have it all together. Outward appearance might tell you otherwise, but really you have no idea what’s happening behind closed doors. Or in her own head. She has her own issues, her own insecurities, and yes, makes her own mistakes. No one is perfect. I’ve been working on an article that will be all about perfectionism, so keep an eye out for that to dive deeper into this subject.
Perfection Creates Resentment
The reason I am so passionate about this is because I too struggle with the image of the perfect mom. Seeing a mom out with her babies who seems to have it all together will instantly make me feel like a frumpy failure. I could be feeling pretty decent about myself or not even thinking about my image and all of a sudden see this unicorn of a mom.
I’ll look down at my outfit, realizing it’s half pajamas from the night before, tossed with a new pair of pants to mix it up. And all I notice is the spit-up, the tired and makeup-less face, my frizzy ponytail, and the mom bod that I have yet to accept. All of a sudden I hate myself. To top it off, my child is usually screaming and I’m just all around not having a good time.
It’s important to remind yourself that no one is perfect, address your own perfectionist tendencies, and maybe even find inspiration in these uncomfortable feelings. Explore those uncomfortable thoughts. Are you feeling jealous of their body? Feeling down about your own outfit? Giving yourself a hard time for how you are handling your children?
What is it that you see in this other mother that is making you feel this way? Whatever it is, you can have it too. Or at least some healthy and positive version of it. There is more than enough of whatever that is you want out in the world and you are definitely deserving of having it too.
The Harshest Critic
And just remember, some other mom out there is looking at you in the same way. Impressed with how easily you can laugh at the spit-up on your shirt instead of letting it ruin your day. Or amazed by how well you are handling the screaming child you are embarrassed of. They may even be loving that ponytail you are rocking, even if it’s been more than a week since you last washed your hair. We are the only people judging ourselves this harshly.
That mom I met in the store recently? I had just been spit up on, spit-up that leaked onto the store’s floor, and had to be cleaned up with an extra onesie because I had forgotten a burp rag. And I was annoyed that I had also forgotten my baby carrier when, of course, my baby refused to sit in the cart.
I was feeling like a complete failure at motherhood at that moment. But do you know what the first thing that mom said to me was? It was how impressed she was at the ease with which I was carrying my baby around the store. Because she said that she knew how hard that can be.
It was such a relief to hear. I had been admiring her baby’s development, her preparedness in packing her diaper bag, and the ease at which she moved about the store. And she was admiring me. Think about how many times those words are not spoken, but silently felt. It’s not often that you tell complete strangers what you admire about them, especially if it’s something that pushes an insecure button in your inner world. I wish that it was easier to admire ourselves for all that we are doing in motherhood, and all that we have overcome.
Sure, there is no such thing as a perfect mother. But there is such a thing as a good enough mother. And it’s one of those things that if you are worried about being a good enough mother, that means you are a good enough mother. My husband is going to love seeing this because it’s straight from his mouth. I worry so much about always doing what is right for my baby, trying to be “good”.
And I don’t realize that the fact that I care enough to worry is already more than what my own mother gave to me. Really, I worry about becoming her, the woman who abandoned me and my family. But I don’t stop to realize that worrying is what sets me apart. As my wise friend Beth recently told me, “you care enough to care”. Which is much more than some can say.
In my article on Intergenerational Trauma, I spoke about my relationship with my mother – or lack thereof. And all of the ways I am actively shedding those generational curses. I told you about how it has changed the way that I show up as a mother. Just because you were shown one way to parent while growing up, does not mean that is how you have to choose to parent. Because that’s just it – a choice. You can choose to be different. I saw something on Facebook the other day that said something along the lines of “treat your kids how you wanted to be treated, not how you were treated” and it has stuck with me.
Those generational traumas can end with you. At any point in your life, but especially as a new parent, you have the power to end these cycles of unhealthy patterns of thoughts or behaviors. You have a choice to end the trauma that your family hands to you. And we all have traumas passed to us – whether emotional, financial, or physical. No family is perfect and there is always room for growth. But growth is a choice.
Becoming a mother has made me even more aware of my choices, past and present. Motherhood has a way of bringing up all of those past traumas for you, whether you’ve chosen to deal with them in a healthy manner or not. I am now considering the impact they will have on my child. And becoming much more intentional about what seeds I wish to plant in my little one’s head and heart.
This is just another example of how transitioning into motherhood can change you and how you show up in this world. Transitions are almost always uncomfortable but if you have generational trauma in your life, you have a choice here. You’ve come to a fork in the road. So, you can look at this situation and choose to do absolutely nothing, to feel awful about it all and allow that negativity to grow. Or you can look at this as an opportunity to shed what isn’t working for you – inside of yourself and within your life.
Shedding those dead leaves in your life creates more room for growth. This is where generational healing comes in. All of the work that you are doing to heal yourself will help to heal your children. Sometimes having that perspective can really help motivate you to keep pushing forward through all of that uncomfortable growth. That end goal makes it all worth it.
A New Normal
This is a precious opportunity to start a new normal. One that you are intentionally crafting with each decision and reaction. You might just find that this new normal was the real normal you needed all along. Children tend to come into your life like that and give you everything you never knew you needed. They will help your heart grow 5 sizes and show you a love you’ve never experienced before. And the rewards? Oh, they are incredible.
The Rewards & How Motherhood Empowers You
For all that you grieve and sacrifice, you will gain so much more than you could ever lose. Seeing your baby smile for the first time, hearing their laugh, or that magical moment you first hear “mama” makes it all worth every sacrifice. It’s worth every lost happy hour, every stressful trip out of the house, and every hour of lost sleep.
And being your child’s world? That is a bond like no other. It’s the deepest love you could ever possibly feel. Sure, it may bring you to your knees some days but it will expand your capacity to love. You are someone’s comfort. Their survival. You are their home. And you’ll soon find they’ve made a home in your heart that can never be undone.
You know, I never understood why people said time goes by way too quickly when you have kids, until one day I realized my newborn wasn’t actually a newborn anymore. I felt like he had grown 5 lbs overnight. And I kid you not, I swear I can see his hair growing. Yes, motherhood can make the days feel long, so long, but the years are short. Cherish every single second with them. Take photos. Do hand molds to remember how tiny their little fingers were. Keep some of their baby clothes. Take more pictures.
I saw something recently that said you only get 18 summers with your kid – if you are lucky. What a way to put things in perspective. That’s also 18 holidays, 18 birthdays, 18 anything’s where they are home with you. After that, they are most likely out in the big bad world having their own experiences. Meeting partners, starting their own little families.
Whatever stage you are in with your baby right now is temporary. What a bittersweet feeling. There’s relief in the temporary when you are up all night, sleep-deprived, and desperate for just one night of uninterrupted sleep. And then there’s the realization that this is temporary. Soon, your baby won’t need you in the middle of the night. They won’t wake up searching for you, or your smell, or your comfort.
A New Perspective
I have heard many moms complain when they hear mothers tell them to “enjoy every moment, it goes too fast”. And while you don’t have to enjoy every single moment, knowing this precious time is limited can certainly change your perspective. Recently I’ve started thinking about it during my son’s meltdowns, soaking up the moments where, even as difficult as they can be, I can hold my son in my arms and rock him. Before too long, he will be too big, weigh too much, or won’t want mama’s snuggles anymore.
Now, I find myself enjoying those early mornings with my son that I used to complain about. The mornings where it’s just the two of us. And soaking up the long days alone at home, realizing he will be in school before I know it. Even the late-night feedings are suddenly so much sweeter. I linger before putting him into his crib, all milk drunk and sleepy, just to feel his warmth and smell his sweet baby smell. A smell that’s temporary.
Really, I just want to treasure every moment, every snuggle, appreciate this beautiful little being before he’s grown. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve already made it super clear in my post on The Challenges and Struggles of Motherhood that it’s ok to not enjoy every moment of motherhood.
That’s only natural. We don’t love anything in life 100% of the time. So when you hear me or anyone else telling you to “enjoy it because it goes by too quickly”, know that you can struggle and still find a way to be grateful for the moments you have. Struggling in motherhood does not make you a bad mom. And it doesn’t mean that you don’t love your child.
The Power of Motherhood
In this child, you have created magic. You did that with your body. How incredible is that? A body that you so easily tear down was the home and literal birthplace of the greatest love you will ever know. Your body created pure magic. And not only do you get to enjoy that magic every single day in your own little world, but you also get to deliver that magic into this world.
You have this amazing opportunity presented to you to impact the future. You could be raising a president or a scientist that finds a cure for cancer. That baby could be gifted with enormous love that changes the lives of everyone they meet. What a responsibility, and honor, it is to be able to guide this life and impact the world!
I hope that you not only feel the power of motherhood but can feel empowered in motherhood. The fact that you are reading this article shows you are invested in your motherhood, invested in your child. And the fact that you care so much to have these struggles and yet still continue to show up for your baby every single day shows that you are a good mother. Even in those dark moments. And because of those dark moments. I hope that you know that I see you, doing your very best, fighting the good fight. You are a good mother. As my friend, Beth said, “You care enough to care.”
Sure, you might be a different person than you were before motherhood. But I hope you find a way to love this new, experienced, and empowered person that you have grown to become. The new person you have met in motherhood is strong, resilient, and phenomenal. And how amazing is it that this incredible person that I’m describing is you?
A Promise of More
Well, friend, I have been continually adding to this article because I could go on and on for days about the struggles and lessons of motherhood. I’ll have to save it for future articles because if I don’t, this one will never actually get published. It’s taken long enough to get out to you already.
Until those future articles, please consider staying open and honest about your motherhood experiences. Find supportive and understanding people to share your failures with. And, more importantly, to help celebrate your wins. And if you find yourself wanting to share that with me, I would be honored. Feel free to contact me or follow me on Instagram, you have no idea how much it would mean to me.