Ah, motherhood. The gateway to baby giggles, endless sniffing of your newborn’s head as they nap on your chest, the bursting forth of love like it’s pulsing through every fiber of your being. But also: the tender ache for the person you used to be, the clamping down of your own emotional turmoil to remain calm in the face of truly extraordinary tantrums, the handling of more than your fair share of spit-up, pee, and poop (so much poop). A huge part of becoming a parent is transforming. You transform your home, your routine, your priorities, how you think about literally everything, and oh, your body.
In some ways, it seems silly to yearn for who you were before because there is no going back (and I wouldn’t want to). But sometimes I see glimpses of the old me, like when I make a joke, and finally, this little person who used to just be a ball of cells, then a bundle of chubbiness, and now a real, actual 2-year-old laughs like I’m the funniest person in the world. I recall—like a distant echo—that I used to fire off clever quips that made my coworkers howl, too.
The journey is in rediscovering those parts of you that are still there, and nurturing them as you do your little one. That’s why my resolution this year is to actually carve out time to be me again (and up my mom self-care game in the process). That means going on the girls’ trip, trying that new sushi place with my new mom friend sans kids, and visiting with my own mom on a Saturday afternoon just because.
It’s easy for me to get stuck in the daily rhythms of my life as a working parent. If I’m not actively churning through tasks all hours of the workday, I feel guilty because that means I’ll probably either be letting someone down or having to do the work later when I’m exhausted. Then if I’m not fully engaged with my kid in the few hours that we have together between daycare pickup and bedtime, I feel guilty for not giving him the attention he deserves. It can feel like a never-ending cycle of giving—giving of myself to people and things that I love and enjoy doing—but at the end of the day, I’m just so damn tired. Too tired to talk to my friends on the phone, definitely too tired to muster the energy to read a book, and barely the will to keep my eyes open to watch a show with my husband.
I’ll be honest, my motivation for self-improvement activities (like working out) was pretty low before having a kid. If I waited past noon or the temperature outside wasn’t exactly 68 degrees or my husband asked if I wanted to go grab lunch instead of going for a run? Yep, then it probably wasn’t happening. Now all I have to do is look at my bed, and I’ll choose to lie down instead of moving my body (see previous note about being tired). The thing is, I know I’ll feel better if I just do it. And I don’t just mean working out. Forcing myself out of the routine—to do things just for me—always makes me a more patient parent, a more loving partner, a more thoughtful daughter, a more engaged friend, and a better cook. (Well, maybe not that last one.)
I think of it like being in the ocean. Sometimes I feel like I’m swimming so hard against the waves trying to keep up with everything, but then I just let the waves take over, pushing me back to shore. And I remember again that the whole point isn’t to fight against the waves, it’s to let them hold me and help carry me along. I don’t have to do this all alone. My friends and family know every era of me (seriously, I’ve known some of my friends since kindergarten). So making time for them helps ground me into all I’ve been, who I am now, and who I hope to become.
I’m holding myself to it. I’ve already got my first trip planned with my longest-lasting friend group in a few short weeks. I know we’ll pee our pants laughing, stay up way too late talking, and reminisce about the people we were before the partners and babies and heartbreaks and big jobs. And there I’ll be, giving them a detailed breakdown of every single little adorable thing my son says and does—because the truth is, I’ll be missing him like hell.