The life changing impact of becoming a mother is indescribable. Motherhood is filled with amazing moments, challenging stages, and inevitable changes that are impossible to anticipate. Artist Sarah Wilson says, “becoming a mother is like discovering the existence of a strange new room in the house where you already live.”
Becoming a mother was more disorienting and confusing than I ever imagined it would be. There were times when I felt like a foreigner in my own life and moments when I thought I had completely lost myself. I have spent the last 7 years exploring how to embrace my mom identity while staying connected to my greater Self, as I welcomed one child, then two, and then three children into my life.
The Paradox of Motherhood
Since becoming a mother, I find myself living a paradox of grieving the loss of who I once was while clearly knowing that I wouldn’t trade my priceless life with kids for anything. I dream of sleep filled nights, the freedom to join my friends for happy hour or dinner, feeling completely dedicated to my career, going on spontaneous trips with my husband, and needing to only take care of my own needs. Those were the days!
I had no idea how hard being a mom was going to be! I am constantly juggling many balls at once and my work as a mother is never done. It’s demanding, challenging, and the stakes are high. Yet, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
This paradox often leaves me struggling with how to integrate my pervasive identity as mother with my greater Self-identity. I have to put effort and attention into finding balance in my life. If not, I’m only mom.
Here are some ways I have tried to balance my many identities since becoming a mother:
1. Carving Out Guilt-Free Me-Time
It can be easy to leave my own needs for last because of all that has to get done—but when I do this, everybody suffers. I notice when I am feeling resentful and drained I am in deep need of me-time. And when I fill my cup I am a much better mother (and wife, daughter, friend, health coach, nurse, etc.). I have learned that my cup does not get filled by doing things I think I am “supposed to” do, but rather when doing the things I yearn for. For instance, although I know exercise and meditation are important for my health, they are more on my “should” list. I yearn for hot tubs and saunas (and anything warm) as well as for meaningful connection with friends. So I prioritize those in my week. Consider shifting your schedule (perhaps waking up earlier), asking friends or family to help with childcare, or slightly extending daycare to get your cup filled in your unique way.
2. Connecting With My Boo
I remember when my husband and I were a duo pre-kids. We spent so much time together chatting, dining, processing, figuring out the world, and just loving each other. Now, if I don’t carve out quality time to connect with him our full schedules and constant duties take precedence. My identity as wife requires deep connection, love, and quality time with my husband. Our connection doesn’t always happen in the form of “date nights,” but more regularly looks like finding time in the day to hug, listen to him, support him, and see him as a loving partner.
3. Playing With Work-Home Balance
Since the day I became a mom I have sought out a perfect work-home balance. I originally thought that I would thrive as a stay at home mom. However, it didn’t take me long to realize how important being a nurse was to me—and how badly I craved time outside of the home. I have shifted through part-time work, full-time work, one quarter-time work, and have most recently changed my career completely to be a business owner that sets my own hours. I’ve used different balances at different times in motherhood to try to meet my ever-changing needs.
4. Defining Who I Am and Who I Want To Be
It turns out its not just a balancing act. I have learned that I must make a conscious effort to actually recreate and redefine myself in motherhood. No matter how I try to balance my life, it is all a guessing game if decisions aren’t coming from a clear vision of who I am and who I want to be. Shelli Johnson, life coach with Your Epic Life, talks about the importance of defining your “north star” as a way to guide the life you want to live, especially as we adapt to motherhood. She says that we have to step back and literally define who we are and who we want to be in order to live out the life that we long for—to create the balance for which we yearn. For instance, I recently defined two core values of mine: having meaningful connections with my family and friends and living from a place of love and generosity. I now am better able to say yes to the things that help me live these values and no to the things that don’t. When I live from these values I am charged and energized, versus drained and overwhelmed when I lose sight of them.
5. Locking Down a Support System
My friends and family have been the rock that has kept me sane in my transition into motherhood. My husband, mom, dad, sister, and brothers provide me with continuous support, guidance, and love. They help me feel connected, and not isolated and alone. In addition, my trusted friends validate my frustrations in parenting, give me encouragement when I am down, and validate my interests and passions when I dream. My support system naturally connects me with my greater Self.
I have learned that it is important to acknowledge and surrender to my ever-changing Self. And, it takes some savvy navigation to stay connected to my greater Self and not get lost in diapers, nap times, and tripping over toys. I haven’t mastered this fine art by any means—but I am engaged in the journey.
Sarah Kolman is the mom of three boys, a Registered Nurse, an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, and has a master's degree in Contemplative Psychotherapy. Her private practice as a health coach blends her experience and career as a nurse with her passion for nutrition and holistic wellness. She is the author of Full Plate: Nourishing Your Family's Whole Health in a Busy World.