Why You Should Invest in Yourself
My first child was born a decade ago. That very day, a part of who I was seemed to die. First, foremost, and almost exclusively, I was now a mother. Wholly investing every single ounce of myself into being a mother to my daughter, I no longer existed as an individual. My existence was defined by her. The more of myself I surrendered, the better a mother I believed I was. This loss of self intensified with the births of my two sons. I became the mommy that I thought every mother should be, judging other women for having boundaries and retaining their own identity. I was so deep into my "perfect mommy role" that I did not see how much of myself was abandoned, by me, my own worst enemy. Then this year came, the year of enlightenment for me, and it all became clear.
The past year has been a period of tremendous transformation and person growth for me, I was forced (kicking and screaming) to really examine who I am and what I want. It was during these moments of reflection that I realized that in the hurried madness of raising these extraordinary people that I had lost myself. Straight up, I stopped being an individual person. My needs and desires were irrelevant to me, and I had evolved into a shell of myself. At first, I beat myself up for allowing this to happen, believing that it was a weakness that caused me to behave this way, I began to think I was doing everything wrong, that perhaps I was not even worthy of these children, who I continue to love with every part of my heart and soul. I slowly examined the reasons why I fell into these traps. Was it my struggle to get pregnant or the miscarriages that made me believe I did not deserve an identity, or any time to myself? I felt like I owed the universe everything in return for the chance to be a mother, and I was constantly trying to prove my worth, as if I didn’t actually deserve these three miracle babies on my own.
Then I made a new commitment, a commitment to myself. I began devoting time to sorting through what parts of me I actually missed, (like you miss an old and true friend). How could I introduce that person that was me to my family?. What behaviors should I continue to leave behind that served me in my 20’s which longer fit my life (aka sleeping until noon)? Most importantly what part of me would my children benefit from knowing? How could knowing all of me make their lives even better than they were today? Surely there had to be some awesomeness I could impart on them, I feel like I was pretty spectacular before kids.
Part of this discovery process lead me to learn to enjoy solo activities, yes solo activities are an actual thing. Believe me I know that as a mom, the idea of going to the bathroom alone sounds like solo activity nirvana, but I promise you there are way better things you can be doing alone! I started by taking short walks, My headphones and I would just walk around my neighborhood and have peaceful time together. It felt completely unnatural not to be holding a little one’s hand or yelling at them as they beelined for the street. Sometimes, in the middle of a tune, I would startle thinking that I forgot my little one somewhere. However, as time went on, those walks got a little longer and more natural. Then something magical happened for me. I began to crave my walks, and I made time for them. I would even sneak a walk when the kids were at school, or escape with friends.
Walking eventually lead me to begin a meditation practice. This taught me how to slow down, stop thinking and worrying ahead, and to be preset in the moment. Once I learned about presence in the now, I was able to start to apply it to my life as Mom. You know what we should be doing when we are engaged with our kids? We should be engaging with our kids. Let that sink in. You can leave the laundry, or dishes for later. Enjoy this very moment, immerse yourself in the now, and let it wash over you. You’re doing great things in those fully engaged moments, wonderful things because you are are amazing, and so are your kids. And sometimes, the now does not include your children. Maybe it includes your spouse, your friends, maybe it just involves you. It is your now, and it is unique and worthwhile. You, your friends, your spouse, your children are all better off enveloped in the present. (And by the way, great job girl...you are an amazing you and an incredible Mom, now and everyday!) Personally, I would find that those breaks for meditation, immersing myself in the present, allowed me to engage with my family relaxed and centered, a good and lasting feeling for all of us.
Now that I achieved the calm, the peace within myself, I began to pour time and energy into my friendships, really investing in the people around me who loved me and I loved in return. I don’t mean the normal mom conversations about school, playdates and teachers, I'm talking real conversations about how these women are feeling about a lot of things that are hard to talk through, how I could help them feel better or how they could help me. So often, this attention to the person we care for is missing in our adult friendships as we become parents. It’s not just that we stop investing in ourselves, we also stop depositing into the friendship savings accounts, too. As you are suffering with your empty tank you should also realize that the women whom you love and admire around you likely are also suffering. Being a mom is hard work, so, by investing in these women in your life you are also investing in yourself. The benefits are extensive. You create a sisterhood that reminds you that you are not alone in all of your conflicting emotions, in your search for yourself, and in your quest for you. You are able to have real conversations that don’t involve asking someone to put their shoes on 67 times in the span of 4 minutes. You are able to find love extends beyond your kids, and that creates more love for your children.
Therapy was also a part of investing in myself. I will be the very first one to admit I was diametrically opposed to therapy. Boy I was I dead wrong, and as it turns out I am not just pro therapy, I am president of therapy’s #1 fan club. Therapy has been the absolute best investment I have made. My compassion, patience and understanding towards my children and mankind has exponentially increased. Believe me, I realize it's a time and financial commitment, commodities which are scarce in our lives. I know there is a stigma attached to it, which was very much part of my hesitation, but I am here to tell you that when you have the right therapist, all of those concerns will fall by the wayside. I go in there week after week to talk about my struggles, many of which are pedestrian, and I come out so much better equipped to handle them. I feel like the hour I invest in it every week, I get back by not drowning in self doubt and mommy guilt as much. I also have learned how to better communicate with my children so that they feel heard and understood which has strengthened our connection and created more harmony at home, yet another win-win! I have learned how to speak out loud, understand who I am, and learn from myself. It is a life altering experience.
The ways you can choose to invest in yourself are abundant. Some require more commitment than others, and you have to find what resonates with you. Trust me it's not all sunshine and rainbows. There are weeks when I am not aligned with mediation, and instead I buy myself gold ankle boots to lift my spirits (gold ankle boots clearly are an investment in my fabulousness!) I am a work in progress, and it is really the best job I have ever had.
And when I tell you that the better you feel the better your kids will feel, I am not lying. I am telling you this from my reality, as a mother and as your friend. That is a legit fact, you can bank on it. There is no shame in this game my friends. You are in no way less of a rockstar for dropping the kids off to a friends house while you take a walk or go to the gym, in fact you are brave for addressing what your mind and body need. Please, for the love of your family, you need to get in touch with the amazing person inside and nurture her, she is in there somewhere and mama wants out! She may look a little different, maybe there are bags under her eyes but she is no less beautiful, all she needs is some fresh air, adult conversation and deep breaths. You are not only going to make it through this, you are going to come out an even more amazing woman than you were the day you became a mom. I promise you that.