Mothering is a challenge. One of the biggest struggles described by women is the challenge to find time for self, or to not lose some earlier version of self during the mothering years. Some days, the mundane tasks of keeping Babies fed, happy and alive seem to engulf the former being. Where is the “me” I used to be? This can be especially difficult for moms who have put aside active professional careers to pick up the new vocation of chasing chocolate-fingered, squishy-cheeked bundles of energy.
I propose that the unique you is not relegated to a dusty trunk in the attic for the duration of child rearing. You are way more creative than that. Yes, if you want to practice something that looks like attachment parenting, or simply do not wish to use day care, you can find ways of reminding yourself of your humanhood.
I discovered this myself many years ago. I married and had children before attaining a college degree, so there was no career to leave. There was, however, a career in my mind – art teacher. There was a burning for exploration and a push for expanding my horizons. I found an avenue for growth through becoming a La Leche League Leader. This is a volunteer breastfeeding counselor. I attended training sessions in therapeutic communication, and of course, all things babies and breastfeeding. Every class, every conference was exciting and fulfilling for me and others. I rose to a leadership position and found many more development opportunities. And the best part – the organization expected us to bring our Babies to every class and every meeting! As a bonus, I received a built-in support group of young mothers. As a further bonus when I did go back to college, I didn’t have to pay attention during the communication classes.
Later, as the mother of the grammar and middle school-aged set, I found a niche largely untouched by others – teaching children how to paint with oils. NO sane person wants to get kids in close proximity to oil-based paints. So, my garage became a studio and my children, along with other children in the neighborhood who were old enough to not eat the paint, created masterpieces. I was sort of a “working” mother – but still could have my children close.
I had a conversation not long ago with a mother of two young ones who was bemoaning how much pressure she was feeling from her young-mother peers to leave her babies on a regular basis so she could “take care of herself.” She was reminded how she had an obligation to not “neglect herself” and how she should go to the gym and leave the babies in day care each day. She described being uncomfortable with this proposition as her Babies were very young. I said something fairly banal in support of her decision and you would have thought I had handed her a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. But maybe I did just that. It is freeing to find support for those gut-level mother instincts.
But back to the premise that moms do need creative outlets and growth opportunities. Children’s activities can provide interesting avenues into adult activities. If your child is learning, you may be learning also. Every violin or piano lesson you sit through is providing you with knowledge to apply to your own study of the instrument. Every art lesson they receive – you receive also. Those dearly missed opportunities to apply your professional skills – take them into your child’s classroom. Stagnation is not necessary. And before long, the Babies are tall and you have that precious “me” time is again available – although not without the pull of the mother strings that bind you forever to those children.
Find your outlets, ply your crafts, pursue your education and fulfill those needs. But keep the Babies nearby.