As a child, I wanted to be a mother more than anything in the world. My simple, innocent notion of life with children breezed by all of the hard parts and skipped right to holding a baby in my arms. In my mind, motherhood was going to be as natural as breathing.
Fast forward about 15 years and here I was, holding the baby I had hoped for my entire life. This was it? Happily ever after? I had never felt so lost. I felt like part of me had gone missing and I didn’t know when, or even if, it was ever coming back. The world felt alien and I felt alien in it, not knowing where I fit anymore.
So just how does one go about accepting this new version of themselves? Everyone’s journey looks different. What works best for some will not work for others and vice versa. But if I could go back and talk to myself seven years ago, when my journey into parenthood began, here’s what I would say …
Step away from the computer!
One of the biggest stumbling blocks for parents is social media. According to the social media platforms of today, the metamorphosis into parenthood should be seamless and beautiful. We should all breathlessly await the arrival of our beautiful bundles of joy. After happily welcoming a baby into our lives, we should blossom into this new role of parenthood, fresh-faced and well rested, with a hot cup of coffee in hand and a clean house. We should know exactly what to do because parenthood is so instinctual. Social media perpetuates this absurd idea that once we have children, life will simply return to the way that it was, plus a child. Expectant parents, eager to get a taste for what the future holds, are inundated with filtered pictures and strictly curated captions. Many see these illusions of reality, assume it is the norm, and feel that something must be wrong with them if they aren’t having the same experience.
Don’t try to force life to be “normal” again
Trying to force life back to the way it was before the baby arrived is impossible. Things that previously didn’t matter so much are important and things that used to be important no longer matter. Much like many other transitions in life, it is hard, painful, messy, beautiful, enjoyable and exciting. It is everything wonderful that you did not even know was missing from your life. You will be more tired than you knew was possible while feeling a completeness that you did not know was absent. Becoming a parent is like putting on a pair of glasses that you never needed before to see a world that you could not imagine ever leaving.
Figure out what makes you happy
Invest some time in yourself. It is so common to feel guilty for trying to get away from your children, but it is vital. As beautiful and rewarding as parenthood is, and as much as you love your babies, everyone needs time to recharge. Find what brings you joy and energizes you. It might be what made you happy before having children, or it might be something completely new. In my case, writing is something that brings back my creativity and fills me with motivation. Other than some school papers, I had never given much thought to writing. After having children writing took on an entirely new form.
Practice acceptance and self-love
The person who existed before having children is still there, they have simply changed. Ask for the patience and grace needed to accept yourself in this new, unfamiliar role. It is hugely freeing and beneficial for us, as parents, to let go of trying to get back to the exact same versions of ourselves and instead to embrace this version that has emerged with our new rolls. Whether the transition is jarring or seamless, at some point, every parent must come to terms with the fact that their lives are not and will not ever return to what they were before they became parents. It can be a sad time. It can be a hard time. It is OK to feel sad or angry, scared or lost. Whatever you feel is OK and normal.
Sometimes all of these things aren’t enough. Sometimes, the most loving thing you can do for yourself is to get help. If you are struggling and think you may need the help of a professional, reach out and get that support. There is no shame in needing to talk to someone. I have needed that help over the course of my parenthood journey and I’m a healthier person for it.
Eventually, I came to realize that the old me, the pre-child me that had been around for so long, had changed. I had held onto so many expectations of what I thought life should be like that I was stopping myself from embracing my new reality. Once I was able to finally shift my perspective, I was able to let go of the version of myself that I thought I should be and accept the me I am now. And that is liberating.
How I finally learned to appreciate my vocation to motherhood
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