Finding the Balance: An Essay About Motherhood
I could talk about how becoming a mother was one of the most important and best things I have ever done, because it is. I could talk about how it makes me feel to hold my two babies, who aren’t so much babies anymore, because it is a great feeling. I could talk about all the sweet things I hear them say, day in and day out, because it is some of the best comedy around. But what I really want to talk about is how I found a balance in my life. How I finally realized who I am. As a mother. As a wife. As a person.
Before having children, I knew what I wanted out of life. I knew who I was, what I liked, and where I wanted to be. Without meaning to, children kind of throw off that balance. Both of our children were planned, and we happily accepted them into our lives, but, as most moms know, there is so much no one tells you about being a mother. How it will change your relationship with your significant other. How excruciating the lack of sleep can be when you have a newborn. How ravenous you will be when breastfeeding a newborn baby. How utterly lost you will feel in those first few months, or for some of us, the first year, or maybe even more. Despite all of the changes motherhood brought to my life, I think the loss of myself was the most difficult, and I think it is something that moms don’t always like to talk about. It’s funny, because when I mention it, most of my mom friends know exactly what I am talking about it, but it was never a topic that anyone readily spoke about or brought up.
In my work as a music therapist, I am always reminding my patients and clients that it is important to take care of themselves. That they are worth the effort. That to be healthy, they need to take into consideration all aspects of their lives, including their physical health, their mental health, their emotional health, their relationships, and their spirituality. I am a little embarrassed to admit how long it took me to realize that I couldn’t even follow my own advice. What was I doing to take care of myself? When was the last thing I did something I enjoyed? Better yet, when was the last time I had left the house without one or both of my children with me?
I love spending time with my children, but I have come to realize just how important it is to also do things for myself. As mothers, it is like we are programmed to put our children and our families first. It’s like our identities sort of fade away once a baby is born. It is true that our lives must change in order to be great mothers, but it doesn’t mean that our lives as we know it have to end. There is so much I have learned since becoming a mother and during this journey of finding myself again.
First, I am the only person in my life who can really take care of me. My kids are dependent upon me and my husband is busy with work and with taking care of himself. For some strange reason, I’ve found that most dads have this figured out already. I’m not sure what is taking us moms so long. Some may say that taking time out for yourself is selfish, but when did being “selfish” become a bad thing?
Second, if I don’t take care of myself, I can’t effectively take care of others. I am a better mom when I treat myself well. When I do things I enjoy and give myself a break. The bickering between my children doesn’t seem as bad, and neither does the huge tornadic mess my children created while I was home with them, after I have spent a couple hours with a cup of coffee at Starbucks or saw a movie with a friend.
In addition, it is important for me to remember I am only one person. There is only so much I can do in one day. I do not need to be Supermom.
Also, I have only one life to live, and I don’t want to look back on my life and wish I had spent more time enjoying the life I was given instead of spending it stressed out and worrying about whether or not I will get all the laundry folded before I have to start the laundry all over again.
But perhaps the most important thing I have realized is that my children learn from me. Do I want my children to grow up thinking that a stressed out mom is normal? It is important for my daughter to see me go for a run or leave occasionally to meet up with friends, so that she knows it is not only normal, but healthy for a mother to have friends and to exercise. Don’t I want her to feel good about loving herself and taking care of herself if she ever becomes a mother? It is also good for my son to see me read a book for fun and for his father to put him to bed on some nights, so that he knows that his role as a father, should he become one someday, is just as important as a mother’s role in a child’s life.
The truth is that our lives should not be hectic 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Yes, there will be days when we want to pull our hair out and/or hibernate in a closet in a part of the house where our kids cannot go. These things happen and they are inevitable. But if our lives start to resemble a three-ring circus more days than not, then something is not right. Something is out of balance.
Yes, being a mother is one of the best and most important things I have ever done, and I would not trade this experience for anything, but I enjoy my role as a mother so much more when I set aside time for myself. When I stop to remember who I still am, despite being a mother. When I start listening to my own needs. When I am kind to myself. Yes, I am a better mother to my children when I allow my life to be balanced.