A year after having my third child I found myself somewhere I never thought I would have to be as a parent. I was sitting on the couch in a counselor’s office talking about my anxiety, lack of focus, lack of drive, and frustration with motherhood. I had sunk into a state of not loving my parenting duties, going through the motions, and not appreciating things I always had before. I my flame had died, and I felt numb.
When the counselor asked me “what is is you REALLY want right now?” I said “time to myself.” The answer surprised me at the moment, but looking back, I see why. I gave and gave and gave as a wife, a mother, an employee, and a graduate student (at the time). I was giving so much of myself that I ended up in a place where I lost myself, and lost the ability to simply enjoy it all. I needed a way to rekindle that joy I once felt for motherhood, to find the passion in it once again.
I have since been able to rekindle that spark and I feel as though I have found myself in motherhood. I have learned that in order to have a healthy relationship with my family I first need to have a healthy relationship with myself. I would have previously thought that putting myself first was selfish and. Now, I see it differently. Putting myself first allows me to be a complete person, enjoy the moments I am in, and give with all of myself.
To really light that spark back inside of myself, I had to dig deep. I had to look inside, remember the things I loved doing before becoming a mom, and try to figure out how to fit those things back into my life.
Sure, I couldn’t do things at the same rate as I had before becoming a parent, but I started with baby steps. I planned one night a week that was “my time” and my husband would plan to stay home with the kids. I didn’t always have a plan, I didn’t always have to spend money, but having one night dedicated just to ME felt like a step in the right direction. With little steps like that I started finding that joy again.
Some of the things I started implementing into my schedule regularly were the following;
Exercise to me is a way to recharge mentally. There is a scientific reason for it, but I won’t go into that. I go to the gym because it helps me to stay mentally on top of things. I go because when I do I am more positive and more happy. Thirty minutes to an hour at the gym will do wonders for my mood for the rest of the day. I consider it an investment and a gift to my kids.
I take myself out on dates regularly. I go out once a week for a couple of hours. My husband is typically happy to have me go because I come back refreshed and recharged. I find that the more often I take that time the less often I feel I NEED that time. I go because I want time to myself rather than constantly feeling like I NEED time for myself. I like this new perspective and appreciate the time I have alone.
I don’t have many hobbies, but I do enjoy the ones I have. Right now my hobby is my blog. It serves as my outlet and a way for me to grow as a person. It stretches me, and forces me to learn new things, step out of my comfort zone. I need that. It helps me to feel like I’m progressing in life and not just staying stagnant. Having an outlet that stretches me is something I will always try to have. I love to show my kids that learning and growing is always important.
As a parent, I feel like I need an outlet that will stretch me and help me grow. I get caught in the same stuff every day which feels so mundane most days. When I’m challenged or learn something new, I feel like a fire is lit inside me that sparks a new energy I don’t get from many other places.
Some of my favorite books of all time are ones that help me become a better mom by helping me see behavior in a different light and knowing how to address it. (click on the image for a complete list with links)
I have a habit of being present, but not really present with my kids. I am around them, but not really engaged with them. When I find myself occupying my time with “duties” or “entertainment” or “distractions” I feel I am not allowing myself to enjoy my kids as much as I could.
Being emotionally and physically present with my kids is SO fun for me. I find them very funny, intelligent, challenging at times, and so very sweet. When I take the time to be WITH them, they help recharge me. I find so much joy in being with them (…I won’t lie, we do have our moments that aren’t so joyful).
I’ll freely admit that I enjoy social interactions. I have made a point to create time for and boundaries around social outlets in order to care for myself and my family. I used to search social media sites on my phone any time I had a moment to sit down and mentally escape. An escape is exactly what it was. I recognize that now.
Now I don’t need to “escape” because I enjoy my reality. I enjoy sitting down during a designated social media time I have set for myself. I’m not mindlessly wandering through it all in search of praise or entertainment, I simply do it to enjoy the connections on it. I have time set aside for it so I am not in it all day. My family and I both benefit from more limited usage.
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As a parent I have many different responsibilities. I have learned, however, that my first responsibility is to myself. If I take care of myself I am ABLE to take care of my kids. I ENJOY taking care of my kids when I take care of myself. I am simply able to give more when I have more to give. I have found myself in motherhood rather than losing myself in motherhood, and I love it.
Each of us is different, what works for me won’t work for everyone. What do you do to recharge yourself? How do you find the healthy mental balance in motherhood?