Back to School, Back to You! - Stamford Moms

by Jessica Hill, The Parent Collective, Founder

Tell me if this rings a bell. You had a full life. A career. A tight circle of friends. You had interests & hobbies.  Then you had a baby.  And overnight that baby became the center of your universe. Priorities shifted, schedules were upended, and at some point, you came up for air and realized that you’ve slowly faded away from yourself.

We as women are conditioned from an early age to give ourselves over to everyone else’s needs before considering our own.  And eventually this leads to emotional exhaustion.  We become disconnected from ourselves and who we want to be – essentially, we burnout.   When my kids were toddlers, I put pressure on myself to do everything I thought was a part of being a perfect. mother. I made homemade organic food for every meal, I joined the preschool fundraising board, I signed them up for a million activities. But I was constantly harassed, resenting my kids when they wanted my attention and feeling like my husband wasn’t pulling his weight.

I couldn’t remember the last time I engaged in activities that I loved, like planning gatherings with friends or cooking elaborate meals. It’s not that I stopped enjoying those things but I didn’t have the energy for the undertaking.  And I always had a reason for why other responsibilities were more pressing than indulging in something for me.

According to the 2020 State of Motherhood survey by Motherly, 71% of moms report being “most strongly defined” by their motherhood. Among moms under 30 with young children, that bumps up to 78%. And those who are not in the workforce—87%—are more likely to feel this way.

When you have small kids, life can feel a bit like a hamster wheel.  You probably haven’t had a chance to sit down or think in complete sentences in a few years, much less focus on nurturing your own interests and relationships.  Every day is focused on keeping kids fed, clothed, entertained, and keeping your household running smoothly, with estimates from a 2018 study suggesting that the average American mom works 98 hours a week caring for her family, the equivalent of two-and-a-half full-time jobs.

This is of course going to have an impact on your own identity outside your role as a mother or as a partner.  Who has the time or energy to think about your own interests or how to prioritize them!  Even if you did have the space to explore how your priorities and interests have evolved in this phase of life there’s the ‘mom guilt’ to contend with which often acts as a barrier for carving out space for yourself.

So it can be a bit of a shock when your kids head off to preschool or kindergarten and all of a sudden you have some silence. The prospect of time on your own may begin to spark questions about who you have become as a mother, how your identity has shifted, what you want to remain connected to, and how you want to evolve in your next chapter.  If that feels daunting, below are a few tips to help you make a start.

Take That First Step

It can be overwhelming to think about where you are and what it will take to get you to where you want to be.  So don’t.  Just think about one step.  Forward movement shifts you from powerless to powerful.  You are no longer trapped in limbo.  You are taking action.  And remember, you don’t need to be perfect, you just need to do. Try shifting your language from a noun to a verb.  I am a surfer (which implies a certain proficiency) to I am surfing (you’re just trying it out).

Make a Plan

Make a plan for how you will incorporate this new activity into your life on a regular basis.  It won’t happen without prioritizing it.  So talk with your partner about protecting the space for this new activity.  Block off time in the family calendar.  Find a partner in crime that will hold you accountable to following through. By putting measures like these in place, you will be more likely to prioritize yourself.  Instead of letting other priorities (like laundry and grocery shopping) take over.

Reflection: How is the current set up working for you?

Reflect on the consequences of not prioritizing yourself.  How does your exhaustion and disconnection impact your life, job, or family? What example are you setting for your children?  How do you feel in your relationship?

Now think of a time when you took space and time for yourself. How did it feel?  If your mindset is ‘I’m just trying to survive’ you are disempowering yourself.  That is the reality you are creating.

These tips are not meant to pile on more pressure of ‘self-care’ to your plate. Whether you look to carve out time weekly or monthly, whether its 15 minutes or 2 hours, creating time for yourself starts with self-talk – we must believe we are deserving of it.  Finding small ways to reconnect with what brings you joy will go a long way to helping you feel more like yourself.  Whether it’s making the extra effort to bring the kids on a hike so you can be in nature, or listening to a podcast while you fold the laundry or run errands.  Just find a way to shift your mindset from ‘ugh, I have to entertain the kids or do chores or run errands’ to ‘I am excited to… or I get to…”.

Motherhood is hard work.  There’s no question about that.  But just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean you have to be suffering to be successful at it. You will be a better mom if you feel fulfilled, even in small ways.  And while I realize that’s easier said than done, hopefully these tips inspire you to take back a bit of bandwidth for yourself.  From my experience, it will make you a happier mom, partner and person.

The Parent Collective is hosting a 6 week moms group at Honey Joe’s Family Coffeehouse in partnership Stamford Moms! The group is designed to give you space to explore how you want to shape the bit of time you will have in this next chapter with a community of moms asking similar questions in the same life stage. Click here to learn more!

Jessica Hill is an entrepreneur and mother of two who has dedicated her career to supporting mothers. Inspired by her own journey into motherhood, Jessica started The Parent Collective, which seeks to equip new parents with the education and support they need to thrive during the early years of parenthood. As a professional certified coach & Fair Play Facilitator, Jessica helps reconnect moms to their purpose, by helping to integrate pieces of themselves they may have lost along the way and guiding them toward a more joyful and easeful way forward. To learn more visit: www.theparentcollective.com or follow on Instagram at @theparentcollectivepct.

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