When I was in my late 20s, I used to know this girl. I haven’t seen her in a long time, but I have such fond memories of her. She didn’t have a care in the world – she was young, happy, and rarely stressed. She always tried hard to be a good friend, too. At the drop of a hat, she was always up to meet for drinks or a trip to Sephora, but she was just as happy to spend a night in watching trashy TV and drinking wine.
The girl I knew never forgot to call her friends back, and she always replied to text messages. She could read an entire book in one sitting (and often did), and she had a cabinet full of nail polish that she used to craft a fancy new manicure every few days. This girl loved art, politics, music, and was a sucker for online makeup tutorials.
She was happy. She was fun. She was me.
I haven’t been that girl for years. Specifically, about 5 years. With the birth of my first child came changes both big and small, cracks in my former self. I have more love but less spontaneity. More laughter but less downtime. More heart and less self. Although I’ve gained so much more love than I could ever have imagined in my life, sometimes I feel like I’m losing something. Like I’m losing myself.
I’m not talking about material things. What I’m addressing here is the overwhelming pull that children have on our hearts. The all-consuming desire to be and do everything for them. And as much reward as there is in parenting, it sometimes leaves me feeling empty. Used-up. There are days when, after tucking my children into bed, I feel that I have nothing left over. It’s as if motherhood has swallowed me whole, leaving nothing but my shoes behind.
This may be a bit of a taboo subject. As mothers, we are supposed to be serene and smiling paragons of maternal fulfillment. But while I certainly have a lot to smile about, this is tough stuff. I’m often frustrated, and sometimes the kids aren’t the only ones crying. Parenting small children is no less than an endurance sport. We do our best. I’m doing my best. But to keep running this marathon, I’m going to need more than caffeine and carb-loading. To be the best mother I can be, I need to get back to being “me.”
So I’m doing what I can to seek out that girl I used to be. Some days this is easier than others. I am forever forgetting to reply to text messages, and am rarely able to meet anyone after work for drinks. I still love to read, but these days I’m more likely to be listening to an audiobook on the way to work than to be reading on my couch for hours. My nail polish cabinet gets more attention from curious toddlers than it does from me. But I have new interests now, and new things I do for myself.
I’m trying to revive the best pieces of that girl, even though I know I’ll never quite be “her” again. I knit. I meditate. I still love a good makeup tutorial and I never leave the house without lipstick. Slowly, I’m moving toward a familiar place, but this time I’m older, wiser, and a little less rough around the edges. The girl I was has grown and changed, and I’m trying to make this motherhood thing my own.
Do you ever feel like you’ve lost your prior “self” to motherhood? What are you doing to find your way back?