Let me tell you a little story.
Once upon a time, a long time ago, there was a little girl. And she had friends, and played, and laughed. As she grew, and her friends grew too, they’d shmooze, and stay up late chatting away. If she needed to, she’d sleep in. When she needed a nap she’d take one. But oh, did she dream. She had dreams and goals and passions. She was careful to daven every day, and tried to get out to go to shiurim regularly. If she needed to just dash out for a minute, she’d grab her purse and yell – “I’m running out! Be back soon!” and off she’d go. And she loved to paint or read or hike or bake or just chill with friends, so, when the fancy struck her, she would. She loved learning or she loved helping people, or maybe she was just really at listening. People told her that she had a knack for X and she knew she wanted to grow up to use X to help mold the world.
Nice little story, right? OK, now let me tell you another one.
Once upon a time, at a time that is really closer to now than long ago, there was a mother.
I bet you’re waiting to see how this story is going to end. Guess what? So am I – but you’re going to have to be the one to write your story.
Ready? Let’s do this.
A different life
If you are a mother, you don’t need me to tell you that your life before kids was a different life. Even when you were married, but before your first was born.
And, much as we hope to have children, much as we grow up knowing that, be”H, lots of bouncing littles are just around the corner in our lives, we really have no idea what it means to *actually* have kids… till they’re here.
And it’s strange.
Strange because we have all these conflicting emotions about what we should/could be doing. Strange because, many mothers I know, are equally head over heels in love with their babies, and monumentally frustratedly annoyed with their babies.
And strange because… how come no one ever TOLD us? That we might be up at night (not shmoozing with friends), and wouldn’t be able to take a nap the next day or sleep in. That our priorities would dramatically shift. That getting out the door with kids takes not double, not triple but often 10 times the amount of time as getting out the door alone.
And strange because so many mothers struggle for years – decades, even – with some aspects of motherhood that they feel like they “should know”, even though it’s not all intuitive and no one’s ever told them.
Building your “new” identity
It’s really important that that “new” is in scare quotes; because if your “new” identity is actually new, then it’s not your identity. If the mother of story number two is a completely different person than the girl of story number one, then something’s missing.
So let’s start at the beginning: the first step to the “new” you is the old you. The things you loved to do, the things that interested you, your goals and dreams. Those traits and attributes that are at your essence, that make up who you are, your tafkid and yi’ud — that’s you.
But there was another part of you that, once you have your first, that’s disappeared forever. Once you’re a mother, you can’t “just” take a nap; you can’t “just” dash out. Your body’s changed, your mobility has changed, life is just different. And it’s hard.
So mourn that. When your baby was born, the maiden that you were died, and it’s important to notice that and grieve.
But you’ve also grown and changed in ways you’d’ve never imagined. Maybe your patience has shot through the roof, maybe you’ve developed a calmer way of speaking, maybe you’re able to be more present in life. Maybe you’re more joyful, intentional, or just plain more mature.
Notice how you’ve grown and changed as a person since becoming a mother, and celebrate that.
Making a Mommy
Who you are now has to be an integration of who you were and who you’ve become. You can’t delete that part of yourself that existed before you had kids – it’s an existential part of what shaped you as a mother.
So the things you loved to do, and the things that you’re passionate about – you need to make time for those.
You may not have the luxury to sleep in or take a nap after you have a not-so-great night, so you need to make sure that you’re getting the sleep you need as absolutely much as possible.
And sometimes, you’ll need to just get out — to just be able to grab your purse and say, “I’m going!” Whether that’s on your own, with your husband, with a sister or a friend – you know what you need most.
No, it’s not selfish, and yes, it is the best thing for your kids, too. Because if you’re spending all day pouring, your jug will run dry; you have to refill it from time to time.
I once heard a story about a mother who ravenously needed to grab something to eat that day, but her kids were all over everything and the only place she could run away to to just be was the bathroom. So she grabbed some food, dashed to the bathroom, locked the door and sat herself down. She slowly, deliberately ate her breakfast, savoring every bite. And when her kids knocked on the door asking her what she was doing and when she’d be out, she responded: “I’m making a Mommy.”
So tell me: what do you love to do? What are you good at? What are you passionate about? What are your needs? What are your wants? How can you refill your pitcher to make the the best Mommy ever?
Tell me how your story ends.