Recently, a good friend who became a Mom for the first time last year broke down to me and asked “Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me?”. She was referring to the loss of self identity, the body image issues, and just the overwhelming weight of motherhood.
It hit me in the gut, and I felt incredibly responsible. I felt like I should have warned her. I should have explained to her so many things. But then I got to thinking. No amount of warning or explanation could have truly prepared her for motherhood. Motherhood is a journey. Everyone’s journey is a little bit different. The journey is filled with immense joy, the highest highs you will ever know, and also a journey filled with many trials. In motherhood we all struggle with different things and the truth is there are many phases. Let the age old saying resonate with you, please, “This too shall pass.”. It won’t always be this way.
I’m assuming as you read along that you are a Mom, about to be a Mom, or you care about someone that is a Mom. I want to spend some time talking about self identity and body image. You guys, everything changes for Moms when they give birth. Your body seemingly is no longer your own! Nurturing a child in the womb, and then carrying the Mom pouch for many months (or years.. I don’t judge), as a reminder of those 9 months. Clothes do not fit the same. At all. You try desperately to dress in a way that hides your Mom pouch as best possible. You try to fit in dieting and exercise but if you’re like me you are often to exhausted to even think about targeted fitness and your diet consists of finishing your kids chicken nuggets, the occasional comfort meal, and anything quick and easy. Don’t get me wrong I try to cook healthy, and I encourage a healthy lifestyle. But my point is, life happens as a Mom and you do what you can to survive.
And losing your body to breastfeeding or pumping? Girl, I hear you. I can hardly look at my breast pump. I was attached to it for over a year with my boys when I exclusively pumped. I was blessed enough to exclusively breastfeed my last 2 babies and the experience and bond is so special. But it is incredibly challenging to be so deeply bonded that you have to avoid eye contact with the baby if you are trying to get something done. Talk about losing your self identity. If my baby sees me, she wants me. Which I love.. most of the time. But I pretty much feel like a walking Boob.
Anyway, you realize I’ve been there. I am there. I struggle with body issues. I struggle with the loss of myself. Especially as a stay at home Mom. When your spouse’s career provides the family’s main income, it takes precedence. Especially on a working farm that is open 24/7, 365. I have felt my only purpose is to care for the kids and the house. And provide meals. Of course my friends and family love me, and there is purpose in that. But when you have no free time to just be yourself and to do things you enjoy, for me, it destroyed me.
In the beginning, I took pride in being the #1 Mom that rarely needed help. I quietly did what was necessary to take care of my kids and I complained only to my husband. I isolated myself for a long time. I believed my friends were no longer my friends because they didn’t have kids yet. When I quit my full time job to stay home with the kids, I isolated myself further for at least a year. Our budget was so tight, I avoided leaving the house because I was afraid I would buy something and overspend. (Let’s be real I for sure would buy something! I mean, Target.). It got so lonely.
I have lost parts of myself. My #1 hobby is on hold right now during motherhood. I absolutely love horses. They completely fill me up inside. But I just couldn’t afford to have them anymore and my time is so limited to be able to care for and enjoy horses. And I also feared for my safety as I was bucked off from my very well trained gelding while pregnant with my first child. It is a sacrifice I made, and I can’t wait to bring them back into my life and teach my kids to ride in just a few short years hopefully.
I have learned to ask for and take what I need. I absolutely love being home with my kids but I needed something for myself. This goes for working Moms too. Hone in to what brings you joy and schedule that &*@! in. If you want to walk around Target aimlessly after work or on a Tuesday morning, find a way to make it happen. If you want to pursue writing, or fit in jogging, or attend a class or a workshop, do not be afraid to ask for help. If you cannot do supper tonight, call the darn pizza place! You deserve to do you. I don’t know what that looks like in your life. Tag teaming with the hubby? Asking a parent or a friend. Rearranging your schedule. Whatever happens, do not let yourself go. At least not all of you. They say it so many times “Fill your cup first, or you have nothing to give. You cannot serve others on an empty cup.” But how many of us actually fill our cup? I’ll be honest, some days I don’t even know what will fill my cup. That’s when I pray.
My struggles as a Mom are probably very different than a new Mom’s. I struggle with sibling rivalry, and the everyday battle of maintaining a household when it seems my kids sole mission is to destroy my home. I struggle with confidence. I’ll be honest, I equate my self worth with the state of my home. My home is rarely tidy and I carry that inside. I feel like a failure most days. The truth is, new Mom, your journey is just beginning. Do not measure your self worth in the form of your body image, or the state of your home, or anything out of your control. Wake up, do your best, and lay your head down at night in peace. You are beautiful. You are made in God’s image. If you gave it your all today, you are so much more than enough. Moms need to hear this every single day. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. The truth is, I didn’t know what your struggle would be. I do know that This Too Shall Pass. And that you will become incredibly stronger. And your fear of going through this all over again to have another baby, is valid. But it is so much easier when you know first hand what to expect, and when your Mama tool belt has grown. And let me tell you, your heart will grow bigger with each baby. Oh and let’s not forget about the journey of our marriages and relationships through motherhood that in itself will have to be another blog post. As they say in MN, ooofdah!