Why Becoming a Mother Doesn’t Mean Losing Yourself

mom-and-child-holding-hands
(Photo: iStock) 

I’m about a month away from giving birth to my first child. A baby that we hoped and dreamed for, tried for, prayed for, and finally received this sweet gift of life after years of trying to become a family of three.

At this point in my pregnancy I’m starting to think beyond just the “fun” stuff like nursery décor, cute baby gear, and that extra pint of gelato (okay fine, still thinking about gelato every day, but I digress).

The thoughts starting to weigh on my heart are the things that get real when you are bringing new life into the world: What kind of boy do we want to raise? How are my husband and I going to instill honor, kindness and integrity into this little soul? How are we going to make sure he has a giving and grateful heart? All of those things are swimming around in my head while I also contemplate what MY life is about to become -- how am I going to make sure this little boy is thriving and happy, while also not giving up on myself?

I tear up every time I think about it.

In a society where it’s suggested that women give up EVERYTHING and make every single sacrifice of themselves in order to do for their children, the giving up on yourself conversation feels very real, and very painful, and very finite. And the truth is, that’s not the kind of mother I want to be. That’s not the person I want to be. That’s not the wife I want to be. That’s not the friend I want to be.

The trouble with this conversation is, it seems like any time a woman becomes a mother and makes a choice where she isn’t sacrificing every shred of herself, the mommy wars ramp up in a way that shames, disillusions, and guilts even the most confident of women. These conversations happen every day and range from bigger life topics, like being a working mom or not and choosing to breast or bottle feed, to dumb stuff like whether you stopped by the store and picked up some hostess cupcakes for your child’s preschool bake sale instead of whipping up a Pinterest-worthy confection.

When we pit our choices against each other in order to prove that we love our children more, we all lose. The casualties of the mommy wars are ALL moms and we are slowly losing the pieces of ourselves that make us great women and great mothers in the first place! When we sacrifice time for ourselves, our passions and doing the things that made us uniquely us BEFORE having children, I believe our families lose.

Just because you become a mother doesn’t mean you can’t also be yourself.

And here’s the thing.  I’m probably completely unqualified to be writing this at all because 1. I don’t yet have a child in my arms (for a few more weeks at least!) and 2. As my sister so wisely reminded me, it’s easy to say all of these things before you have kids when you don’t really know what mom-guilt feels like. Point taken. But I unwittingly and passionately believe that we as women have our own value outside of being mothers, too -- we have so much to offer the world with our own gifts, and those shouldn’t be given up so quickly the second we decide to bring new life into the world.  Did we spend our lives up to this point becoming women who we love and enjoy to just abandon those pieces of ourselves when we become mothers?

I think whatever you love about yourself, whatever your passion is, whatever makes you light up inside: Keep doing that. Yes, those first few months of motherhood will likely be spent getting into the groove of your new role as a mom and feeling out what works for you with your new normal, but I think that once the dust settles, it’s important to prioritize getting back to YOU in a way that makes you feel alive. 

Part of what I really love about myself is right here: Womanista. I L-O-V-E my job. It’s my passion. Creating and growing Womanista is intricately stitched into who I am as a person and I can’t imagine not working toward those goals on a daily basis.  I don’t think I could be fully me if I just completely surrendered that part of myself to motherhood. If you wake up every day and pursue your passion, there is absolutely no reason why adding a tiny person to your squad should derail that ambition and love.

Maybe your job lights you up in the same way, or maybe it’s taking time once a week to have a thoughtful conversation with your girlfriends. Maybe you cannot be you without an amazing sweat-session at the gym every day, or maybe it’s just 10 minutes of quiet time in the morning to pray. Maybe it’s absolutely vital to your heart to have alone time with your husband or partner for at least a few hours a week.

All of these parts of you are wholly you, and will be woven into the story of your family forever, so who says they aren’t important enough to maintain once you have a baby?

Whatever it is, Womanistas, let’s encourage each other to keep being the beautiful, soulful, smart, joyful, #girlboss, fabulous ladies that we became before motherhood, after our little brood arrives. GUILT-FREE.

…and we’ll all be better women and mothers because of it!

*I can’t wait to write about this again once I DO have our baby in my arms! I would love for each of you to share your comments on what you struggled with about getting back in your own groove after baby, or any advice you might have for new moms and maintaining their sense of self. This journey is ever-evolving for all of us and I love hearing from all of you!