Let me get something out of the way... becoming a mother is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Truly. It fills my heart in the most amazing way possible.
However, if I'm being honest with myself, becoming a mom has also changed me in ways that are proving to be not-the-best version of myself. Ya know... a little too grumpy towards my husband, a little too tired because I am not eating or exercising the way I want to be, a little disconnected from my relationships (with my husband, friends, and family), and even more disconnected from myself and the things that make me smile.
Being a mom challenges me every single day... physically, mentally, and (mostly!) emotionally. Challenge is good. I know this. It helps us learn and grow and evolve, and these are all good things.
However, it is not good when the growth and the learning and the evolving only revolve around being a parent... leaving little room to grow in other relationships, especially the relationship we have with ourselves.
What about the you that is a spouse? Or a friend? Or a daughter? Or what about the you that loves to go for long runs, read, sew, volunteer, travel, cook, laugh?
Being a parent is the most important responsibility I will ever have. And, appropriately so, I have invested a ton of time, effort, and love into this responsibility. Not because I feel obligated, but because I want to.
However, just four years into this parenting gig, I am realizing that since becoming a mother, I have neglected so many other important parts of ME that are just as important as my status as a mom.
Finding the best version of myself is going to take time because, naturally, I learn best when I experience something. I would not have such a great appreciation for taking care of myself if I hadn't spent four years not taking care of myself and living the negative effects of this. The same will be true as I go through the process of finding myself again. As I evolve throughout this process I will learn, and as I learn I will grow.
These past four years that I have neglected parts of me are not lost time, but rather the best lesson I could have never paid for.
So how do you gain control of your life when all of your responsibilities remain the same? How do you find the time? How do you find the energy? This is a starting point. A way to kick start your journey.
1. You Are A Priority
The first step to finding yourself after becoming fully entrenched in motherhood is realizing that your happiness is a priority.
Of course, paying bills and keeping your child alive are also priorities. However, you will be a better mom, a better employee, a better spouse, if you are a happier version of yourself.
2. Finding Time and Energy
So often (yep, every single day) mom duties and work duties leave you with little time or energy left to spend on yourself. In fact, it can feel impossible to think there could be time in the day (or week, or month) to do anything more than what you already do.
The solution to this is simple, yet, oh so challenging. Challenging because it requires you to really evaluate how you are living right now. Challenging because it requires you to be honest with yourself about what is and what is not contributing to your happiness. Challenging because it requires you to be willing to alter your routine... and change is hard!
So what is the solution?
Step 1: Make an all-inclusive list of how you spend each day.
Start at the beginning of the day and write down every thing you do. Then go through to the week, adding anything that may be different on some days vs others.
Step 2: Label each item on your list with a smile or a sad face.
:) = Contributing to your happiness
:( = Not contribute to your happiness
- Volunteered to take on more responsibilities at work = :( ... I hate working past 5PM
- Volunteered to participate in a fundraiser at church = :) ... love spending time with church friends and raising money for good cause
- Committed to hanging out with a particular group of friends = :( ... we just don't jive
- Scrolled through instagram for 45 min = :( ... i like doing it, but it makes me feel brain dead afterwards and I wished I used that time for something else
Step 3: Decide what it is that makes you happy
What are you doing, or what do you want to be doing, that makes you happy? Is it exercise? Cooking? Socializing with friends? Laughing with your spouse?
The items on this list are your ticket to happiness.
Step 4: Replace the sad-face activities with happy-face activities
Finish your commitments to things that don't contribute to your happens, and then STOP SIGNING UP FOR THEM! These commitments/routines/mindless activities are taking away from time you could spend doing things that make you happy!
Now that you have stopped signing up for commitments that do not contribute to your happiness, replace them with commitments/routines/activities that do make you happy. And do it quick, before you accidently sign up for something else that you don't want to do!
How do you actually do this? Set goals for yourself.
Write down a goal for each of the items on your list-of-things-that-makes-you-happy. You do not need to achieve these goals right away, but it helps to know what your end game is... your in-a-perfect-world... your I-would-be-most-happiest-if.
Step 5: Make easy/achievable changes to your schedule
Now here comes the hard part. Or is it the easy part?
Make very achievable changes to your schedule. Your end goal will likely not be possible at first, and if you hope to have your in-a-perfect-world right away, you may end up giving up on your goals all together.
Here are a few examples...
Goal #1: Laugh more with my husband
Commitment to Self: spend two hours per week of 1:1 time with each other.
- Wake up 30 minutes early and have coffee together before you get ready for work once a week
- Put phones/computers away for one hour after the kids go to bed and play a card game together
- Meet each other for lunch during the week.
Note: Avoid trying to make this be the same time or day each week. Simply commit to two hours a week. Allow your time together to be fun and flexible.
Goal #2: Begin volunteering again
Commitment to Self: sign up to serve food at the soup kitchen once every few months
Goal # 3: Travel without children
Commitment to Self: take a weekend trip away with your girl friends once a year (and offer your spouse the same opportunity)
Note: You will be a changed woman (and mom and spouse!) when you return
Thinking outside of the box about what you CAN take out of your life and how you CAN adjust your schedule to add things that make you happy is hard. Actually making that change is even harder.
If you want change, you want it for a reason.
Keep this reason tucked in the back of your mind and in the front of your heart. Take time to reflect on what is truly important to YOU. And then take the next step. Make these items a priority and be intentional about them.
Change rarely happens naturally or overnight. However, once you incorporate the change into your schedule, it will be much easier to continue.
In the smiles and hearts of our babes is not the only place to find happiness. In fact, the only place to truly find happiness is in our own hearts.
Katie Ramirez, RN, BSN, CLC
Born Happy, Owner and Coach
Katie Ramirez is a Registered Nurse, Certified Lactation Counselor, and Coach for parents of babies and toddlers. She has spent more than a decade serving patients at major university hospitals such as Vanderbilt University and Penn State University Medical Centers. Katie now spends her time supporting and empowering parents of babies and toddlers as owner and Coach for Born Happy.
Katie is the proud mother of two beautiful children, Roberto (age 6), and Veronica (age 4). She has a passion for health, wellness, and happy children, and believes that, with the necessary knowledge and support, all parents can live happy.
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