Everyone has gone through something that has changed them in a way that they could never go back to the person they were. For me, this identity shift came through motherhood. It turned my world upside down and left me feeling alien in my body.
The Bad News: Life felt like it had slowed down to a standstill, even though I always felt busy with tedious chores and daily routines, with life revolving around food shopping, preparing food, feeding, getting kids to nap, changing diapers, taking out the trash, cleaning, and doing endless amounts of laundry every.single.day. not necessarily in this order.
I missed doing work that was fulfilling, with the satisfaction of a job well done. I missed the freedom to do what I wanted when I wanted and with whom I wanted. (Can I just get a workout with my husband without having to hire a babysitter? Or get drinks with my girlfriends without having an 8 p.m. curfew?) And I really, really miss getting a full night’s rest.
The Good News: “The soul is unborn and immortal. Death is but a change of clothing. The self within the body cannot be cut by weapons, burned by fire, drenched by water, withered by wind. You are eternal, unbreakable, and ever the same.” (So says Bhagavad Gita.)
The essence of who we are never changes. It’s just buried somewhere under a mountain of laundry. We may have to search deep for it, but we can reclaim a part of our “old self” while embracing the “new.”
5 Tools to Bring Yourself Back When Shift Happens
1. Workout. Whether it be yoga, dance, spin, HIIT, boxing, whatever movement you do brings awareness to who you are NOW. It offers the benefits of a strong, healthy body and it channels excess energy in a positive way.
2. Me Time. Spend quality time with yourself, doing activities you love to do or take on a new hobby. Read, take a long uninterrupted hot bath, listen to music, do whatever fills your cup. Meditate; it decreases stress and cultivates a grounded, peaceful mind. It also allows you to rediscover you at your own pace.
3. Quality time with your SO. Bringing a plus-one, plus-two or—God bless you—plus-three Mini Mes to the party at your house means having less time to spend with your significant other. For many, this relationship gets de-prioritized when the family expands. Reconnecting with your SO can help to bring back that part of your “old self.” This can be as simple as grabbing a coffee or taking a walk together.
4. Reconnect with friends—or make new ones! “Show me who your friends are, and I’ll show you who you are.” Friends are a great way for you to see which values and interests you’ve kept and which ones you’ve outgrown.
5. Rest. Raise your hand if you are a nicer, more patient, more compassionate human being when you get more than 4 hours of sleep. ’Nuff said.
I think it’s also important to drop all expectations of yourself to be a perfect anything, whether that’s being a mom, significant other, employee, boss, etc., to allow for new possibilities to open. Respect the process of transformation and the grace the present moment has to offer. Perhaps focus on one area of your life at a time – your body, your career, or your relationships, and when you feel like the “new you” in that new role called motherhood, with your new circumstances, then focus on the next area of life. Keep calm, be patient, and allow for the shift to happen. Find humor when you can.
For example, I love to reassess the meaning of common words. As Ilana Wiles, author of The Mommy Shorts Guide to Remarkably Average Parenting put it:
- What “Party” Meant Before Kids: A social gathering of friends, often involving drinking late into the night. After Kids: A birthday gathering of your kid’s friends, in which you stand off to the side and watch them eat pizza.
- What “Shot” Meant Before Kids: A small glass of alcohol. After Kids: A small needle of antibodies that makes your child cry until they get a character band-aid
- What “Blowout” Meant Before Kids: A luxurious experience at a salon, where you walk out with amazing hair. After Kids: A diaper-defying experience, after which you’re lucky to walk away without two new loads of laundry.
In the meantime, I enjoy the cuddles and tickle fights—and the eagerness just to spend quality time together whether reading books or kicking the soccer ball at the park with the kiddos. I am amazed that they actually, truly listen when they ask original questions, surprise me with facts they know or when they show me the latest yoga pose they learned. (Just this morning, Aarav asked, “Mommy, can I show you some yoga?” And proceeded to do Sun Salutations.)
The essence of who we are never changes. It seems like it does because life changes, and we take on different roles at different stages of our lives, to meet life where it meets us. But the soul is and will always be what it has been. We have a hard time putting labels on who we are because the pure soul is all and none of these things. By practicing some of the tools mentioned above, we may be able to keep calm while moving through one stage of life into the next.