I don’t think it’s a mid-life crisis moment that I went through, although some may say it could sound similar. I wasn’t depressed, I don’t think. I wasn’t sad in any way. Maybe bored a bit? Confused perhaps? Contemplating in some way. Whatever you want to call it, I was re-awakening, re-defining, re-evaluating, and emerging from my chrysalis as a new version of my former self. Yes, that’s the way I would describe it exactly.
The more that I speak to other moms, the more that I come to understand that this peculiar phase in motherhood is all too well shared, but often not verbalized. The term that I have coined for this strange, often temporary cloud, is the “Mommy Rut.”
Many of us have experienced some essence of this period. From lively 20-something year olds, we generally have a clear vision of our profession and then work our academic and professional lives until we get there. Marriage and babies enter the picture in a beautiful way, but then everything changes.
New moms are typically unprepared or forewarned for the way that parenthood reshapes a marriage, your personality, your long-term plan whether as a stay-at-home mom or returning to work. Balancing mommy life and wife-life, not to mention putting work on hiatus or returning a bit more exhausted and distracted, can take quite a toll. The sleep deprivation and cold meals, leftovers from the kids’ plates, or even eating standing up may not be how you would have envisioned this parenting scenario, even if you wouldn’t trade it for the world. Then just when you think that you’ve mastered your daily routine enough to leave the house before lunchtime and/or getting your bundle of kids to school on time, this new wave slams into you, head on.
Identifying the “Mommy Rut”
One morning, I returned home from dropping the kids off at school and realized that I stopped looking at myself in the mirror. I stopped smiling and laughing as much because I was so focused on keeping the kids safe, well-fed, on time, and house in order. I felt like a robot or drill sergeant. I didn’t have time for me. I didn’t look at myself anymore because it didn’t matter. Everything was about the kids, my husband, and my home.
When I finally did look in the mirror, I realized that I needed to re-focus and re-awaken out of this mom-fog. I wasn’t sad, and I wasn’t regretful even one molecule—perhaps I was a shell of former myself who was going through the motions, but not fulfilling my dreams, feeling energized, or really loving and accepting myself inside and out… because I didn’t have the time or the mental clarity. I was a semblance of myself without a “whole” definition.
That’s when I woke up and realized that I was in the midst of “Mommy Rut,” even in my 30-something years.
This was my chrysalis moment. I needed to do some deep soul-searching to figure out who I truly wanted to become and then devise a plan to make it happen. Something deep inside of me was itchy, and I didn’t know where to begin to change it, so I simply made this mental list and went from there.
One thing was for certain—my mom-bod just didn’t do it for me. I wanted my 20-something vibe back. I wanted to look at myself and see the best version of me. So I did.
- I started by not being the human garbage disposal (GDS syndrome) and was more careful about what I put into my mouth. Every extra handful counts!
- I made myself a priority too and made sure that my meals were warm and sitting down. I ate more often and in smaller portions. My mouthfuls were nutritionally meaningful—not a handful of emotional carb-stuffing to justify a mom time-out.
- I dressed to impress MYSELF, even if my 20-something fashion evolved a bit since. I wanted to feel good about who I saw in the mirror, inside and out. * I rallied myself around a great group of mom friends from the kids’ school and made it a point to be social. After all, girl friends are the best people to relate. They just get it—and it feels good to not feel like you’re on an island of mommy moments.
- I became more active and joined Zumba. Not only did I love the excuse for an extra social hour, but I also toned up and got to get my jam on.
Perhaps the most disgruntling feeling was not feeling fun anymore. I know I can be, but somehow along the way I lost it a little when my main focus was keeping the peace, and maintaining health and safety of the troop. I felt more like a crossing guard/cafeteria monitor than a fun parent. Something had to change.
- I stopped raising my voice so much. I allowed the children to make mistakes and earn consequences that were there’s alone. My tone remained supportive, centered, and loving. I stopped being a Dr. Jekyll & Momma Hyde parent.
- I put my phone down and engaged more.
- I put the dishes and laundry away later so that I could be more present.
- I created personal projects with the children so we could have special moments together and feel proud.
- I played more music in the house, and we all danced more. We stopped living in a glass house.
- We cooked together more, and the kids were given more responsibilities to feel engaged, helpful, and appreciated.
- I spent more time with each child before bedtime to talk about every detail from the day.
Every marriage goes through exciting waves of intimacy and emotional connection, and also hits a few lulls along the way. Those lulls seem to lend to a lot of butting heads too. Sometimes the inside rut causes a stale vibe with others too. I needed to get out of the funk and feel sexy and supportive again.
- I stopped creating expectations for how I would do things, and stepped back. I became more appreciative and thankful.
- I offered ways for my husband to succeed with the children, instead of criticizing.
- I opened up more about my anxieties, fears, concerns, and leaned on my best friend, husband, for support.
- Intimacy became often and incredible, and so we connected more in the everyday.
- We began messaging each other encouraging and loving notes throughout the day.
I loved my number one job of being a total full-time mom. I’m not complaining at all, but honestly, that former part of myself that dressed up for work and felt professional with real adults using big vocabulary was missing a bit. I wanted to do something that was just mine, just for me. I needed to make a plan for a professional role that wouldn’t get in the way of my main, most important job of parenting, availability, and flexibility for the kids.
- I redefined my honest and deep professional aspirations. I spoke to peers and friends, and discovered new ideas.
- I made a plan and began in small steps. I focused only on the tasks for that day and made sure to conquer them, one step and a time.
- I took chances. I constantly risked rejection and put myself out on the line, over and over again. My passion for my profession drives and compels me to be unstoppable, whether I win some or loose some.
- My vision started to become realized and grow, expand. I was finally chasing—and catching—my dream job.
Effects of Digging Out
Something incredible started to happen over the last couple of months. I started to smile again. I started to laugh whole-heartedly. I started to feel happy, sexy, proud, fulfilled, and loved—not just by those who surrounded me—but by my own person. My family feels it too.
You see, I emerged from that chrysalis. I opened my eyes from that mom-fog—“Mommy Rut”—and rediscovered myself again. There was no more guilt, no more frustration, no more discomfort in action or inaction, and no self-doubt. I felt free, and it feels right. I was succeeding in every facet, because I defined my needs, made a plan, made the change, and started to feel whole once again.
Test it out and make a plan. You deserve to look, feel, and be your best. Love yourself, and you will then find the ability to love everyone else with your entire core. As for me, I am proud to settle in my new butterfly suit… and soar.