People say that once you become a parent, you lose your identity. That you sometimes become lost in raising your children and you lose yourself. Though you experience countless other magical moments that are irreplaceable, what happens to the version of “you” that existed before kids? Does it go away? Is it just stifled for 18 plus years only to return once your children are grown and move out? Or does the version of yourself you once knew simply change when you become a parent? Does it manifest into a wiser, more humble and patient version of your former self?

I’ve seen many different scenarios play out. Some people throw themselves completely into parenting and neglect to foster their own relationship. This can lead to a disconnect. Others live vicariously through their children, which isn’t always the best case scenario either. The problem is, there’s no roadmap for parenting. There’s no definitive right or wrong answer. Not to mention that every child is unique and beautifully different. That means there’s no “one size fits all” method of parenting. Even within the same family, siblings often have very different personalities and needs.

It’s easy to become lost in your role as mother and forget your role as an individual woman. Our needs are pushed aside and our children’s are placed at the forefront of our minds and lives. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Part of a mother’s beauty is her ability to show selfless, unconditional love for her children. But in order to be a positive role model and a strong, mentally healthy person, mothers need to make time for themselves. Time to foster their own individuality, needs, and passions. Here are some of my favorite ways to do this.

Exercise

Exercise doesn’t have to mean hitting the gym or even participating in any type of organized fitness program. Exercise can be as simple as taking a nice, leisurely walk on your lunch hour or after dinner. It can be a yoga or pilates class. It should be something that you enjoy and can do alone. Exercise provides a release for pent-up frustrations and also releases endorphins, which help to reduce stress and promote feelings of happiness.

My son loves to tag along when I’m performing my exercises, whether it’s a weight routine in the living room or a jog around the neighborhood. And though I love his company, sometimes, I just want to go it alone. I want to focus completely and fully on myself. I want to concentrate on my form, my breathing, and the thoughts in my mind. I compromise by allowing him to join me on the last two laps of my run, or for the warm-up and cool down of my workout video. There’s nothing wrong with wanting your own time and there are plenty of ways to involve your child without compromising your self-care.

Date Nights

Date nights are important for couples, but also for women as individuals. Date nights can mean meeting girlfriends for dinner or catching a movie by yourself. How about scheduling a date for a wine and painting fundraiser or a ceramics class you’ve been dying to try? Whether it means eliciting the help of a babysitter, grandma, or your partner, mothers are entitled to some kid-free time out of the house after the sun goes down. You’d be surprised at how freeing it feels to climb into your car, turn up the radio, and just drive. Drive to a location where you can experience something that is fulfilling and nurtures those parts of you that are often neglected due to the daily grind of everyday life and activities.

Date nights for couples are also extremely important. This is all about maintaining a strong foundation for the life and family that you’ve created. Before kids, there was you and your partner. Your love spawned the inclusion of children into your world. That love needs to be fostered. That means time spent as a couple, away from the chaos of family life. This gives you and your partner an opportunity to discuss adult topics, relax together and finish a sentence without being interrupted. It’s a way to slow down and stand still for a moment, with the person you chose to spend this life with.

Those moments of bonding will help you feel connected when life gets busy and you feel like two ships passing in the night. And another awesome benefit is that your children can feel that love. They see you happy, smiling and showing affectionate. This helps them to feel safe and loved. Making time for yourself as a couple provides your kids with the perfect example of what love looks and feels like.

Choose a Hobby

Hobbies are beneficial for so many reasons but primarily because they are something you choose to do, not something you are required to do. If you’re struggling to come up with a hobby, just look back at your childhood. What did you enjoy doing? Coloring? Playing sports? Reading? That’s the beauty of childhood. When given a choice, kids will do the things they want to do and not the ones they dislike. Think of finding a hobby in this same way. It’s the one time in your adult life where you can avoid responsibility and following rules. You get to choose what your hobby is.

Try finding something fun that provides you a mental escape from your reality. The list of possible hobbies is endless and nowadays, there are more options than ever. From adult coloring books to scrapbooking, adult recreational sports, or even book clubs, there’s bound to be something out there that you enjoy and helps foster your passion.

Make the Time

I think most people’s complaints when it comes to making time for themselves is that there just isn’t enough time! Especially for mothers. Our workday starts from the minute our children’s feet hit the ground and doesn’t end until their heads hit the pillow. Not to mention working moms that have other obligations on top of motherhood. Or if you’re a work from home mom or one who volunteers while your children are in school. There just never seems to be enough time in the day. But it’s imperative that you make time for yourself!

A great way to accomplish this is to see every moment as an opportunity. That means taking a stroll on your lunch break, reading once your children are asleep, or attending one or two classes a week at your local gym. Whatever it is that helps you to destress and achieve some mental clarity, it’s worth making the time. And I guarantee that once you start making time for yourself, you’ll be a more patient and attentive mother. It’s truly a win-win.

Featured Photo Courtesy: Eric Ward via Unsplash