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How to be a mom without losing yourself

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Love yourself. Photo by Neal Fowler

I saw it in her eyes. The loss. The resignation.

“What am I going to do now? I have lost my drive.”

My mama and I have been talking more now. I love our talks, when she comes over our house (often) or when I come over to hers (rarely), because we never talked this much before. I was always too busy and our family wasn’t exactly the “talking – hugging – tell – me – about – your – day” kind.

And this particular talk of ours has struck a chord in me because I understood exactly what she meant.

It was one of those afternoons when the children were at school, the sala lights were turned off and the house was quiet. There was time to talk about things way beyond “how are the girls doing in school?” or “what new song did they learn this week?”

Now that I’ve got my own family and my brothers are all grown up, my mother says she wants to do something but she no longer knows what it is. She gave up her career to take care of us. I remember when we were kids and we would get asked to fill a form with Mother’s Occupation in it, we always wrote “Plain Housewife”.

Not that plain meant she was lounging and doing nothing at home. If my 10 year old self had known the word “multi-tasking” back then, I would have written “Multi-tasking Mom” on that blank. Maybe I’ll even add “Super” in that title.

Because having Mama at home meant we woke up in time before the school bus arrived every morning. We had hotdogs packed in our lunch box and cold water in our Coleman. Our clothes were scrubbed white and pressed crisp. The dishes were washed, the house was clean. Hot dinner was served every night.

Mama always finished my Home Economics projects. She always made sure I had a pretty pink ribbon or barrette for my hair before I go to school.

It would take me a lifetime to list a comprehensive job description for my mom.

But one thing’s for sure, everything she did has always been for us. It has been far too long since she did anything for herself.

I felt the same way

I was looking at reflections of myself and thought I was losing the person I used to be. Photo by Mike Bitzenhofer

Five years into motherhood, I’ve felt the beginnings of that loss. A hint of resignation. And I don’t even do laundry and wash the dishes.

It must have been one of those exhausted and sleepless nights, I lay in bed staring at the ceiling, wondering “So, what’s next?”

I’m a mom and that’s a given.

But what becomes of the “me” before the “mom”?

Do I have to give up my dreams because I now have to take care of my children and make a home for our family? The answer is yes or so they say.

I struggled with the thought of having to change who I am to fit my new role.

I struggled with the thought of not being able to accomplish anything other than raising my children.

There were several nights when I’d slump down exhausted on the bed and wonder where the day had gone. And how I wished, oh how I wished, I had more time for me and for all the other things I wanted to do that didn’t include squishing dried up Play – doh or pretending to drink English tea.

And while I loved my Mama and I appreciated everything she had given up for us, I didn’t want to be the “Plain Housewife”.

I am a mom and I am me

A few moments of silence was all I needed to find clarity. Photo by Hartwig HKD

Five years into motherhood, I’ve felt the beginnings of a new phase in my life as mom.

It must have been one of those mornings when my eyes suddenly opened a few minutes before 3am. I listened to Deirdre Hade’s “Morning Five Minutes meditation”, an effort to start my day right.

“What is your intention today?” she asked.

I wanted clarity.

As the music faded away, I felt a sense of calm come over me. And just as I had asked, I heard my voice ever so clearly:

“Becoming a mom doesn’t change you, it makes you more of who you already are.”

I finally gave myself permission to embrace who I have become and who I am becoming.

Yes, I have more curves and less hair. I can no longer last a day in high heels. I’ve memorized more Disney Junior tunes than I care to remember. But inside, it’s still me, it’s still the same woman with the same dreams.

Only this time, it’s more than just a dream. It’s a mission to be the best version of myself so I can set an example for my girls.

My new dreams are now unfolding.

I can see it now, gathering a community of mothers committed to live intentionally.

We’ll give each other hope when it’s 2 am and we’re still up working. Or when we wake up one day and the skinny jeans suddenly don’t fit.

We’ll rejoice in each other’s victories, when the little girl makes it through her first day of school. Or when we find the perfect dress that loves our mommy curves beautifully.

We’ll go through this motherhood journey one day at a time. Because we’re all in this together.

How to be a mom and still be you

Find your calling. Do what makes you happy. Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt

One day, I visited my Mama and I saw it in her eyes: a newfound sense of purpose. She’s going to aerobics now she says, and did I know just a few minutes of exercise “can make you drip like a faucet?”

Now that she no longer needed to take care of us, she can put herself first. She is re-learning how to take care of herself.

I can see she’s happy.

I guess all mothers go through that phase in their lives when they feel like mom is equal to martyrdom. That everybody else has to go first. That you have to give up everything for your children.

I used to lament that, with all that motherhood is demanding of my time and my energy, I can no longer achieve anything other than being just a mom.

Until I realized, if I can survive having children, I can survive anything. And my children are my inspiration to reach my goals.

Oh it’s not gonna be easy, I can tell you that.

But it can be done.

Yes, being a mother is your greatest purpose in life but it doesn’t have to be the only one.

If you feel called to do something more, then go ahead and find it. And when you do, do what you can every day, in between breastfeeding and cooking dinner, to go forward in the direction of your dreams.

When you feel tired and you feel like you’re never gonna make it, stop, relax and rest. Then get back up and keep going.

Take time to do things that make you happy. And yes it can be experiences other than playing with your kids. Give yourself permission to enjoy what you used to do, or find something new.

I’ll be right here on the sidelines cheering for you.

Because you deserve to be happy and you’ve got what it takes to make your dream come true.

You’re not just a mom.


And if there’s anyone who can do this and make things happen, it’s YOU.

Your cheerleader and avid fan,

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13 comments… add one
  • ceemee November 14, 2012, 1:29 am

    I also have a dream that I am trying to pursue now. It’s connected with what I wanted before I have children and now, they are my inspiration for it. I sure can relate with you when you say that there are times I cannot find myself in my being a mom, and there are times I doubt if I am really fit to be a mom. I’m glad there’s someone who’s going through what I am going through.
    ceemee recently posted..Dream, Cymplified!

    • Optimommy November 14, 2012, 1:50 am

      Dear Ceemee, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. Truth is I was hesitant to publish this post because I was scared of coming across as a “bad mom” if I want something more than raising my kids. But I hit publish anyway because I want to be honest about my journey. I am grateful for your comment because I feel comforted that I’m not the only who feels this way.

      Thank you again Ceeme and feel free to come here again soon. πŸ™‚

  • May November 16, 2012, 3:54 am

    Hey Jayme! Very good post! Thanks for this! I’m still very confused at this point (whether to go back to corporate world or not). You know the story πŸ™‚ Being a fulltime mom is fun because of my daughter but sometimes I feel like I’m losing my self. My blog actually has several posts on this and I also hope people won’t think of me as a bad mom. I’m just tired most of the time but I know I’ll get good at it. Just taking it one day at the time and I want my journey documented in my blog πŸ™‚
    May recently posted..My Short Vacation Trip with Yanna (Part 2)

    • Optimommy November 17, 2012, 3:38 am

      Hello May! Thank you for visiting my home. πŸ™‚

      You are a good mom, and you will always be the best mom in the world to Yanna. I’m sure whatever you decide, it will be for you and for your little girl too.

      Exhaustion and frustration can really bring out the worst in us so I totally agree, just take it one day at a time and blog, blog and blog some more. It’s good therapy. πŸ™‚

      I look forward to talking with you again. See you soon!

  • Truly Rich Mom aka Teachermama Tina November 16, 2012, 8:53 am

    Jayme dear, this is beautifully written! πŸ™‚ You know, when I became a mom for the first time (we were still a missionary family in East Timor then), I felt pretty much the same. (Long story β€” worthy of a blog post, maybe?! Haha!) But then, a wise priest-friend of ours reminded me that my mission in life was/is different now β€” and yes, even if it seemed less “glamorous” or “awesome” as being a travelling missionary-on-the-go, ready to drop everything for the missions β€” it was equally, if not EVEN MORE, important! πŸ™‚ Your post resonates with me in so many ways! πŸ™‚ I actually discovered more about myself and who God wants me to be BECAUSE I became a mom! πŸ™‚ *hugs*
    Truly Rich Mom aka Teachermama Tina recently posted..Truly Rich Tips: How to Clean a Carpet and Remove Common Stains {Sponsored Post}

    • Optimommy November 17, 2012, 3:44 am

      “I actually discovered more about myself and who God wants me to be BECAUSE I became a mom!”

      Dear Tina, I love what you said and I cannot agree more. Thank you for reading my post, for your appreciation and encouragement. Please do write your story, I am looking forward to reading it.

      And yes, while this job of ours is less than glamorous, we mamas are doing important work. I’m just glad I’m surrounded by moms like you who make this journey so much more comforting.

      Take care and see you next week! πŸ™‚

  • Monica November 18, 2012, 12:04 am

    Well said and I’m glad you came to this conclusion. So many moms think the secret to happiness as a mother is only doing for themselves, but there’s so much more if you just stop and look. Of course you’re still you. You’re going to be giving your children all the years of life that has taught you and that’s all important. Being mom aint so bad ;).

    Visiting from SITS
    Monica recently posted..Holiday Gift Guide From A Little Bit Of Everything: Bluapple Giveaway

    • Optimommy November 23, 2012, 12:58 pm

      Yes Monica, there is so much more moms can do once we stop believing in the “I’m just a mom” mindset and start believing in ourselves more.

      Thank you so much for visiting my home and sharing your insights. You’re welcome to visit here anytime. πŸ™‚

  • DGMommy (Tamara) November 24, 2012, 9:40 pm

    Another excellent post. I can see I’m going to love your blog. I think we have to come to a point where we give ourselves permission to want more, to do more, to be more. Which essentially means to be who we truly are and live our purpose. I know by doing so I’m setting the best example for my kids, especially my daughters. It’s just getting past the years of dismissing myself and building back the confidence that I used to have… that’s the hard part. But I’m working on it!
    DGMommy (Tamara) recently posted..How to Handle Vomit – A Guide for First-Timers

    • Optimommy November 29, 2012, 4:10 pm

      “I think we have to come to a point where we give ourselves permission to want more, to do more, to be more. ”

      I love this Tamara! And I totally agree that if we want our kids to go after their dreams, we must set an example by fulfilling ours.

      As you said, you’re building “the confidence you used to have,” so it’s right there inside of you and I know that as you work on it, you’ll uncover the dazzling and amazing woman you were always meant to be.

      I’m excited for you and your journey and I hope one day you’ll tell the story of how you made your dreams come true. πŸ™‚

  • Chrissy April 25, 2013, 11:59 am

    Hi Jayme! I cried after reading this post πŸ™ Your words really embraced me and moved me. Thanks πŸ™‚

    • Optimommy May 2, 2013, 6:22 pm

      Aww… Chrissy, if I could see you now, I wish I could give you a hug too. πŸ™‚

  • Chrissy May 3, 2013, 12:36 pm

    *Hugs* πŸ™‚ Your blog is one of my happy online spaces from now on πŸ™‚

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