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Losing yourself in a sea of “momness” (and the struggle not to)

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What does it mean to be a good mom while not losing yourself entirely in that role?

As my world evolves more and more into a place where my thoughts are taken up by riveting subjects like potty training ,“big boy beds”, and methods of discipline, I’m well aware that I’m only a few steps down the path of a life-long call to motherhood.

And I love it, I really do. Becoming a mom is hands-down one of the best things that has ever happened to me. As cliché as it sounds, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

But I’m also aware that if I’m not careful all of my thoughts, energy, efforts, and time could easily be sucked into a vortex of “momness”. (A vortex that is actually quite an unforgiving one.) It’s one that, though noble, if left unchecked could easily take over nearly every aspect of my life.

I don’t want to get to the place where twenty or so years down the track I’m saying goodbye to my children as they venture off into the the world and I’m left with… nothing.

So what does it mean to be a young mom (or a new mom) and not lose myself? How do I pour my life into my children and give them my very best without letting everything else fall into second or third (or worse) place? How do I safeguard my marriage, my friendships, and my own peace of mind, place in life, and destiny?

Surely there are ways to do it that don’t mean giving less to my children (or to my role as their mother) while also creating healthy boundaries that will serve all of us for the long haul.

Call me crazy, but I just don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night and have the first thing that springs to mind be “how in the world do I coax my toddler into eating his veggies?” {sigh}

So this is something I think of a lot: how am I doing with balance? How am I dividing my time? In my pursuit of being the best mom I can be, am I still including myself in that picture? Am I holding true to who I am apart from my title as “mama”?

One of the things that I loved doing long before I ever had children (or was even married for that matter) was teaching. I would jump at any opportunity/invitation to travel to other nations as be a guest speaker within the organization I work for (YWAM). My love of teaching has led me to nations all over Asia and it’s something that absolutely makes me come alive inside. And to be completely honest, it’s one of the things I do best.

But since having children I’ve had to tone down the travel a little bit, readjust my life and work schedule, and think hard and long about what I commit myself to. That’s not a bad thing – in fact I believe it’s totally right and appropriate.

And yet.. it’s also hard.

So like millions of other women around the world I’m forced to ask the question, “how do I keep doing the things I feel I was designed to do when life now looks so drastically different?”

Surely there’s a way to “do it all”. Right??

This week I’m in New Zealand. I was invited to speak for a week on a school here as a guest lecturer, and after some prayer and consideration my husband and I decided it was right for me to go. So, at 29/30 weeks pregnant I carried one baby in my belly and the other baby on my back and boarded a plane for the “land of the long white cloud”. (See the ‘baby sandwich’ pictured above.)

Being here has been incredibly stretching for me. (And I’m not just talking about the freezing cold weather, surprise snow flurries, and iced-shut doors on the car I’m using while here!) What I am talking about is international plane travel with a toddler of this age (curious and active and opinionated!). It’s not exactly a walk in the park. And then of course you add to that the fact that I’m pregnant and sore and tired most of the time… and without my beloved wonder-husband and his amazing help and support. Oh, and then there’s the time required for teaching prep… the actual reason I’m here.

All of that combined adds up to a great, big challenge and several “what the heck was I thinking?!” moments during the flights here as well as the first few days.

And yet now—five days in—I’ve found my groove and I’m loving it.

Levi and I have discovered our new “normal” for the week and have settled into a routine. He loves the two women who are alternating babysitting duties while I teach, and to my surprise I’m genuinely enjoying sharing a room with him. (I’m actually kind of in love with hearing his little sighs and grunts in his sleep while I’m still awake reading or writing or preparing for my next session.) The teaching is going well, and I’m reminded—once again—about how much I love this aspect of my life.

All of this to say that I’ve been thinking a lot about how “juggle it all” while I’ve been here. I know that in this season of my life I will probably give far more time to my children than I give to myself (and to most people in fact) and I’m making peace with that. But I also know that in the midst of my momness, it’s important for me to continue to grow as a person, continue to explore my own passions, continue to give time and attention and focus to other areas in my life too.

I don’t want to be sending my kids out the door when they are young adults only to be left wondering who is this woman that they are leaving behind. For me, staying grounded as a woman needs to be given priority too. (As does being a wife – my other incredibly important role.)

I’m sure you can relate as you juggle the demands of life and motherhood too. And no doubt you are also trying to discover what it means stay true to yourself in the midst of the demanding season of early motherhood…

Dear friends, how are you holding fast to your identity – your true identity – apart from all the various roles and responsibilities in your life, motherhood especially? How are you guarding yourself from slipping into the abyss of momness and just being defined by that one [albeit important] thing?

trying to stay grounded,

 

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32 Comments

  • Reply alison 27 July 2011 at 9:49 pm

    i make it a point to take time out one day a week for ME. it may just be an hour to go to my favorite zumba class….or it might be a saturday to go hit the bookstores and/or the beach, have lunch with a girlfriend, or get a pedicure. the only rule is that i can’t do anything kid related 🙂 i feel like i’m such a better mommy if i get a little break.

  • Reply Micah 27 July 2011 at 10:23 pm

    Love what you wrote here Adriel! I’ve experienced the other side of the situation being that I’m the grown up MK leaving the house. I’m so impressed how much my mother has taken on new roles and continued learning (getting her master’s degree) while still finding time to encourage, counsel and support me and my sister as we’ve stepped into adulthood. If it’s any encouragement, what you’re hoping for is possible. I’ve seen it with my own two eyes and want to affirm your desire to do the best by your kids, by doing the best by yourself!

    • Reply Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos 6 August 2011 at 7:41 pm

      That’s awesome Micah. I’m glad you have such incredible role models for parents. Would love to meet them one day. When are they visiting??! 😉

  • Reply Angel 28 July 2011 at 1:59 am

    Well said!! I couldn’t agree more! I absolutely believe that even though our roles and time for us changes when we have children, it is very important (maybe even more so after children) to have a firm sense of self. Being a single, working momma, I do struggle with this a bit, but I try to take time out for me time when I can. It rarely takes me out of the house, it may be reading a book, or calling up a friend I haven’t had time to chat with, but it is always something for me. I love to write, I mean it soothes my soul to sit with a pen and paper, or tap away on the laptop keys, and see an idea build into something. I think my biggest struggle has been finding the time to sit and mold these ideas in my head into an actual piece of work. It is a work in progress, but it is getting there. I love the pic of you and Levi, and your lil bump. Too cute!! Levi looks absolutely adorable all bundled up!! I do hope you find the balance you are looking for. Have a beautiful rest of the week!!!

    • Reply Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos 6 August 2011 at 7:43 pm

      yes, we have to be realistic don’t we? we can’t always have that day out-and-out (or sunbathing would be my perfect day!) but sometimes it just means having an hour with a good book at home!!

  • Reply Krystle 28 July 2011 at 3:45 am

    I was just talking with my husband about this. To be honest I’m really struggling with it. I have a 3 year old (next week!) and twin 5 month olds. From sun up to sun down and some nights, it’s puke, pee, poop, food, rock, hold, play, feed, take to the potty, clean, change etc. My brain feels like mush. I keep putting all of the great things I’m reading into a little shelf in my brain for later…when I can focus. I can’t seem to absorb anything else at the moment. Trying to remind myself it’s only a season, but also wishing I knew how long this season was. :/

    • Reply Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos 6 August 2011 at 7:47 pm

      I can only imagine how you must feel with three under three!!! Make no mistake, I think motherhood requires incredible sacrifice (and I’ve come to peace with that for the most part), but I also sometimes catch myself feeling like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. And then I see other moms with kids who are a bit older and they look back with sentiment and say how fast those early days went and of course I can totally see where they’re coming from!! Not that it makes the coping easier in the moment of distress and demand, but it does help me to try and keep perspective and remember that “this too, shall pass”! Hang in there mama… I’m sure you’re doing a much better job than you feel like most days. And… for your sake, I hope you can sneak in some little breaks in there too. Both babies and mamas need some TLC at times!!!

  • Reply Christa 28 July 2011 at 3:46 am

    i love this post. i am a 22 year old mom of a 2 year old and all to often i see other girls my age that are so out of balance and focus too much on going out and other thing. so sad.

  • Reply Courtney @ The Mommy Matters 28 July 2011 at 4:06 am

    You are so right. I found myself at that “crossroad” not too long after my son was born. So happy that you have gotten this opportunity. Looking forward to seeing where this journey continues to take you! Be safe! 🙂

  • Reply Carol 28 July 2011 at 4:52 am

    Wow, you are trying to balance it all! I don’t know, the first few years of mommahood, I lost myself….I gave my all until I was exhausted, and actually, as the kids get older, it is even harder to try and make your priorities, and self-time happen. The schedule becomes jammed with school activities, and homework help, playdates and sleepovers…and sometimes I’m like “Where is the me time?”

    But, at the end of the day – this is where I’m at, and I’m happy, and I am comfortable with myself as a mother and woman. I think it’ll always be a balancing act.

  • Reply Tiffany 28 July 2011 at 6:16 am

    I’m at a bit of a different season in my life. For the first 4 years of having kids, I tried “doing it all” by working part-time in a profession I loved (and was quite good at). Both my family and I really suffered for it. I’ve been a full-time SAHM for about a year and while there are certainly hard days, I’m being a wife and mom, only. I’m not dividing my attention amongst many activities. I work out regularly (bringing the kids to the gym), and have a once a week Bible study but that’s about it for weekly activities that are just for me. While I do miss some of my other loves like playing tennis competitively and photography classes, I realize that this is such a short season in my life that I will not participate in them right now. My kids are flourishing, I feel like I’ve never known them better. I am learning so much about myself and my relationship with the Lord is far stronger because my mind isn’t divided amongst so many things.

    I’ve actually found that by not trying to balance it all, I’m much happier.

    • Reply Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos 6 August 2011 at 7:57 pm

      I love this perspective Tiffany! And I do agree that when you make peace with the season of life you’re in… it all becomes SO much easier. I know that for me it’s when I compare life “now” to “then” that I feel frustrated and discouraged and defeated. I’ve let a lot of things go since becoming a mom and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Sacrifice should not be avoided but embraced in my opinion. But in saying that, I also know that if I’m not careful to incorporate some of my “loves” and passions, I find myself becoming stagnate and not as joyful about my responsibilities as I am when I’m refreshed. Just the fact that you have your gym and your bible study time shows that you’ve found what works for you in this season. I love that! For me, I’m still trying to figure it out. I only work less than one day a week now (spread out over two days) but I even find that difficult sometimes to manage and wish I wasn’t working at all. And yet with the type of work we’re involved with (YWAM) just having that little bit of work/ministry contribution helps me to stay connected and grounded to the overall “why” of what we’re doing. I find otherwise it’s really easy for me to lose perspective and want to leave (even though I know where God’s called us for this time!) These little one-week teaching bouts only come along every three months or so… and I absolutely love them. It’s a nice change of pace for me and yet at the end of the week I can’t wait to just be back home with my baby again. 🙂 For me it’s working… for now at least! Anyway, thanks again for a thoughtful comment. I couldn’t agree more… while at the same time I’m convinced there has to be something for mom and mom alone in the mix, whether that’s a day a week or just an hour! 😉 Whatever it is, it needs to be intentional for it to work/matter/count/serve. By the way, I’m glad you’re enjoying being at home so much. And really… has it really been a year already??!!!

  • Reply Cari 28 July 2011 at 10:12 am

    I know not. I think it will always be a struggle. As a Mom, we feel so pulled in so many different directions; and sadly give up our “me” time to make room for it all.

    I think to grow spiritually, to nuture, to be an active participant in your life, you must find the balance. This requires patience and a back bone. I know I’ve been trapped in the yes, yes, yes cycle; and forget that it’s okay to say no.

    You must find the time to do what fills you up and makes you happy. You will be a better Mommy, wife and Adriel for it. But my guess is, you’ll do great!

    And how much cuter could you and Levi be, really?

  • Reply Nessa 28 July 2011 at 1:34 pm

    I hear you words Adriel… Good for braving the world as a baby sandwich.

    I miss my work some days… the pride I had in it. I taught and trained adults in an electrical apprenticeship. This was their livelihood, how they paid their bills and provided for their families. Someday I know I am going back to teaching, and I plan on it being adults again. I hold on to that and it carries me.

  • Reply Katherine 29 July 2011 at 4:10 am

    I found that I immersed myself in baby/mom world until I started feeling a little itchy for something else. Now I work one morning a week, leaving both kids with a sitter. It draws out parts of my brain that can lie dormant the rest of the week and I love it! And it is fun to walk back into my house, so excited to see my kids again.

  • Reply Liz Barber 29 July 2011 at 8:11 am

    You’re my new hero adriel! Man look at you taking a toddler on a plane ride by yourself AND Pregnant no less!
    Since my boys were born I’ve allowed myself and my identity to become swallowed by this role of “mom”. I am just now (the boys almost 2 1/2 yrs. old now) starting to slowly shake myself off and gather myself so to speak.

    It started with starting to delve into a passion of mine- graphic design and has grown into other great things. It’s helping to keep me “Liz” afloat and not buried.

    Thanks for such a great post and reminder.

    • Reply Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos 6 August 2011 at 8:02 pm

      i think that’s pretty normal… and maybe even necessary during those first months and years. when they’re so little they really do require so much, right?? and yet that time DOES pass quickly. i sometimes forget that just as much as they are on a huge continual growth spurt, so am i. 🙂 it’s good that you’re beginning to explore other things as you’re able now. i think we all know when it’s time to “expand” a bit… if we’re willing to listen to our God-given intuition. 🙂 well done liz. 🙂

  • Reply Monica 29 July 2011 at 9:24 am

    I was really struggling with this recently….this article (http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/motherhood-is-a-calling-and-where-your-children-rank) helped put it in perspective for me (and kinda gave me the kick in the pants that I needed…I was really wallowing in self-pity!). You raise a good question though…because we can start to see our worth primarily in how we perform as a mom! And then…yeah…once the kids grow up, then what? But I think that the current cultural line of ‘self-fulfillment’ and entitlement to ‘me’ time isn’t the way either. It’s tricky…but I think in putting Christ first, then He can help us to find life in whatever we are doing while not becoming consumed by any of it.

    That’s a bit crazy stream-of-consciousness-esque, but hopefully it makes a bit of sense! o_0

    Hope your pregnancy is going well and you have a bit more energy these days!

    • Reply Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos 6 August 2011 at 8:05 pm

      love it monica. and yes, that TOTALLY makes sense. i’m with you on that one. getting wrapped up in the “me time” stuff can definitely lead to self-entitlement and that’s a dangerous (and unloving) place to find yourself in. i couldn’t agree more. parenting also requires sacrifice. as much as we need to look after ourselves, we absolutely have to figure out how to do it in light of the sacrifices required to parent well. (i just wrote about that in my post last night actually!) thanks for the link. i’m just now getting to it but am interested in checking it out. thank you!!

    • Reply Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos 6 August 2011 at 8:21 pm

      WOW, I just read that article. Thank you so much. That’s the best article on motherhood/parenting I’ve read in a long time. And so true – it’s a calling that requires laying your life down. We have two choices: do that begrudgingly or do that freely. Only one of those options produces joy and lasting fruit. Wonderful, wonderful food for thought and material for reflection. Thanks again Monica!!

  • Reply Jessica 29 July 2011 at 11:54 am

    Oh, this is a tough one, one that I struggle with, at times, on a daily basis. I also don’t want to lose myself, or all that makes me Jessica, in a sea of momness, so I’ve been trying my best to keep my feet planted in places that allow me to continue as a mom while doing the things that make me most happy, namely writing. It’s tough and it’s certainly something that I’m getting better at with time, but I know that this all (or the juggling act that comes with it) is very, very important.

    I think it’s absolutely wonderful that you are continuing with your passion as a teacher while still a devoted mom and wife. In the end, I think by doing these things, our passions, we’ll be happier at the end of the day and so will our children (oh, and spouses, too).

    p.s.: Love the picture!

    • Reply Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos 6 August 2011 at 8:09 pm

      yes, for me it’s also writing!!! i love writing and would do it for hours on end if i could. i’ve found it especially hard since being pregnant though as i’m always, always tired. where i used to write and blog during levi’s naps, now i’m often just crashing out!! i miss my time clinking away on the keys, but am remembering… there’s a season and a time for everything. as long as i can squeak it in there a little, it’s better than nothing. right? right??? 🙂 oh, and my other ‘love’ is photography – another one i’ve not pursued much lately. *sigh* but, we can only do what we can do… and that just HAS to be enough. putting too much pressure on ourselves just defeats the whole purpose of having our own outlets in the first place. i’m convinced of that.

  • Reply Simplegirl 29 July 2011 at 12:08 pm

    I’m there now Adriel, it is so hard to balance the two. I feel like it’s almost impossible to manage both “equally” without feeling guilt. But I do know that it can be done somehow.
    Someone also once told me that the time put in from a mother to a child is the ultimate sacrifice of love for that child or/family, it makes me think.

    • Reply Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos 6 August 2011 at 8:10 pm

      mmmm, yes, and really… maybe it shouldn’t be “equal” at this point in our lives. just a thought. 🙂 but the guilt thing, now that is a whole subject in itself. guilt will be the death of moms if we’re not careful to keep it reigned in!!!!

  • Reply TVs Take 29 July 2011 at 11:30 pm

    First of all you look so great! Love that pic. Let’s see sometimes I don’t like myself in mommyhood and I know I can do better. Goals in writing help me keep my ‘identity’. Someone once said being a mom is part of you but technically it’s not who you are…who you are is so many things more.

  • Reply Rachel 31 July 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Well if you figure it out please let me know. I am really struggling with this myself. We just added baby boy number three to the mix and I have not figured out how to best balance it all. It will be a work in progress, no doubt. Good luck!

  • Reply Barb 31 July 2011 at 11:08 pm

    This is so true! It is easy to become mom and only mom and then, like you say, what happens when our mom responsibilities are lessened? Great post! It is so important to keep something for ourselves away from mommyhood. Congrats on the great opportunity to teach in New Zealand!

  • Reply Teva 4 August 2011 at 1:03 am

    Lovely post and a common subject on virtual conversations I have been reading. Thankfully we are not alone in our struggle. I think the balance must be a daily one rooted in consulting God and knowing your limits. Today’s plan may not work for tomorrow, especially with the changing moods of a toddler. I do think the passions God designed you with should be kept alive and thriving as part of the inheritance you give to your children. It is healthy to teach your kids that you take care of yourself, therefore teaching them to take care of themselves in the future. Obviously there are limits you have to weigh with each new circumstance. I want to be a woman, a wife, and a mother that my children can admire. I think you are doing a great job so far.

    • Reply Adriel @ The Mommyhood Memos 6 August 2011 at 8:13 pm

      Teva, what a wise and insightful comment. Thank you. I especially love this: “I think the balance must be a daily one rooted in consulting God and knowing your limits. Today’s plan may not work for tomorrow…” You’re right – life is organic and fluid and constantly evolving and changing… and we have to be able to seek God in the midst of that and find his grace to help us adapt along with it. Thanks for a great reminder.

  • Reply Yolanda @ One Family Table 13 August 2011 at 3:06 pm

    I really wrestle with this tension of devotion to motherhood and continuing to grow personally in all aspects of life. One encouraging advice that I received from a woman I deeply respect: Sometimes it feels like forever, but stages do come and go. Whoever God has created you to be, your strengths and passions, it’ll all still be there. You won’t lose it, as long as you continue to take steps of faith in letting God lead you through each of these stages.
    So sometimes I feel and mourn that I’ve “lost” myself. But then I realize that it’s not so much that I’ve lost myself, but that I’ve lost sight of purpose in the midst of just trying to fit everything in. There aren’t any easy answers, but I guess that’s kind of right where God wants you to be…
    I’m right there with you still grappling with the idea of balance.

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