It is hard for me to say, but after I had my baby, I felt like I lost myself. I thought I knew who I was and what I wanted out of life. Then suddenly I had the rug ripped out from underneath me. God blessed me by making me a mom. I was excited to take on the task. What I wasn’t prepared for was the physical and mental challenges that came with it. My mom told me this baby was going to rock my world. She meant it both positively and as a warning. And she was right.
Prior to Arya, I felt like I had it all figured out. I lived in California with a great job, amazing friends, an incredible husband and fur babies. Having a baby was the cherry on top. I had a great pregnancy and was ready for my baby to be here. Some people say that after you have a baby nothing has to change, but I found that couldn’t be further from the truth. After you have a baby everything changes.
It could be because of the circumstances, but I think I would’ve had this identity crisis even if Ryan didn’t deploy. Regardless, I found myself living back in MN, living at home, with no job, no husband, and a baby. I worked so hard to make a life for myself and just like that, it was gone. The one thing I had to focus on was my baby.
Then the mom guilt set it. Taking care of a baby is a lot of work and gets overwhelming. I was questioning if I was doing anything right, then getting defensive when others tried to help.
I felt guilty because Arya was not my mother-in-law or sister-in-law’s baby and they shouldn’t have to “put up” with her crying. Not that they even felt like they were “putting up” with her crying. I just wanted to be there for my baby and not be a bother to my family. I appreciated the help, but did not want to seem like I was not capable of taking care of my own baby.
I felt guilty enough having any help from my family on a regular basis, so a night out without Arya felt out of the question to ask for. I made a few exceptions for a wedding and seeing Hamilton. The break was breath of fresh air. My feelings then turned to guilt because I must be a bad mom for enjoying time away from my baby. I could not win.
Making a Change
Change didn’t come when Ryan got home and change didn’t come when we moved back to California. I would get upset because I kept expecting things to just work effortlessly and fall into place. It didn’t. I still felt lost and like I didn’t deserve time for myself. I was terrified to go back to work and be away from Arya even though we both needed it. We were to the point where Arya clung to me all day and cried when Ryan tried to hold her.
Things started changing when I went back to work. Little changes happened that we would get excited about: Arya cried when Ryan left for work, Arya hugged Ryan when he came home, Arya cried if Ryan put her down. Arya laughed when they played together and she slept on his chest. The bond they had formed before deployment was returning.
Ryan could feel confident when taking care of Arya. I could feel confident about going out for dinner and drinks with friends. Our communication improved significantly. Our focus returned to being a team and in parenting our daughter. We are each others biggest fans again. We are pushing and encouraging each other to chase our dreams again.
Since starting work, I am remembering who I am. I am also learning the new me: A working mom with dreams of her own. It is a good thing to have goals and dreams outside of being a mom. Being a mom is the greatest and hardest job, but we are more than just moms. We were someone before being a mom and that person still matters. We can still leave our mark on the world while raising kids.
Believe in the Best You
Before I moved back to California, I confided in a few friends about how I was feeling. They had surprised me with a goodbye dinner and I cried because I didn’t feel like I deserved it. I felt like I wasn’t as good of a friend because because of how hard that year in MN was for me. The pact we made with each other is to always remind each other “You deserve it.” You deserve self care, you deserve a break, you deserve to be happy. We text it as a reminder each other every month. But now I am taking it a step further. You deserve the best YOU.
You deserve the best version of yourself. Do not settle for less than who you know you can be. You deserve to wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and feel proud of the person looking back. You deserve to feel strong and beautiful. You deserve the time to yourself to reach the potential you know you have inside you. You deserve all the self love and self care you can get. Being a mom doesn’t change that. In fact, I think you need it more.
Do not listen to the guilt. It is wrong. Accepting help does not make you weak. Enjoying time to yourself does not make you a bad mom. Time to yourself helps improve your mental health and makes you a better mom. You are enough for your baby. Enjoy the journey. You are doing a great job. You are a great mom!
This is what I remind myself daily. The more I work at it, the happier I feel. Something small like getting my nails done, getting a hair cut, dates with my husband, drinks with friends have made a profound difference. I feel my confidence growing and my true self breaking through the “mom shell” I put myself in. My daughter deserves the best mom. She deserves a mom who loves herself.
It took going back to work. It took small steps in the right direction. It took my husband and family and friends telling me I deserve to be the best ME. What will it take for you?