Laughter filled her house. She heard tiny footsteps pitter-patter down the hall as children played happily together, imagining they were explorers on a hunt for the lost treasure. Her heart swelled with joy at the sounds of their innocence. She was the mother of many happy children, but a sense of sadness lingered over her.
Just moments before, screams and whimpers had filled her house. They were her screams. She was on the verge of completely losing it on the kids after her multiple attempts to get them to listen to her, to hear her. She stepped away, leaving her children whining behind the child safety gate. She ran to her room and laid her head down on a tear-stained pillow and cried softly. Thoughts of doubt, guilt and defeat entered her mind. “I am the most horrible mother ever.” “How could I let myself get that frustrated?”
Ever felt that way before? I am ashamed to say that is me more than I would have ever imagined. I have no idea how I lost myself during this last year or two, but I did. I used to be that Pinterest mom with it all together. You know… Tot School, cooked meals, crafty parties. But somewhere along the way, I needed to be more. If this is Mommy Burnout, I have it! I am a mom who lost herself.
When I first became a mom 3.5 years ago, my entire being was consumed by all things baby twins. I left behind a career on the governor’s press team, something I had worked so hard to achieve. It was my dream job, but I never felt regret about choosing to stay home with my babies. Not a moment passed that my twins didn’t have my undivided attention. There was no more Steffany, it was just Mommy. I loved it, I lived it, and wanted nothing more. But when I dig deep to find the answer of why I now keep falling into this cycle of happy mom and completely frazzled mom, I think back to those first couple of years.
Motherhood can be so isolating. My identity was no longer mine, it was just simply Corbin and Lynley’s mom. A title I am so very proud to have, but at 7:00p.m. when they’re asleep, who am I? In a few short years when they start school, who will I be? In 18 years when they move out, who will I be? What will my marriage look like? Because when I stopped being Steffany, I also stopped being Derrick’s wife.
When you don’t brush your teeth until noon, take a shower for days or remember to eat because you are just too busy doing all of those things for your tiny humans… that’s when you know you don’t belong to yourself anymore. I lost ‘ME.’ I realized that I am just fighting for a moment of my own. A moment when no one wants or needs anything from me. A moment when no one is climbing on me. A moment when I’m not a human pacifier. A moment when I can just breathe and clear my mind. A moment when I can have a conversation with a girlfriend. But those moments can’t last too long! Because if it’s too long, the mommy guilt will set in and the cycle will start over again. I’ll give so much of myself, there’s nothing of ‘me’ left. So, just a moment long enough so that I can re-energize and be the best giver, have the best lap to snuggle in, and be the best pacifier.
I need a moment long enough to do something just for me, or just me and my husband. I stopped making time for the things I like, so much so that I don’t even know what that is anymore. I stopped making time for my husband, so much so that we have only been on a handful of dates in THREE years. Thank God for this amazing man who is so understanding of our season of life with little kids and loves me more every day. He is so supportive and helpful in my journey to balance motherhood and redefine my identity. And that is what this past year has been about for me — an awakening of self.
Here’s what I’ve learned… motherhood is a beautiful blessing. It absolutely does define me, and makes me who I am today. But there’s still a piece of me who is that headstrong dreamer, who wants to accomplish so many things, and there IS room in our family for her. My kids need to see her. I want them to know that as they grow up, they should never stop striving to achieve or stop doing the things that they love. Giving TO yourself is just as important as giving OF yourself.
So amid this chaos of toddlers, a baby, a giant dog, a husband, loads and loads of dishes and laundry, and a floor that seems to never be clean, I will take a moment to reflect on what it is that makes me happy. And I will do those things. I will do those things for me. But it’s really one more thing I am doing for them because it is true what you hear from “veteran moms”… that you are only your best as a mom when you take care of yourself as a person first.