Go any place where children congregate, and you hear, "Mom," being called from every direction. It's great to be a mother, but behind every wonderful mother is a woman with her own identity. If you're feeling like that woman has been lost, these eight ideas will help you find yourself again, leaving you with more emotional energy to devote to your family.
Schedule alone time.
All moms are busy. If you want to have time to yourself, you'll have to schedule it into your life. My friend sets aside time for naps, for a bowl of gourmet popcorn and internet surfing. I wake up early to exercise by myself, enjoying morning outdoor runs most of all. Find some time each day or week to be by yourself, even if it’s just a few minutes.
Listen to the positive voice in your head.
Don't let stretch marks, dirty kids or unfolded laundry get you down. Keep positive by reminding yourself of the things you are good at, like keeping in touch with friends or home decorating. Accept compliments from others and help your spouse know how to love and support you.
Choose kid-free hobbies.
If your pastimes include stacking blocks, reading board books and pureeing baby food, you need some new hobbies. My self-esteem improves when I do things that challenge me and help me develop my talents. I like to sew, make jewelry and work on home-improvement projects. Although I can do these things with my children, choosing to do them alone or with friends allows me to feel independent. Find a hobby that's just for you.
Have friends who use your first name.
I don't mind at all when my kids call me by my first name, because it is rarely used. Hearing my own name reminds me I'm more than "Mom." When I introduce myself at school meetings or church activities, I'm glad to be just "Amy." Your name is an important part of your identity. Try to be with people who know you as someone other than “Mom.”
Keep your own style.
You don't have to lose your sense of style when you become a mother. If you like designer jeans, wear them on nights out or days you won't be helping to make mud pies. I have a daughter who is old enough to borrow my clothes. I share some, but not all. Having personal style will give you confidence and strengthen your identity as an individual.
It takes smarts to be a good parent, but at times the daily drudge of housework makes me feel more like a maid and less like a mother. Continuing to learn new things is my solution for this problem. I am working on learning Spanish and to play the ukulele. If you don't have time for lessons, try cooking a new recipe, making something for your home or doing your hair a new way. Saying "I did it!" builds confidence in adults as well as kids.
When people compliment you on the things you do well, or even on your well-behaved children, accept their praise gracefully. You are capable of doing great things. Recognize that in yourself, and be happy when others recognize it in you.
Live with confidence.
It's normal to feel lost at times. I have often felt like my identity gets muted as I help my children develop their personalities and talents. Feeling confident in my abilities as a wife, mother and woman helps me to feel more connected to my own personal worth. I am fortunate to have a good support system in my husband and friends, but I have to love and believe in myself.
You are a woman with her own ideas, ambitions and identity. Don't let your role as mother take over every aspect of your life. Your family will be stronger as you take time to develop yourself.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.