We were all sitting in a big awkward group in the church’s large conference room. I sat there hoping I didn’t get the Hershey’s Dark Chocolate bar; we all were.
I was at MOPS and it was our 2nd meeting of the year. As such, we played some ice breakers with embarrassed and uncomfortable chuckles. One game included passing a jar of candy around the room and answering specific questions based on the candy you drew from the jar. The candy’s question that nobody wanted was the Hershey’s Dark Chocolate: what do you like to do with your free time?
My mind scanned my days with the kids and scoffed inside: Free time? Seriously?
I could tell I wasn’t alone with my thoughts. Other moms were murmuring things like, “Who has free time anymore? I have no idea what I would do with myself!”
So as the jar was passed around, many mumbled, “I don’t want the Hershey’s. I don’t know what I’d say!”
As I waited for my turn, my mind wandered back to an earlier conversation I had that day with a mom friend of mine. We talked about her son attending preschool. She mentioned she taught a yoga class during his time at school. She said it was hard for her to make a decision about that small window of free time she had while he was in school but she knew she needed to do it because it made her feel so good about herself.
While she talked I could see the life in her yes when she mentioned the class, but heard the strain in her voice.
The strain that said what I was thinking that night at MOPS: Why is it so hard for me to handle the little free time I get as a mother?
We tell ourselves as mothers that we could be doing something better with our time. We live a life of them before us. And slowly, over time, as we look in the mirror, we’re not even sure who we’re looking at anymore.
The result of this unknowing is fear. It’s the same small fleck of fear I got when I sat there at MOPS afraid of a candy bar. My heart didn’t want the question about free time because then I knew I’d have to face myself and ask, “Who are you and what do you even like to do anymore?”
Because the reality is that ever since I became a mother I’ve lost myself.
I am not the same woman who said yes to my husband ten years ago, who wore trendy clothes, watched whatever I wanted on Netflix, whenever I wanted. Having a career was a no brainer at the time. Finding time to work out was simple and paying for a membership to a gym was no big deal. I could eat that extra piece of cake without too much worry. If a friend called and needed me, I could be there in no time. Volunteer work in the church or community was easy to fit in my schedule.
Being myself seemed easier then.
But as soon as you’ve been gifted the beauty of raising tiny humans, all those easy parts of yourself start to fall to the wayside as the them before you starts to grow. And as time passes while you’re wandering in the sleepless fog of mothering, you start missing those little parts of yourself that you’ve lost.
Maybe this tension of who we were before we had kids and who we’re becoming as mothers is because we’re constantly reaching for those lost parts of ourselves. Constantly reaching for something I’m not creates conflict in my heart of not being enough. A worry starts overtaking my heart because I just can’t quite get back those parts of who I was.
If I keep trying to retrieve who I was then I’ll never be able to step into the freedom of who I am now.
We’re so afraid of losing ourselves that maybe we’re missing the development of our new selves because we keep looking back.
Sure, there are new things about me that are less than epic: I go to bed earlier than I used to, I have one show I try to keep up on, I wear pants that are bigger and working out is harder than I could have imagined. I still eat my cake but hold off on that second piece.
I also know a love that I never would have understood before children.
I have found a gift inside myself that I never would have explored so deeply otherwise.
When a friend needs me, my time with her is limited but becomes even more meaningful during our short times together when I can get away.
I have found a new group of women who call themselves mom and are responsible for raising a generation of young people who understand what it means to love others as they love themselves.
That’s pretty epic.
Dear mamas, It’s OK to lose yourself when you become a mom because then, then you step forward into all the new that you are as a woman.
I am a woman who is learning that it’s OK to be uncertain of what to do with my few opportunities of free time. Free time is like getting reacquainted with an old friend. I try different things until I find that connection and while it may not be the same as it was years ago, I’m grateful the for the new memories that will be made as I grow.
I have found new parts of myself that I grab onto fully.
Embracing the change that inevitably comes with motherhood is like a breath of fresh air. No, it’s like coming up for air.