When I became a mom, I didn’t realize that when I met my first little blessing, I’d also be meeting another completely new person: me.

It’s not that I was suddenly unrecognizable, but a gulf now seemed to separate the old me from the new one. That disconnect was jarring. How I spent my time, the things I cared about and prioritized, where I invested my emotional energy—it all changed and left me dizzy in the process.

The ways motherhood changes us are both remarkable and disorienting. The capacity of our hearts seems to have grown overnight, with newfound purpose and motivation, and yet we’re left grasping for pieces of our life we weren’t yet ready to part with.

It’s easy to spot these changes when we look at our new daily reality.

Suddenly, we can’t spontaneously meet up with a friend or attend that event or wander into our favorite museum/mall/coffee shop just for fun like we used to. And that creates some serious fear of missing out.

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Our schedules look different, so we have to say no more often, so people invite us less often, and soon enough we don’t even feel plugged into what’s going on anymore. (Granted, I’m definitely having to rewind my brain to pre-’Rona to remember this feeling, but you get the point.) The worst part is, when we do get invited somewhere and the logistics work out, we’re still likely to have less energy (physically and emotionally) to enjoy it fully.

But friendships are vitalthey bring meaning to our lives, make us feel more like ourselves, and help us grow. They’re worth fighting for.

So, to make peace with my new identity as a mom, I had to recommit to cultivating the relationships that feed my soul.

First and foremost, that has meant: initiate, initiate, initiate. I’m a sensitive soul, so it’s easy to take things personally that are simply NOT personal. We all make plans all the time, with large groups and small, and all different combinations of friends. I’ve had to tell myself many times, “no one is trying to exclude you, Ellie!”

Initiating moves me away from believing things that aren’t true and helps me focus on doing what’s in my power. I’ll find an event that looks fun and invite someone along or even just initiate an intentional, distraction-free conversation. (I’m still easing back into doing this more, now that my energy supply is slowly returning after this crazy year.) Intentionality is key because our time is limited. One example: “Let’s schedule a call to talk about this book!” It may sound super nerdy, but it’s one way for me to feel more like my true, full self, and I’m grateful for a few bookworm friends who feel the same.

It’s also been crucial for me to stay in touch with people who remind me of who I amwho make me feel fully known simply by referencing old memories or asking questions others wouldn’t think to ask. My sister is a perfect example. Even if we’re not discussing anything profound, I feel lighter when I speak to her because of our unspoken understanding of one another.

I don’t have to word things in a certain way or feel limited to specific topics; I’m simply free.

Here’s another example. I was visiting my alma mater for an event a few years ago, and I stayed with one of my dearest college friends. Now, returning to a prestigious university with super-accomplished alumni when your resume doesn’t boast the same types of traditional successes as those of your peers can be a recipe for feeling small. But at the event, some younger alumni were genuinely excited to meet me and hear my story. To be honest, I was really surprised, humbled, and moved.

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Teary-eyed, I tried to explain to my friend that it felt so good to feel seen and valued for who I am, despite taking a different, less outwardly important path than many of our peers. But I didn’t even have to finish my sentence. With a knowing look and some beautifully affirming words, she wrapped me in love and reminded me I never have to doubt my life’s impact or importance. I will never forget that moment.

Who in your life just gets you and brings you back to your true self? When I keep those people close, I don’t get as caught up in FOMO. Yes, life does look different, and the time I spend doing things just for me is way too infrequent.

But centering these key relationships rejuvenates me in a way that, in this season, is enough.

Of course, this doesn’t stop FOMO when we miss our favorite artist’s concert when they come into town or have to leave an event early that we’d been looking forward to. But cultivating a few close, grounding relationships can give us a solid foundation to keep our souls healthy and thriving in this season of life.

I know we’re overwhelmed, mamas. But I invite you to reach out to a friend who feels like home, who nourishes your soul. Each season of motherhood is temporary, but you will always be you. Take care of yourself and don’t lose sight of the relationships that keep you at your best. Your kids deserve a mommy who’s happy, fulfilled, and at peace in her identity. 

Ellie Hunja

Ellie is a mother of two (ages 7 & 3) who is passionate about her faith, racial justice, autism acceptance, and mental health. She believes that empathy and vulnerability can change the world, and that there is ALWAYS room for dessert. She shares about her journey to cultivate a life of purpose, authenticity, and joy on Facebook at @EllieHunjaWriter and Instagram at @elliehunja