For a long time, it seems, I’ve been focused on everyone else. Since May of 2006 I have been focused on my husband. Feb of 2007 I have been focused on my son. And then August 2009, my other son. And my daughter after that. My life has been a series of never ending questions and demands of my time. And I’m not complaining. I wanted to be a stay at home Mom from the time I learned I was pregnant. I was fortunate enough to do just that. For the first 6 years of parenthood, I never really thought too much about who I still was outside of being a Mom. I was up to my elbows in Cheerio’s and diapers and any extra brain power was geared towards how quickly I could make another cup of coffee. My identity had become “Mom” and I accepted it – no questions asked.
Then my oldest son started kindergarten. I still had a 4 and 2 year old at home, so I was plenty busy but that lack of one extra small person for 7 hours a day allowed me some time to think. Think about who I used to be. Think about what I used to do in my free time. Free time? What even was that anymore? What did I used to dream of doing? I had a passion for the medical field. Nursing was always an ambition. I loved to write. Becoming an author was something I had aspired to do. I enjoyed painting and appreciated different types of art. All those little pieces of the puzzle that made up me had been pushed under the rug and replaced with only ones that related to motherhood. Between folding laundry and sweeping up broken goldfish crackers from the floor, I had lost pieces of myself somewhere. And it was my own fault. I had convinced myself that I wasn’t a decent mother if my attention, time and focus wasn’t 100 percent on my kids at all times. They were only little for a short while. And in doing that, I had given my complete self to everyone else and left none for me.
In April of 2015, I was the maid of honor in my sisters wedding. Looking through the photos of her day, I realized I had gained about 40 pounds too much over the last 8 years. I was depressed. I was eating for comfort. Disgusted with myself for allowing this to happen, I decided to start walking. I felt guilty for leaving the kids an hour after they’d gotten home from school, but my husband pushed me. He knew I needed this. Day one turned into a solid week which turned into a straight month of consistent exercise. It became a personal challenge to myself – to fill a void I was experiencing over needing something to call just my own. Something that had nothing to do with being a wife or a Mom. This was for Ashley.
After a few months of walking, I developed an interest in running. My best friend had already ran a few races and watching her progress started to pique my curiosity. Could I do that? I’d never, ever, considered running. Unless I was being attacked, I felt it unnecessary. Side stitches and feeling out of breath. Aching knees and blisters… yeah, I’ll pass. But again, that niggle in the back of mind was there.
Do this for you.
Show yourself you can. So, one grueling mile at a time, I started working towards a goal. It started as a way to lose weight and morphed into a very important means of proving myself to no one other than me.
9 months later I had conditioned my body to run 5 miles non stop and had lost 30 pounds. The day I finished those 5 miles, I looked at my shadow on the ground in front of me and thought “I like that person”. My kids had begun to show interest in my running. My oldest had actually went with me a few times. On another occasion, I overheard my middle son talking to his friend saying “My Mom can run really far without stopping! I can’t even do that.” And I realized that I was a better Mom for focusing on me.
During those long runs, I spent time thinking about my writing. I had already proven to myself I could still be a good Mom and also follow my aspirations. In the 9 months I had been running, the kids hadn’t felt neglected or unloved. No one died. They were fine! And I felt like those pieces of me that were lost were back in place. I started really considering writing a book. So I took an evening, told my husband I was going to the coffee shop and I left. Laptop and notebooks in hand, I sat down and started pursuing something I’d always wanted.
Do this for you.
Three hours later, I returned home 20 pages deep in a story and feeling like a new person. My husband told me it had been a long time since he’d seen me this excited about something and that alone made him happy. He told me he was proud of me.
So here I am, almost 31 years old, still a stay home Mom but not JUST a stay home Mom. I’ve stopped defining myself as only that and in turn, it has made me better at that job. I’m happy my children are seeing the other facets of me – I’m their mother always but I’m also a runner. And a writer. And an artist.
As Moms, we are usually the first to give and the last to take. I’m here to tell you to take. Take that cooking class you’ve always wanted. Take the photography lessons. Start that blog you’ve been thinking about. Take the 1 hour exercise class. Write that book. Do it for no other reason than to prove to yourself that you’re still you with motherhood as just another piece to your puzzle.
Do this for you.
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