When I was a teenager, I was told there was a chance I could never get pregnant. So when we were ready to start a family, there was a time of about nine months where my husband and I anxiously tried to conceive, which thankfully, we finally did. But that joy was short-lived when I started showing symptoms of a miscarriage within weeks of our positive pregnancy test.
However, nine months later, after three days of exhausting pain and several hours of back labor, I finally met my firstborn face to face and felt a love I never knew was possible. And all those horrible fears, false alarms, and pain was worth it at that moment. I was a mother, this was my child and I couldn’t believe I was actually living the dream.
And now our firstborn will be getting her permit this summer and I wonder where the time has gone. How did 15 wonderful years pass just like that?
But I didn’t always feel that way.
In fact, there were nights while she screamed through night terrors and my sleep-deprived self wondered if the sun would ever rise again. A bit dramatic, yes, but true, nonetheless. Those nights were long, but every mother in all of motherdom has known long, sleepless nights and pure exhaustion.
But it wasn’t just the first-year pressures of motherhood that introduced me to a new low. Or that I lived the #toddlerlife for almost a decade. (Which I barely survived, I might add…)
Because, as much as I wanted to be a mother and as much as I love our three daughters more than life itself, I lost sight of someone along this journey of motherhood. Someone that I never knew I needed to protect or keep an eye on.
I had lost sight of myself.
And raising three daughters while feeling lost is like trying to tell your crewmen how to use the stars to navigate during a storm. It feels pretty much like you’re winging it every day. And that’s what I was doing. And when you’re winging it, most likely you’re spending lots of sleepless nights trying to drown out voices of failure.
When I started wondering who I was besides a mother, all the wonderful things that I love about being a mom were hard to bring into focus. And that feeling really scared me. I didn’t like it one bit.
But I also didn’t know how to clear away the fog, to find that sunshine I loved so much. And I didn’t feel I could reach out for help because I really wasn’t sure what the problem was. It didn’t have a face or a name at the time, just a collection of indistinguishable feelings that were far from tangible. Looking back, you could say I had a Motherhood Identity Crisis.
But there came a day, about five years ago, when I picked up my dust-covered pen and notebook and lost myself in writing. And slowly, with each page drowned in scrawled ink, I started to recognize the person I used to know so well and had the privilege of getting to know her again. Because so much time had passed, and she had grown in ways I hadn’t noticed til then.
Over time, with a consistent effort to write a little every day, I found myself again. And with that find, I became a better mother with a better understanding of how to nurture three girls into becoming capable young women.
It was this discovery that made me realize just how important taking care of yourself is when you are caring for others.
A well-maintained vehicle can last for years, but you can only get so far on fumes and duct tape.
So I will list some things you may have heard before but might need reminding of. Because you, dear mother, are so important to the people in your life. Not because they need dinner or clothes washed. But because you are the glue that keeps your family together. Your smile, your love, and your spirit affect your family more than you’ll ever know.
I’m not sitting here telling you this so you can give more of yourself. I’m telling you this because if you’re like me, you want to lay your head on your pillow and sleep the sleep of those who dream. Not lie awake thinking of all the things you didn’t do or should have done.
And you need to hear this because if you come to the place where you find you are losing yourself in motherhood, I want you to remember this post and give that unsettled feeling a name so you can ground yourself before you lose any more precious time to this.
So keep reading and let something resonate with you so you can take that very important first step in rediscovering yourself.
(I sometimes include affiliate links, which means I might make a small commission off any purchases you make, at no additional cost to you. You can read my full disclosure here or at the end of this post.)
How to Rediscover Myself After Motherhood
- Pursue a Passion
- Work a Job
- Give Back
- Take up a Hobby
- Take a Vacation
- Read a Good Book
- Get out of the House
I’m starting with this one solely because it was what brought me back to myself.
Writing is my passion, the one thing that can take me away from it all and bring me to a different place every time.
Aside from my identity as a Christian, wife and mother, being a writer means everything to me. It is who I am. So much so, that when I put it away in the busyness of motherhood, I became someone I didn’t know and didn’t like at all. I was hollow and living half a life.
Picking up the pen again gave me the means to express things I never knew were suppressed and reignited a purpose in my life that will continue to burn long after my children move out of our home and begin families of their own.
But writing is my passion.
What is your passion? Does something spark joy for you? What motivates you?
Is there something you were passionate about before you had children? Or maybe something new has caught your interest since then, or maybe you’d like to try your hand at something you’ve never done before. Whatever it is, do it.
Because doing something you love will help materialize the shape of who you are or who you once were, before motherhood. She’s still in there, you just need to bring her back.
My kids were young when I picked up writing again and trying to write with toddlers just doesn’t work well. So, I stayed up when they went to bed and lost myself in my worlds. Staying up late became a sacred time for me. It was the release I needed from my own reality and gave me the confidence in myself to return to it.
Maybe you can get up before the kids and spend time doing what you love in the quiet of the early morning hours. I am not a morning person so this does not apply to me. 🙂
Or ask your husband for an hour or two to yourself every day or every week. If you have a friend who has kids, maybe you can swap babysitting services so you and your friend can take turns working on projects.
There are ways to make time for your passion, it might take work or getting creative but you owe it to yourself to try.
This is a path many women have taken to rediscover themselves after motherhood.
If you worked before having kids, it’s a hard transition to go from a respected member of the workforce to cleaning dirty diapers and consoling a colicky baby all hours of the night. Every day for the foreseeable future. It’s an entirely different world and one that takes an adjustment.
Some work outside of the home because they need the money and some because that’s where they shine the best. They are good at what they do so returning gives them the purpose they might have lost sight of while staying home.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t work a job and still be a mother. There are so many incredible women who do both.
And it doesn’t mean that you love your kids less when you want to go back to work, either.
I held a paying job since I was 12 and was working two jobs by the time I was sixteen. By the time I finished college, my husband provided so I could write and when we started our family, I stayed home to raise our kids. I never had a desire to return to the workforce. Staying home suited me just fine.
But now that our girls are all in school, I do work from home. And I love love love the flexibility that provides. I found my fit and love what I do and truly couldn’t be happier.
If you can find a job doing what you love, something that allows you to grow and contribute to society in a way that satisfies you, your entire family will be better for it.
Sometimes rediscovering yourself comes when you find others to serve.
I have been visiting nursing homes every week for over ten years now. My girls go with me when they are home as this has been a part of our schedule most of their lives.
Do I always want to go? No. The older I get the less I like putting myself out there.
But I go because I know I should. Because I know it works on my heart and I need that. But I also go for my girls. To show them how to love others and that when you do for others, it changes you in the process.
They have seen, time and time again, that even when we felt least like going, we have always walked away feeling more blessed than we were a blessing. And that’s a life lesson I can’t always teach them in word only. They have to experience it for themselves. And I hope they have over the years.
If you think that’s something you can do, here’s my post that talks about it in more detail.
If nursing homes aren’t feasible for you, there are so many options available. Local churches, local food drives, shelters, they’re always looking for volunteers for their charity work.
But maybe you have an elderly neighbor that you can help every week. Or a friend who just had a baby and you can make a meal. There are countless ways to give back and adding that to your schedule will grow you in deeper ways than you ever imagined.
I’m really the worst person to talk about this one, but it’s here because it’s super effective and I’ve seen it work.
I’m just not very good at following through for longer than three weeks at a time. 🙂
Exercise is an incredible confidence booster and sometimes that’s enough to remind us of who we are outside of being a mom.
The more we take care of our bodies, the better we feel. And the more motivated you become to strengthen other areas in your life that might need an extra boost.
Let’s not forget the incredible example you are displaying for those little ones watching you do the hard thing every day. They need to take care of their bodies, too, and if it’s important for mommy, it’ll be important to them.
Now, I am not highly motivated. I’ll be the first to admit this.
However, I find that the right workout is key. If I think it’s work, my body doesn’t like it. I need to trick my body into thinking what I’m doing is fun.
Dancing is always my fall back workout. I love to dance and there are countless of workouts that center around dance. Probably because there seems to be a lot of people with finicky bodies like mine.
I have also found that low-impact workouts keep me on track pretty well. Yoga videos or barre workouts are great for those who can’t do straight-up cardio. (But these aren’t for wimps, they’ll still make you sweat!)
But if cardio is your thing, this workout by Jillian Michaels is by far my favorite and the one workout that gave me the fastest results in strength, endurance, and confidence. Not to mention I felt more toned and leaner than I ever have. And it’s only 20 mins a day but she breaks it down so that your time flies by. That’s key for someone like me. haha
There are soooo many things within our reach like never before, thanks to the internet. It used to be that if you wanted to learn how to do something, you either had to know someone who could do it or rent a book from the library.
Those days are long gone. Now you google how to do something and you have literally thousands of posts, YouTube videos, and tutorials that break everything down for you in a way that you understand best. It has never been easier (or cheaper) to learn a new hobby.
Learning something new gives you an opportunity to find something you’re good at that you might never have known about had you not dabbled. I have tried countless of things and always love the feeling I get when I realize how much I not only enjoy said thing but am actually good at it. This is a huge step in rediscovering yourself. Or learning a new thing about yourself. It might even become your new passion.
I got a drawing book for my birthday from my best friend and my husband and I have been working on one lesson a day. Just because we can. And have both found that we enjoy drawing. Something I never thought I had any talent for. (It’s a great book, very easy; highly recommended!)
And you know what? All three of our girls have watched us try something new and began their own sketches. I love that so much!
This point can go two ways:
a.) You can take a family vacation.
We have our yearly trip to Nebraska every Thanksgiving and we love that time together. Definitely have somewhere you go regularly that you can look forward to and build memories around.
But I’m talking about going somewhere new, someplace you might not know anyone and discover places together. For us, that was our Disney Cruise. It was a couple of years ago, but we still reminisce about that trip all the time.
That was something we did as a family that allowed us to see each other in a new light and gave me a fresh appreciation of our family. I could see other moms and how they interact with their children.
And, quite frankly, it allowed me to see that there were other moms just as tired as I was, who were trying to figure out this motherhood thing just like I was and also that loved their kids just as much as I do mine. That was refreshing to witness.
But it doesn’t have to be something like that. It could be taking a day trip to a town no one has visited before or exploring a nature reserve together. Getting outside of the home and seeing your children for the beautiful, curious young humans they are will renew in you the purpose behind why you do what you do every day.
b.) You can take a trip without the kids.
For us, that was a once-in-a-lifetime trip to New Zealand and Fiji. It gave me great anxiety to leave our kids for so long, but they got to make wonderful memories with both their grandmas and Steve and I needed this time away.
And I cannot tell you how therapeutic that trip was for me as a mom, as a wife, as a person. For once in our lives, we couldn’t use our phones so we disconnected from work and our lives in the states and got to explore another side of the world together.
By that point, we’d known each other for almost 18 years, but it felt like we were learning things about each other for the first time. By the time we returned, we felt better connected and more grounded in who we were as a couple and as individuals.
Now I know getting away for a couple of weeks isn’t always feasible. Or leaving for another country. But you could disconnect and get away for a couple of days closer to home. There are affordable places within a couple of hours driving distance from you, all you have to do is look for them.
I’m telling you, the time and cost will be worth it.
I am very serious about this one. And not because I am a writer. But because when I put away my writing, I put away reading books, too. And I lost my grip with the outside world and the adult way of life, and it was no doubt part of my problem.
When I made time for reading, even just a little here and there, I cannot tell you what that did for my soul. It was so refreshing to get lost in a world I didn’t create, with no one needing me and where I could read another adult talk about adult things like an adult. (If you are a mom of toddlers, you understand.)
Now, I am not a self-help kind of person. I can’t bring myself to read them hardly ever. But I am reading a book that a friend suggested, written by a fellow blogger, that will blow your mind if you struggle with doubt, getting started, or just not starting the things you want to do in life. I didn’t realize I struggled with half of the things she talks about, but I am halfway through her book and keep getting crazy motivated to take control of my future. You need this book if you want to find yourself:
Do It Scared: Finding the Courage to Face Your Fears, Overcome Adversity, and Create a Life You Love
But if fiction is more your genre, you can download an app on your phone that connects to your local library and never even have to leave your house. Unless you want to get away, then visiting the library will be a great, affordable option.
And if you love thrillers about serial killers, (here’s my shameless plug) I know a book that is an easy read and has great reviews. 😉
I’m leaving this for last mainly because it’s something easy you can do as a first step. Some of what I listed might take some arranging or time to pull off, but getting out of the house can be as simple as sitting on your front steps while your kids watch a movie.
Getting away from the frantic pace and volume of children is a must when you are a mom. Being able to hear your own thoughts can keep you stable when you start losing sight of yourself.
If you can schedule a date with a friend, do it! It will amaze you how refreshing talking (and laughing) with another mom can be. But just going out for groceries on your own counts, too. Those were my mini-vacations when my kids were younger.
I have a hammock outside my house that we use often. It is my lifeline to sanity when I need to silence my world and I can’t leave my property. Staring up at the puffy white clouds or twinkling stars have done more for me than anything else has.
My kids have even taken turns on it when they need to “get away”, too.
Are you starting to see a pattern here? Rediscovering yourself isn’t going to just help you. We are teaching our beautiful daughters that motherhood is a beautiful thing that doesn’t have to drag us down until there’s nothing left to salvage once our kids are grown.
We are teaching them that when we feel that disconnect it’s ok to take care of ourselves. There’s nothing weak about it. We are teaching the stepping stones of how to be a woman and how they can help themselves if they, too, struggle as a mom one day.
What valuable lessons they are learning from us and we don’t always know they’re watching. That right there motivates me to do better, not just for myself but for the future mom my daughter might be one day. I’m hoping that she won’t have to rediscover who she is, that she’ll be able to implement these tips and hold on to who she is while she enjoys motherhood to the fullest.
Only time will tell. But for now, I will keep working on me and I hope you start that first step to working on you, too.
Because we’re worth it.
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About the author
Kimberly McGraw is the founder of Life Worth the Living, a blog focused on helping mothers live their best life. Her desire is to help moms find purpose in who they are as a person, not just as a mom. Life Worth the Living has been featured in Making Sense of Cents, Outwit Trade and Believe and Create.