The first year of Little Miss K’s live is a blur. She was my second baby and I had myself convinced I had this whole mom thing down. So much so that I didn’t think I needed to take a maternity leave. I mean, babies basically sleep all the time, right? There’s plenty of time to get my MBA, work my consulting business, keep up with the house, and be a mom to my then-21-month old and newborn. And spend time with my husband. Oh yeah, and care for myself. The only thing was, there wasn’t enough time. I learned that lesson the hard way.
When we discovered we were expecting baby number 3 a couple years later, I knew right away that I would clear my plate of all other commitments and allow myself to focus on bonding with my new baby and helping my family get used to being a party of five. He was born last March, so from then until August, I shed all work commitments and gave myself the room to slow down on my blog. I know that was the right thing to do. But I didn’t know the right way to do it.
The first few weeks after Little Mister was born were very laid back. I gave myself (and my husband) LOTS of grace when it came to housework and preparing meals. And cartoons might have made their way onto our TV more often than I’d like to admit. But after a while, our laid back routine actually became more of a rut. I felt like I was on a hamster wheel of changing diapers, doing laundry, and washing dishes. And every chance I got to sit down, I was nursing my newborn.
Don’t get me wrong, I am honored to be in a position to care for my family. But I was beginning to feel like I was losing my identity. Like I was just in the background of our family, pulling the levers and moving the gears. I was beginning to feel like I wasn’t an actual person anymore.
Have you been there? Maybe you are there. Here are my ideas for when you feel like an invisible mom.
Start a project.
That mombie (mom-zombie) state always puts my head in the clouds. I am just sort of drifting along, not really present. When I have a project to work on, I feel a little more grounded. My time becomes more valuable because I have something more to do than prepare food, clean, and change diapers. I move through those tasks with more focus and intention because I want to make time for working on my project.
It is so important, though, to choose a project that isn’t going to stress you out. Don’t give yourself a hard deadline. In fact, allow yourself the option of not completing the project at all. I’m going to confess, I have several unfinished craft projects that I started during the first few weeks after my babies were born and I needed something to put my attention toward. I don’t know if I’ll finish them, and it’s ok if I don’t. Their main purpose was to help pull me back to the present and they served that purpose.
Take up a hobby.
Take up a hobby that is just for you. Pick something super easy and low pressure, something that you can easily pick up and work on for just a few minutes at a time if you need to. These are best for mom’s of infants and toddlers who may only get a few minutes alone time.
I talked last year about hobbies that soothe the soul. Hand-lettering, Zentangle, and coloring are so easy to get into and are relatively low cost. And they are great for calming your mind. You can easily sit down and color for 5 minutes if that’s all the time you have. Or take 5 minutes to write out an uplifting quote in cute hand-lettering. Don’t worry, you truly do not need artistic talent for these hobbies. It’s all about the process and the you-time.
And I don’t mean in yoga pants and that old Jack Johnson t-shirt from 10 years ago. I mean actually get dressed. Like, in clothes you like and feel cute in.
I’ve mentioned LuLaRoe before, but this is one of the reasons I fell in love with the brand. The clothes are cute and stylish, and also very comfortable. They helped me when I was feeling depressed and frumpy after baby number 3 because they are designed to be flattering on many body types. Also, the clothes are fantastic for capsule wardrobes!
Go out in public.
Even if you just go walk the aisles at Target, just get out of the house and around other adults. Be careful though. If you’re prone to a Target binge like me, leave your Red Card at home. In fact, leave all of your cash and credit cards at home! Maybe bring in enough to treat yourself to a Starbucks Latte. This is “me time”, afterall.
You don’t have to go to a store though. Other great options are the library, a museum, a botanical conservatory. But wherever you go, be sure to do this one thing. This is key to making this work. While you are out and about, make eye contact with other adults. Smile at them. Give someone a compliment. Ask someone a question. Communicate with another adult in some way. Because if you are just wandering around keeping to yourself, it defeats the purpose.
Meet up with a friend.
Grab coffee. Or drinks. Or just go to the grocery store at the same time. If you need to bring your kids along, try to prepare your kids that this is “adult time” and that you need to be able to talk with your friend. It might be hard the first few times if your kids are not used to having to share your attention. But it will get better. You’ll get used to it, and so will your kids, and it won’t feel so overwhelming.
Join a moms’ group.
If you had asked me 5 years ago when Little Miss S was a baby, I would have told you a moms’ group was not my thing. I just didn’t have time for something like that. I was busy working, volunteering, and being a mom and wife. But I’ve learned that making time to spend with other moms is wonderful for filling my cup. And you can’t pour from an empty cup.
The moms’ group I belong to is through MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). They are an international organization connecting moms all over. You can find a MOPS group near you by visiting MOPS.org.
Make an appointment for yourself.
A hair appointment, a nail appointment, hell an OB/GYN appointment if you’re due. Just get some time on the calendar that takes you away from the house. By yourself.
Actual appointments are great if you are not great at following through with commitments you’ve made to yourself. I can schedule me-time on my calendar for some yoga or just to relax and read. But it’s easy for me to not “show up” to those commitments because I convince myself I don’t need it or I’m too busy. But if I make an appointment with someone, I will make sure I am there because I don’t like to let other people down.
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It is so easy to get lost in motherhood. These little people need us and their need is great. But they don’t just need our hands to do the folding of clothes and washing of dishes. They don’t just need our arms to do the lifting and rocking and holding. They also need us. Our presence. Even when we feel invisible, they see us. They see the spark or the glazed look in our eyes. They hear the cheer or the distance in our voice. We are not invisible to them.
Have you experienced invisible mom syndrome? How did you cope?