So, if you are in that place, what do you do? First, and most importantly, let go of the guilt. Feeling guilty is for people who have done something wrong. Not enjoying every second of motherhood isn’t wrong. It’s okay to miss aspects of your pre-mama self and life. It’s normal to be annoyed by your baby, even when they’re just doing normal baby things. So don’t sweat the days when you think “Why did I do this to myself?”
Find your people. I joined a local mommy and me play time, and met some other mommies. I didn’t really bond with any of them, though. I joined a few online bulletin boards (remember them?) and found a few people I felt like I could chat with, but nothing local. A friend invited me to MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and at the end of the first MOPS meeting, I almost cried with relief. I had found “my people”. When I started staying home, Facebook was a new idea that people were just starting to find, there certainly weren’t groups and invites on it yet. The Blackberry was the only smart phone and we certainly couldn’t afford it. Today there are more ways to connect than ever. I could Yahoo IM my friends (man, am I old!) but now you can stay totally in touch with people even while playing Thomas the Tank Engine with a 1 year old. Meet moms at playgrounds or preschool. There are mom groups that have meet-ups and playdates all over: scheduled meetings, last minute get-togethers, laid-back play time at the park, or planned outings to local attractions. No matter what your style, there are other moms out there like you. You’ll find them.
Don’t do it all. I know that when you go to a friend’s house, it looks clean and organized and makes you feel worse about yourself. Either that friend has a cleaning lady or, more likely, before you came over she shoved all the clutter under and in things and sprayed some Febreeze. Unless you’re being contacted by State Health Department or the producers of Hoarders, you’re fine. If you don’t love baking, store-bought treats are great. You don’t have to make every single holiday a Big Thing. Some moms love that, you don’t have to.
Ask for help. This is super-hard for me. I don’t like other people to know I’m not completely capable to doing everything all myself and perfectly. But the truth is, I’m not. I will never forget the person who threw her arm around me when I totally lost it one day and said “You know what? We’ve all been there. You’re going be okay.” Or the mom who offered to take my son for a couple of hours while I was pregnant with my second so I could just nap. Moms need other moms. Don’t be afraid to ask, and don’t be afraid to offer. At home, explain to your partner exactly what you need “You never help!” isn’t useful; “Could you please do the dishes most days?” is. Ask a relative to come over play with the kids at your house so you can get stuff done. Trade babysitting with another mom in your area.
Find an outlet. Some people are crafty and find joy in that. I’m not and I don’t. My MOPS group gave me a place to practice one of my skills, which is leadership. I also found some opportunities where I could volunteer, even with a little one in a carrier. Doing the things we’re good at and that we love reminds us that we are more that “just a mom” and refreshes us.
After my second child was a few months old, I declared it the Year of Being Me. I still was nursing, but I was determined not to get lost in mommy-hood. I started doing my nails again. It had been 5 years since I’d been regularly giving myself manicures and it felt great every time I saw my hands. I made myself exercise, because I knew that I personally get more sluggish the less I move. I watched a grown-up show before bedtime. I read a book (something I love that I hadn’t done since having my second). I went out, one night every few months, with some mom friends just for dessert/drinks.
Whether you are a working mom, stay-at-home mom or somewhere in between, don’t let the mommy-ness overwhelm you and rob you of you. Don’t feel guilty for missing bedtime one night so that you can remind yourself how good it feels to laugh with your friends. Find your people, your outlet and yourself. Remember, no one does everything.