I’m getting to know the non-mom version of me again

Because when you think of it, we’re always about 20 different versions of ourselves at once. We’re mother, daughter, friend, wife, teacher, doctor, nurse. 

I’m getting to know the non-mom version of me again

I distinctly remember how exciting the beginning of September used to feel. How the looming new school year was like this big empty bucket I could fill with raindrops of possibility. I can be anyone I want to be this year, I told myself.

I could go back-to-school shopping and get new clothes, a shiny Trapper Keeper (oh hey '80s babies!) and a fresh new 'do and walk into class feeling like a newer, better version of the person who left the year before. The power of the makeover was real and I could will myself to be the *new* me I wanted to be.

I had no idea that one day the new me would be a mother looking at herself thinking, “Who are you and where did the old me go? (I want the old me back.)"

The good news: this year I'm finally starting to remember who I am.

Who I am apart from being your mom.

Who I am apart from being your wife.

Who I am apart from who everyone expects me to be.

When my son was born, I was plunged into a world of uncertainty and anxiety. Throughout most of my life, I've felt generally confident. I always felt like if I didn't know something, I could learn. And that no mystery was ever too much to conquer. I was used to trying hard and working at something and reaping the rewards. I thought I could do the same with motherhood.

I laugh at the idea of that now.

Actually, I don't laugh. I feel kind of like how my mom must have felt when she saw me trying to master a new skill or talent growing up (similar to how I feel when I look at my son doing the same). She must have thought—you have so much ahead of you, you don't even realize what's in store.

I had no idea that with his birth the stakes would rise to an uncomfortable level. That it would feel foreign to me to have so much matter. (Did anything really matter before?) Suddenly, the same legs I had solidly walked on for 30+ years started to wobble.

I didn't realize that having this piece of me—in the form of a wholly separate, but eternally connected human—would make me feel so fragile.

That a person could exist that meant more to me than myself. Because when he was born, I suddenly felt like I mattered less. And I felt okay with that—then.

The non-mother version of me was gone forever, and I made peace with that. I thought this was the new me forever and that the old me was just...dead. She would never be able to exist again because there's no going backward. There's no forgetting or letting go that takes away that identity shift.

But then things began to change.

A year and a half passed and I was adjusting to new motherhood and getting less anxious. I remembered that I am more than just a feeding/cuddling/diaper-changing/playing mommy and that it would be okay (healthy even!) to think of myself as more than that.

I think that the new me was such a seismic shift, such a complete and utter takeover of my entire being that, at first, I had to give in to get by. I had to fully accept it to learn how to be comfortable and understand how to deal and live this new life.

But like I said, this year is my year. And September is the perfect time to reassess and list out exactly how I can find the old me again. Then the process of re-knitting her back into my life can begin.

Because when you think of it, we're always about 20 different versions of ourselves at once. We're mother, daughter, friend, wife, teacher, doctor, nurse. We don't have to give up one for the other.

Starting this September, I'm going to give up the guilt when it comes to doing non-baby related activities.

Yes, this means that sometimes I might work late. Or leave him with a babysitter for a date night. Or sleep in while I let my husband do the morning routine. It will never make me love him any less, and it will be great for him to be loved and cared for by a wider circle of people.

This September, I'm carving some time out dedicated just to me.

Whether that's to read, take up a hobby, focus on my creative writing or even binge-watch TV. This is my time alone to be myself without being beholden to anyone else's needs or whims. (What will I even do with myself?)

This September, I'm going to reconnect with my friends outside my home.

Make time for going out and dressing up and seeing people I really enjoy and care about. Because they have spent far too much time sitting on my couch while I run around trying to talk in between cooking dinner, doing laundry, and bathing the baby. Time for a venue change.

This September, I'll keep being grateful for everything I have. Marvel at my baby son and how he grows, and how I keep growing along with him.

New me, meet the old me. I think you two will really like each other.

Rarely is a woman more concerned with what her body needs than when she's pregnant. We start to question and research everything, right? From swearing off turkey sandwiches to diving down the rabbit hole of prenatal supplements that make up what we lack, the stress of overthinking is real, mama.

One of the main reasons we launched the Motherly Shop is to help take some of that stress away. We've tracked down the best brands and products developed by people (and in many cases, women!) that truly work to serve the needs of real mamas, especially throughout the overwhelming transition into motherhood.

That's why we knew we had to introduce mamas-to-be to the science-backed and expertly-formulated protein collagen for pregnancy from Needed. And as one of our bestsellers, it's clear you've been looking for it, too.

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

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