My first example of motherhood was my own mother.
Until I became one myself, I never stopped to think about how much she put into ensuring we were fed, clothed and protected. I grew up watching her cook meals for us almost daily—even with a demanding full-time job. She went to sleep late and rose early, with hardly any complaining. I never saw her simply kicking with her girlfriends, never saw her come home from the store with things just for herself.
Our mom was always thinking of us first.
I never thought about what that did to her mentally, throwing herself fully into the care of her family without taking real time for herself.
When I had my own son, her example was emblazoned on my mind and I saw myself falling into her footsteps.
I didn't realize I was running on empty, until I had a massive temper tantrum—or nervous breakdown—depending on who you ask.
I'd been really busy, as all mamas are, and didn't realize I hadn't taken any time for myself until a friend wanted to hang out last minute.
The baby was at daycare, so I didn't have to worry about childcare. But as usual, I had a long list of errands to do. I hoped to get most of it done before meeting my friend for desperately needed girlfriend time, but as the morning went on, I could feel the stress building up.
I was mad at my husband for some reason or another and the anger magnified as the stress rose. The errands suddenly seemed like a mountain blocking my path and before I knew it, I lost it.
I dropped dramatically onto the pile of dirty laundry and cried and cried.
I cried for my social life, or lack thereof.
I cried for all the sleep I wasn't getting.
I cried for the loss of my independence.
I cried because I needed help and I wasn't asking for it. My Supermom cape was around my shoulders and it was slowly choking the life out of me.
It was a wakeup call for me when I realized I was taking care of everyone else and leaving myself out.
Last week, I went for lunch and margaritas with a girlfriend. Although we both have kids, it was grownup time only. With my fellow mom friend, we talked about all things baby—breastfeeding, fatigue and gently laughed at our well-meaning but sometimes clueless husbands. It was nice to know I wasn't the only one experiencing the daily struggles of being a mother.
Then a few days later, I had drinks with my book club while the baby was home with his father. With these friends I reunited with my old self—the person I was before baby. I sipped Prosecco while laughing about missteps in the dating world and commiserating on typical work issues. As the familiar feeling of tipsiness spread over my body, I realized I needed and deserved more of this.
Both encounters, with different groups of friends, nourished my neglected soul.
The change in my mental well-being after taking time for myself was astonishing. I yelled at my husband less for his perpetually messy ways and I had more patience for my wildly active thirteen-month-old especially on the days he refused to take naps.
On the surface, nothing much really changed.
I didn't magically get more sleep at night and a housekeeper did not mysteriously appear to clean my house. Turns out, spending time on myself gave my body the reset button it needed so I could continue to be a good partner and mother for my loved ones. In fact, the simple act of wearing an outfit not designed for how fast I can whip a boob out was invigorating.
Motherhood is life-changing but that doesn't mean the person I am must completely disappear.
The moral of the story is—you can't pour from an empty cup, mama. Otherwise you might find yourself sobbing in the middle of dirty laundry.