I used to watch shows where a pregnant mother would say, "I’d die for my child." This was always a very strong and seemingly unbelievable statement to me... until I was called upon to carry my own.
It was unplanned and the father did not want it. But I could not fathom the idea of ending a life that the universe had trusted me to protect. The father was unemployed, his two kids already lived with us, and he couldn't take the pressure.
I asked myself “How could you give two children who are not biologically yours the moon and stars, but can’t give birth to the new life that chose you?" YES! I said chose. Out of all the women in the world, this life that wanted to come into being chose me. In gratitude, I chose his life as well...and I wanted his life to be amazing.
In fact, dare I say, I wanted it to be perfect? And, just like that, I'd taken my first step down a slippery slope into losing my self-identity.
In my defense, it happens suddenly when you're a mom. The first time you hear yourself being referred to as someone’s mom instead of your name, you are joyfully shocked and surprised. Who wouldn’t be? Especially when it's your first born. It’s a badge of honor and tangible proof of your greatest creation. As your child gets older, you start to unconsciously take on the “perfect” parent identity.
The parent identity is your higher self on steroids. It’s when you immerse yourself in your child’s growth. Your life is centered around their activities and you begin to slowly stop thinking about your own identity, losing yourself. You may have times when you catch yourself and say, “I’m going to get a life!” however you can’t even remember what that looked liked, least of all feels like!
What happens next? You begin this quest of self-discovery that may have you feeling as though you are neglecting your parental duties. Or you may find yourself in a position where you feel like you have to constantly choose yourself or your child.
Why does it have to be a choice?
One of the most important lessons that I’ve learned as a mother of children, with a 13 year age gap, is that as you are growing and experiencing life, so is your child.
The solution is to create an intentional experience that allows you to cultivate a relationship with your child that keeps both of your best interests and identities at the forefront.
The key here is to be intentional.
As a mom, you have two identities: The first, is the parental identity, which is the way you conduct yourself and the routines you assume to influence your child's growth.
The second is the self-identity, which is comprised of your experiences, beliefs, and inner reflections. Interestingly enough, this is the part of you that is not ideal or perfect. In this space, you have faults and insecurities that will unconsciously flourish when you do not nurture your self-identity. The part of you that cares about how you look, is interested in nurturing your inner passions, and actively works to confront negative thoughts.
When we're still attempting to assume the role of "perfect mom," we wear our parental identities most often. We focus on the four corners of life that keep our children healthy and happy: academics, fitness, social interaction, and Discovery. However, just as you are strategic about nurturing your child's development, it's important to support the four corners of your self-identity, that will help you to continue to evolve as a healthy, happy, "no longer needing to be perfect" mom.
The Four Corners of Self Identity are Self-care, work life, relationships, and health.
Self-Care is when you create time to either do or discover things that you enjoy. They are activities that you used to do before being a parent, such as drawing, listening to music, reading, or self-discovery activities. The most important thing to remember about self-care is that they are made up of activities that you want to do and can be seamlessly added to your day.
Work life can be less stressful when you identify what you plan to complete daily. This will allow your day to go faster and you will feel accomplished.
Relationships allow you to connect with other adults outside of work and without your children. This can be done with friends and significant others in person or on the phone.
Health can be as small as ensuring you’re eating healthy and getting in regular physical activity. A good bill of health can assist with alleviating stress and extending your life.
The good news is, Parental and Self identity can co-exist when you’re mindful that both need to be cultivated equally. The example you will teach your child is that you can be true and kind to yourself even while taking care of others.