That is a question I’ve asked myself a lot over the past year…
I have been blessed with 2 amazing daughters. Portia , age 4, is both strong-willed and acutely sensitive. Madeleine, age 2, finds humour in anything and everything- she just wants to laugh!
When Portia was a newborn (and until about the age of 6 months) she cried. And cried. And cried. It wasn’t colic/the period of purple crying. It was her personality, shining through from the get-go. I used to envy moms out on walks with their sleeping babies in strollers. I used to envy moms who didn’t have to leave from wherever they happened to be because their baby was so upset. I used to envy the moms that would “shh shh shhhh” and bounce their babies until they quieted and even fell asleep. That whole ‘blissful’ newborn stage was SO overwhelming for me. I felt so trapped. In the moments where I questioned my abilities as mother, I took comfort in the fact that I was giving my all to my beautiful daughter. I just kept giving and giving and giving.
I had so much love to give Portia, but she didn’t seem to want it. She just wanted to cry. A lot. And I did too. A LOT.
I started to understand Portia when she was able to communicate more with us. At around 10 months, we started baby sign language because she would panic (and cry) that she couldn’t tell us what she wanted. (And that’s an understatement. She would FREAK OUT when we didn’t know what her babbling meant. I felt so helpless!) By about 1 year, she had mastered the signing and things got a lot better. There was less crying and more giggling. I felt like life was going to maybe be ok after all! I started to ENJOY being a mother. There was never a moment that I did not love Portia with all my heart, but now I REALLY loved her and felt like I could actually be out of the house like a ‘normal’ mama and baby duo.
It took a lot of mustering up of courage to decide to try for another baby. I really wanted Portia to have a sibling, otherwise, to be completely honest, I really wonder if I would have had another. THANK GOODNESS WE DID!
Madeleine has been that baby where everyone wants to point out how “good” she is and how “happy” she is. And it’s true… from the very beginning she has always been this cheery little being. She’ll do anything for a laugh and she goes around flashing smiles at anyone with whom she can convince to make eye contact.
My family felt complete and I was on the road to feeling like an actual person again.
Until I started experiencing anxiety.
Everything had been feeling really good. I was teaching again part time, my children were loved and happy, I was running my own business… all the things I’ve always dreamed of…
But something was missing. Now I know that it was the most important piece of the puzzle that was amiss! Gone. Vanished. Lost, even.
Amidst loving and caring for my family and giving them all I had, I had forgotten to care for and love myself.
Hitting a wall this past year has been a gift. I needed this. My heart, mind and soul gave up on my body and my body gave in. My surprising unraveling made me realise that I wasn’t living the inspired life that I knew I wanted to be living. I was going through the motions, but not truly living the moments. My days were dictated by to-do lists and routines and schedules and I felt days, months and YEARS slipping past me. I think at some point, we all feel this happening to us. I believe it’s life’s reminder to slow down and savour our time here. And that will look different for each of us!
When I first starting feeling like my life was suddenly spiralling out of control, I would sometimes sit on my couch with a cup of tea and stare out the window. I wouldn’t move for an hour, except for the muscles in my arm needed to lift the cup of tea to my lips. In retrospect, it was my own form of meditation. I needed my mind and my body to just be still. It made me feel alive to be so inanimate.
I knew I needed to make some changes. I had to remind myself what was important to ME. What makes me THRIVE? I know exactly what my family needs and what makes their lives the best they can be. But… what… about… me?
I started being less selfless. ‘Less selfless‘ does not mean ‘selfish‘. Less selfless means that it is perfectly ok … NO!!… that it’s NECESSARY that we do things for ourselves sometimes. We cannot give the best of ourselves to the people we love the most if we aren’t living a life that reflects our best selves.
I started working out. It’s been on one of those aforementioned to-do lists for years! I started seeing friends more often and making better use of my unlimited daytime minutes on my cell plan. I started wandering the mall or going for walks alone. I’m working on reconnecting with a person I had (almost entirely) forgotten existed. Myself!
I laugh really hard and unapologetically. I have dance parties while I do my makeup in the morning. I do the things that I used to do before I was always in a rush and before I had the responsibilities of motherhood reigning down over me. I am ever so slowly removing the expectations I had placed on myself to be a mother that I know I will never be. I don’t want to be that person. I want to be me.
Being a thriving mother means being a thriving individual first and foremost. Somewhere along the way, I lost sight of that. If I remain true to who I am, I won’t lose sight of it again. I’ll have more reminders along the way but they will surface in different manners.
And that is a-o-k.