First and foremost, it is important to note that I am not a psychologist or doctor, and that this is documentation only of my journey as a parent. This is a series that I hope will assist any other parents out there with concerns or questions they might have. The Essential Mommy Guide Series will be a collection of posts with different adversities and opportunities I encountered beginning with the birth of my first child and continuing with the birth of a second child and expanding our family by acquiring custody of our oldest daughter.
Essential Mommy Series: Finding You Again After Becoming Mommy
Leading up to my son’s birth, I tried to read several books about what to expect and how to care for your newborn. Being in the military, and as a first time mom, they have a wonderful program in which a nurse comes to your house to aid with understanding your pregnancy and then assisting with any questions or concerns you may have up until your child turns 6 months old. I fully appreciated the program and took full advantage of it for my son, but I neglected to turn any of the focus onto myself.
The nurse was very attentive and asked after I gave birth to Alex if I was experiencing any of the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression (link brings you to mayoclinic). I truly did not experience anything beyond the typical baby blues, but I did begin to notice something nagging at me. I was faced with the decision to go back to work or to stay home and raise my child. Establishing a career had gone out the window when my husband received orders to Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Prior to that I had worked at the IRS and was on a path to climbing the GS ladder. I was unable to continue my career in the IRS because there were no IRS jobs in the area of Florida we had moved to. The area thrived on tourism, so most jobs were lower paying customer service jobs. I applied for several jobs on base, but was unable to secure any job on base. I ended up getting a job as tech support for a company, but the pay was not enough to make going to work worth it. I chose to stay home and raise my son in lieu of working to pay for someone else to raise him.
This would be the first time since I was eighteen that I would not have a full time job, and the first time since I was thirteen that I would not have the means of supporting myself financially in some way. I began to feel lost, like I was falling down a rabbit hole and wasn’t sure where it was going to take me. My only duty in life was to be Mommy, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that.
Since moving out of my parents’ house at the age of nineteen and living out on my own, I had never experienced having to rely completely on someone else for my means of survival. My husband is very reliable and loving and never made any indication that I was an added burden, this was the experience that I encountered inside of my mind and heart. I had judged my self worth by my accomplishments at work and my ability to support myself. To add to the fact that I no longer understood how to measure my self worth, I also struggled with my self esteem. Things that had once come so easily to me were now a daily battle. Working out and doing my best to be healthy are things that I have strived for since I graduated from eighth grade and made a commitment to being fit. I was the heaviest I had been since eighth grade, and it was affecting my self esteem.
One realization was that being Mommy was the hardest job I had ever had. My son and sleep were not friends. For naps, I was walking and singing to him for nearly forty-five minutes so that I could get him to take a 30 minute nap. I very seldom was able to slip away to use the restroom, and sometimes being able to make breakfast or lunch just didn’t happen. When Alex, my son, was about three months old, is when I really started to lose my bearings inside the rabbit hole. I worked hard to make sure Alex and my husband were well taken care of, because that had become my job. The problem was, I neglected to take care of myself and find the time to get reacquainted with the new version of me in this phase of my life. It was during this time that my husband went TDY for NCO Academy at Tyndall AFB.
With my husband away, I went into a negative spiral and one day called and lost it on him. That was my low point, but he was a saint as always and the conversation ended on a high note. That next day, I read something that altered my entire perspective. My cousin, Rosemary Barrow, a Cross Fit athlete and personal trainer in Oregon, posted an article on Facebook the day after I hit my low point and it started me down the path I needed to be on. This was the article I read, Positively Positive, and I used it as a guide. I printed it out and stapled it to the wall in my room so that I would see it every day and it would remind me that my life is in my control.
My perspective was the major problem, and I acknowledged that first. I knew that I had to stop looking at my life with the eyes from my past and start looking at my life with my Mommy eyes. I could no longer measure my worth by accomplishments and pay checks, but I could measure it by something way more meaningful. I realized that every time my child smiled or did something new or learned something new, I was a part of that and the tummy time, story times, play time and interactions I had with him were making him into the incredible person I witnessed and continue to witness him growing into.
I was so focused on what I could no longer do that I lost sight of who I wanted to be. I made the commitment to be the best me I could be, which meant I would strive to also be the best mom and wife I could be. This became my new every day goal.
My inclination to continue looking at myself as a failure because I could not contribute to the household the way I used to affected my ability to be positive and productive. I shifted my attention from being a financial contributor to being a contributor of love, support, and household duties. I became more productive and positive in my role as Mommy, wife and household maintainer.
My energy had been negative because of my inability to see how important my new role was in my family. When I switched my perspective and realized I needed to make the change and acknowledge how important my role is, I concentrated all of my energy into positive light. That change opened a gateway for me to start challenging myself by exploring things I had never done before.
I looked up events in my area and started attending library story times. I was invited to join a mommy group and pushed myself to go, no matter how uncomfortable I was stepping into a group where I had only one acquaintance. I started becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable in situations I was not used to. This was the first time in my life I had to build my own routine. After I acknowledged that I had to shed the skin of my past views and measurements of myself, I started working on the new me I wanted to be.
My role as Mommy was my top priority, but I also realized that I had to include some things for myself as part of the daily routine. In the morning, right around the time Alex normally started to get tired for his morning nap, I went to a walking path in our area, would put him in the stroller and would walk at a moderate pace for as long as he would sleep because it was the only time he would fall asleep without a struggle. I got my exercise in, some peace and quiet, and both of us got fresh air and some nature time.
I started taking Alex to library story times, which gave both of us some social time. Through the library story times, I met another mom who created a mommy group. I joined the mommy group, and play dates, library story times, park meet ups and walks became a large part of our routine. The mommy group was definitely the best thing that could have happened to Alex and I. I gained some amazing friends, experiences and life lessons that have helped mold me into the mommy and person I am today. The greatest assets and resources we have as new moms and moms in new areas, are other moms, dads and parents.
Life has several chapters, each one of them is different and shapes the character you ultimately become, but if you come across the chapter where you become Mommy, be sure to take the time to find you again in your new role as Mommy.