Before becoming a mom, I knew who I was.
I felt confident, sexy, and successful. I had built a career in NYC and L.A., married the love of my life, founded a flourishing business, penned a book for a major publisher, appeared in national media, and led sexy seminars for celebrities.
I went into motherhood riding on cloud 9, self-assured and fulfilled, thrilled about this exciting new chapter.
But as happy as I was to welcome my babies into my world, I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you becoming a mom also turned my world upside down.
Like every mom I’ve ever discussed motherhood with, along with the joy came something else. Of course our lives become busier, more chaotic, and hectic. Of course our priorities shift, our focus changes, and our days become filled with objects and activities once foreign to us — diapers, bottles, playdates, and Caillou (the worst!)…
But the ‘something else’ I felt–something I know nearly all mothers experience–is something deeper than that. I’m referring to the fundamental difference in who we were and who we become.
I’m no longer just Dana. I’m Rocky’s mommy. Indie’s mom.
Every breath I take, every decision I make, suddenly takes on new meaning.
I know you know what I’m talking about.
Along with this change comes a different relationship with your partner, friends, family, and self. Your emotions are different. Your priorities are different. Your body is different.
You wake up one day, look in the mirror, and suddenly the woman you’ve been for the past twenty or thirty-something years has seemingly been replaced with someone new, someone a little unfamiliar.
Past concerns and interests seem trivial.
Things that once excited or entertained you now feel like a waste of time.
Your energy is both sky-high and completely shot.
Your body feels like it belongs to someone else.
You wouldn’t trade your new life for your old one, or the often-exhausted new you for the old you; but the transition isn’t always easy. When I was pregnant, no one told me while that it would take time to figure out who the “new me” was as a mother. That it would be a journey beyond just learning how to care for a baby, but a process of learning how to care for, love, and accept the woman I became when I became a mother.
It takes openness, bravery and work to accept the new you–stretchmarks, exhaustion and all–and embrace who you have become and everything motherhood offers you. I did my fair share of stumbling & soul-searching and learned some pretty great lessons that helped me step into and embrace the “new me.” From one mama to another, I wanted to share them with you.
With that, here are 5 Steps to Accept the New You:
1. Take a look in the mirror
Stop avoiding your reflection, and take a long, hard, loving look in the mirror. Stand there, stark naked, and look over every inch of your amazing body. That body produced another life. It’s time to stop hiding and celebrate it–if somewhat more ample and slightly less perky–it’s more powerful than ever before. Just like you worked hard to overcome insecurities as you moved from adolescence into womanhood, you can overcome insecurities and celebrate the new body that came from motherhood.
Let your eyes land and dwell on each curve, lump, mark, or dimple. Like Pink! does, learn to love the “squish.” Resolve to treat your body well, nourish it, and move it as much as you can. And know that your partner is less critical than you may think. He loves your post-baby body, probably more than you think.
2. Take care of yourself
We’ve all heard the phrase, “she let herself go.” When you hear it, you might think of a friend or family member who “let herself go.” She has gained a lot of weight, stopped dressing up, and you can’t remember the last time you saw her wearing makeup or anything other than sweatpants. On one hand, this sentiment is filled with assumptions and unfair judgment of another person. We can’t fully know what another woman is experiencing in her life or with her health. But we do know what we are doing to and for ourselves.
So, create the time to take care of your body and your health, make the effort to dress up when you can, fix your hair and do your make up. True, you might look different–more mature and with a few more curves–but there’s no reason you shouldn’t recognize your sexy self in the mirror if you practice self-care. This isn’t about “keeping it up” for anyone else. It’s about “keeping YOURSELF up” so that you feel amazing, energized and more confident in your own skin.
3. Explore new interests
Maybe you no longer enjoy hanging out with your old friends in the same ways you once did. The bar scene is permanently a thing of your past and you don’t have time or interest to keep up with reality TV or the latest celebrity news. You won’t be training for another marathon any time soon, Crossfit is a no-go, and you’ll probably take a raincheck on epic shopping sprees. But just because your interests have shifted doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be interested in anything at all. If you think your entire life has to revolve around playdates and Play-doh, think again.
Doing only kiddie-stuff can be isolating and also flatten your grown-up, creative spirit. Pick up a novel during naptime, listen to podcasts on the Playground, take up yoga or meditation for stress relief. Getting to know the new you involves heading out for some new adventures to see what piques your interest. So, hit up a museum or gallery or pop by the craft store if making things is your thing. Just do something that gets you out of the ‘mom zone’ and into a place of interest and discovery.
4. Connect with other moms
If you and all of your friends, neighbors, cousins, and co-workers are having babies at the same time, this might be easier for you. But if you started a little early or a little late, or if you happen to be the only woman in your circle who is in the same stage of motherhood you’re currently in, this might take extra effort. Sign up for classes with the kiddos and strike up conversations with other moms, join Meetup.com or find Facebook groups for moms, look for mom groups at your spiritual center, synagogue or church, or hang around my community online.
Connecting with other moms, having heart-to-heart conversations, realizing you are not alone (or crazy), is critical in accepting your new self. We are all in this together. Some of us are having an easier time than others, but many of us are silently struggling to get to know ourselves again, accept who we have become, and fully embrace how the blessing of motherhood changes who we are. Plus, building relationships with other moms will help take the pressure off your relationship, because you won’t be relying on your partner for every drop of emotional support and companionship!
5. Express gratitude
One of the most powerful things we can do to move through struggle and change in our lives is to express gratitude, and often. Practice being thankful for every challenge. Appreciate the good and the bad. Even if we want to curse the weight we’ve put on, be thankful for your new body. If we are feeling buried in obligations and responsibilities, be grateful for them.
In the moments when you miss your freedom and carefree pre-baby life, close your eyes and feel the blessing of your new life. Having an attitude of gratitude always grounds me in the present, and puts me face-to-face with the countless blessings in my life. In my greatest moments of wondering “who am I now?”, gratitude always gave me the answer.
The new you is different, but she can be a more beautiful, powerful, sensual, interesting, nurturing, caring, and spiritual version of the old you.
A few years out and two babies in, I’m grounded and confident in knowing who I am as a mother and as a woman. Sometimes those two ‘beings’ still feel separate, but most of them time they exist as one, and very happily so.
What about you? Was it a process for you to recognize and accept your “new” self? What do you celebrate the most about who you’ve become now that you’re a mom?