This was originally published as my first contribution to Mother.ly magazine, back in 2014. While some of the circumstances have changed, i.e., my children are now 6 and 8, and I do actually get a little more sleep, the basic tenets remain the same.
“You aren’t a person, you are a mommy.”
This is what I heard one exhausted morning, after using logic to explain to my small children why they should sometimes wake Daddy (a very capable Daddy) for early morning needs.
We walked through it, step by step. “All animals need rest. All humans are animals. Therefore all humans need rest.” I thought we were all on the same page.
My two-year-old and my four-year-old were throwing out ideas: “Yea, like doggies need rest, and like birds need rest, and crocodiles need rest, and I need rest and all kids need rest, because all people need rest.” Excitedly, I offered the next piece, the conclusion, the a-ha.
“Right! And so then you know that I need rest—I am a person—so I need rest!”
They looked at me and kind of laughed. “You don’t need rest! You aren’t a person! You are a mommy!”
That explained so much.
But it’s funny because often times throughout my days or my week, that’s kind of how I feel. Like why would I need real lunch? I’m a mommy. Or why would I consider taking a shower this morning? I’m a mommy.
A few days can go by without rest, or alone time, or a real lunch, and everything is swimming along just fine, still blissfully in love with mommyhood, until that next morning. Or the next time someone needs to tell me a story at 3 am. Or when I’m called outside from prepping dinner to answer “now how was the whole world made in the first place, anyway?*” Or when I have said the words Put on your shoes please. Put on your shoes please. Please put on your shoes 400 times and no one can hear me.
And then I realize I haven’t felt like a person outside of “mommy” in one moment too long.
Nearly five years into motherhood this realization still surprises me. It surprises me that I’m still not used to not being able to leave the house whenever I want. It surprises me that somebody needs me 24/7. And it shocks me at how hard that is for me from time to time, as I love these two little beings with all my might.
Fortunately, I have a longstanding yoga practice, long enough so that even on days I never reach the mat, I can fall into yoga mind, and drop down into heart space. I can maneuver from heart—and when I can’t—when that feels too difficult, when I can only hear my mind working, projecting, worrying, list making—I know I’m too far from center. At that moment, I know I need to return to being a person immediately, to regroup, to re-center.
Once upon a time I didn’t believe this was all that important. I thought the most important thing I could do would be to be available for my children at all times.
But as I’ve learned – that is not of best service.
I cannot be a good mother unless I’m treating myself as a person first. It doesn’t take much to get me there—but the realization of this, the acceptance of this, the understanding of my limits and boundaries has helped me find my way as a person-mommy. And for this, my heart has more love to bestow upon my darling babies. Which in my book, makes me a better mommy after all.
So my message here, to you, to you busy beautiful mama, today is this. It’s ok if you want to be a person sometimes. If you are ever finding yourself in that “not a person” place, and if that place can lead to resentment, or burn out, or sadness, or anxiety, or whatever it may be—please enlist a practice of mine that has helped me restore peace and balance time and again.
Create an inspiration list. Create a list of any places, quotes, poems, songs, colorful clothing items, body work, special nature spots, recipes, people, exercises, literally ANYTHING that breathes light back into your spirit. Depending on the availability of time or the nature of your circumstance, you may only have the freedom to make a cup of tea, go pick up that book of Mary Oliver and read quietly to yourself, or you may have the time to take the morning and go be a tourist in your own town. Whatever it is —do it. Your heart needs it. Your Spirit needs it.
And then, beyond all that, your children need it. Mine now recognize when I’ve had enough. My son will actually tell me that I seem “a little off. Maybe cranky. Do you think we should do a beach trip and collect some rocks?”
Trust me. You deserve the time it takes to feel like a person again – and your entire family will enjoy their mommy who is also a person.
*Note. I actually love these questions. Just an example of all the different jobs in a day.