Par­ent­ing – Get your groove back

Moth­er­hood doesn’t mean los­ing your iden­tity. Here’s how to bal­ance fam­ily re­spon­si­bil­i­ties with lead­ing a ful­filled life as a woman.

True Love - - Contents - By SISONKE LABASE

The in­tro­duc­tion to moth­er­hood is stress­ful: you’re all about chang­ing nap­pies, feed­ing baby, be­ing sleep­de­prived and feel­ing over­whelmed. And the fact that life doesn’t stop just be­cause you’re a mother only adds to your stress. You must still be a part­ner, ca­reer­woman and friend. So, when do you get to be you? Moth­er­hood may be re­ward­ing, but it’s okay to miss the person you were be­fore hav­ing chil­dren.

We asked moms how they man­aged to find their iden­tity and re­con­nect with the fun person they used to be be­fore chil­dren took over their lives.


Try­ing to do it all on your own is a trap. Del­e­gate tasks and ask for help, ad­vises Zim­bini, 30. “I rely on fam­ily and friends to step in now and again. Their sup­port keeps me go­ing and gives me peace of mind,” she says.

Par­ent­ing coach Susan Gre­gorHarlen says trust is one of the main rea­sons moth­ers hold back. “Most moms don’t trust that some­one else will be good for their chil­dren. They think the fa­ther won’t put the kids to bed on time or the aunt may not do the things we do for our chil­dren. You need to learn to let go,” she says.

The old cliché that it takes a vil­lage to raise a child still holds true, says Kego, 33. “Hav­ing my fam­ily around helps. My mom is great at fetch­ing my son from school and at­tend­ing school ac­tiv­i­ties when I’m swamped at work. I also have a helper who as­sists me to run the house.”


The friends who knew you be­fore you be­came a mom are im­por­tant. Some of them may not have kids, but they’ll be sym­pa­thetic when you want a shoul­der to cry on. This is what Amanda, 28, learnt when she be­came a mother at just 17. “Don’t ig­nore your friends – it’s so easy to get caught up in rais­ing your baby. I was for­tu­nate to go back to school and have my mother step in to look af­ter my daugh­ter. It en­abled me to get back to my old self.”

Your friends know you best, as Mbali, 33, came to re­alise. “Sur­round your­self with like-minded peo­ple,” she says. “It’s im­por­tant to have a life out­side your

kids. Hav­ing ‘adult time’ to go out with your friends, without the chil­dren, is rein­vig­o­rat­ing,” says the mother of twins.

Gre­gor-Harlen agrees. “Your friends un­der­stand you. At times, you just need a sound­ing board, not some­one to fix your prob­lem. It’s best to have a va­ri­ety of friends, from sin­gle women to ca­reer-fo­cused women to other moms. Oth­er­wise, all you talk about is your chil­dren. This is ideal as you’re stim­u­lated in dif­fer­ent ways.”


Whether it’s be­ing with your girls, shop­ping or tak­ing a nap, you need to set time aside for your­self. Khathu had her first child when she was 26, and now, a few years later, she still strug­gles to bal­ance moth­er­hood and so­cial­is­ing. “It’s hard to set aside ‘me’ time. I’m learn­ing to sched­ule it. I told my hus­band that I’m do­ing some­thing for my­self at least once a month.”

To put her plan into ac­tion, Khathu de­cided to go back to school. “Now I jug­gle school, kids, work and be­ing a wife. I do feel guilty, but I’ll get there.”

Mia Re­nee Redrick, the au­thor of Time for Mom-Me: 5 Es­sen­tial Strate­gies for a Mother’s Self-Care, rec­om­mends jour­nal­ing. “The goal is for you to hear your­self again. Have a writ­ten record of things that you want to change. Tak­ing the time ev­ery day to hear your in­ner de­sires is the best way to live fully.”

Mahlape, 38, re­alised later that she’d lost her­self and didn’t take time out when she had kids. “I be­came a mom at 28. It was ex­cit­ing and life-chang­ing. That’s why it was so easy to lose my­self. I didn’t even no­tice it hap­pen­ing. I only learnt later that it’s im­por­tant to take care of your­self and still be you.”

Gre­gor-Harlen ad­vises start­ing to take ‘me’ time with small steps. “If you don’t, the world in­side you will erupt. You’ll feel re­sent­ful and it af­fects ev­ery­one at home. You’ll feel as if you’re fail­ing those around you. It be­comes a vi­cious cy­cle. Even if it’s 15 min­utes a day, take the time to do some­thing you love, and then grow from there.”


Mother-of-one Nozuko, 38, says she stopped want­ing to be per­fect. “I created the bound­aries af­ter I suf­fered from a mild form of post­na­tal de­pres­sion. I was over­whelmed that this baby de­pended on me for ev­ery­thing. I even­tu­ally de­cided not to feel guilty for not be­ing the best me all the time. I also got my hus­band to step in for two hours so I could go to the cin­ema or got the helper to watch my child while I went to gym. I let go of the guilt and re­alised I’m still Nozuko with dreams and am­bi­tions, and it’s okay to not be per­fect,” she says.

Gre­gor-Harlen says guilt pre­vents moth­ers from tak­ing care of them­selves. “Women feel that if they spend time on them­selves, they’re neglecting their chil­dren. They feel they’re not be­ing the per­fect mother. Ask your­self this: ‘If I can give my­self 10 min­utes to have a cup of tea, will the world end?’ and ‘Won’t I be a bet­ter mother if I’m calmer af­ter hav­ing done some­thing nice for my­self?’ If you don’t take the time to un­wind, you bring your stress into the home en­vi­ron­ment and no one wins.”

Redrick says find­ing your hap­pi­ness makes life eas­ier. “A mother’s hap­pi­ness con­trib­utes di­rectly to her fam­ily’s well­be­ing. My mother said be­ing a mom is what you do, not who you are. Be­ing a good mom has a lot to do with your abil­ity to be good to your­self, so cre­ate a bal­ance by liv­ing fully, stay­ing healthy, dream­ing big and find­ing ways to grow.”


There are var­i­ous stages of moth­er­hood, de­pend­ing on how old your child is. Ba­bies and tod­dlers are more de­mand­ing of your time and at­ten­tion, but they grow to be more in­de­pen­dent. So, it stands to rea­son that if you have a two-year-old, your life will be struc­tured dif­fer­ently from that of your friend with a pre-teen.

No­luthando, 34, is a mother of two. She ex­plains how she learnt to let go with each mile­stone her son reached. “With my first child I was over­whelmed and didn’t know what I was do­ing. I tried to han­dle ev­ery­thing my­self and be a great mom. I didn’t take care of my­self or my ap­pear­ance. I was a stu­dent at the time, as well as a wife and a new mom, so I was con­stantly busy. It was only af­ter my son turned six months and I be­gan bot­tle-feed­ing him that I re­alised I could leave him with my aunt and do things for my­self. I re­alised that the more he grew, the more I could let go a lit­tle. It’s great now with my sec­ond child, be­cause I know bet­ter and my son helps out. He likes play­ing big brother.”

Mar­cia Matau, a coun­sel­lor at Care­ways, says: “Learn to let go and stop try­ing to do ev­ery­thing right. If you have older chil­dren who can help you around the house, let them. And take the time to take care of your­self. ”


Whether you want to get your body back by los­ing weight, move to a big­ger house or start a busi­ness, pin all your hopes and dreams on this board. Cut out pic­tures so it’s vis­ual or pin mo­ti­va­tional quotes onto your board. Redrick sug­gests you ask these ques­tions be­fore jour­nalling or mak­ing a vi­sion board: What do I want for my life? Who am I? What do I like about my life? What do I want to change? What’s working and what isn’t?

Then do it. Phumi, 32, says: “I don’t have a vi­sion board, but I’ve stuck lit­tle notes and self-pro­claim­ing mes­sages around the house to re­mind me of my goals. My part­ner thinks I’m crazy, but he’s come to un­der­stand why I do this and reads the quotes too. This mo­ti­vates me to know who I am and what I want be­yond be­ing a mom and part­ner.”

Mind power ex­pert Robin Banks says one’s thoughts de­ter­mine one’s des­tiny: “Your mind is like a gar­den of rich fer­tile soil. Any seed you sow, nour­ish and care for will grow. It makes no dif­fer­ence to the soil what seed you sow. Same with your thoughts: it makes no dif­fer­ence to your mind what thoughts you fo­cus on, be they thoughts on suc­cess or poverty, hap­pi­ness or mis­ery. But it makes all the dif­fer­ence to you and the har­vest you will reap in your life.”

Matau adds: “Hav­ing chil­dren doesn’t mean you have to give up on your dreams. This will lead to re­gret. Keep re­mind­ing your­self of your as­pi­ra­tions with jour­nalling or a vi­sion board while be­ing the best mom you can be.”

Gre­gor-Harlen con­cludes: “To avoid feel­ing over­whelmed, ask your­self: ‘In five years’ time, will this af­fect my child’s fu­ture or my life?’ If not, let it go. And let go of want­ing to be per­fect be­cause per­fec­tion is an il­lu­sion. For­give your­self and pur­sue your pas­sion. Re­mem­ber: all kids want is hap­pi­ness and calm.”

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