DEFIN­ING YOUR­SELF BEYOND MOTHERHOOD

You’ve im­mersed your­self in motherhood, but soon re­alise you can’t re­mem­ber who you were be­fore the pit­ter pat­ter of lit­tle feet. Our ex­perts ad­vise on how to strike a bal­ance.

Living and Loving - - CONTENTS -

Our pri­or­i­ties change as we move through the dif­fer­ent sea­sons of our lives, and it’s only nat­u­ral for a new mom to tie her iden­tity to that of care­giver.

Your re­la­tion­ship with your part­ner could slip through the cracks while you’re find­ing your feet though, and if you’re a sin­gle mom, you might be grap­pling with the idea of dat­ing again but a fear of tip­ping the scales could be hold­ing you back.

Life coach Sharon Piel agrees and says motherhood is life-chang­ing and many women lose their sense of self. “Although tak­ing care of your child’s needs is para­mount, you need to re­mem­ber you’re a woman as well as a mother – you have your own needs, goals and as­pi­ra­tions,” she says.

The jour­ney be­gins

It’s not un­com­mon for new moms to put their ca­reers on hold when start­ing a fam­ily. Sharon notes that while some moms pre­fer to stay at home af­ter hav­ing their baby, oth­ers look for­ward to re­turn­ing to their ca­reers. “Ei­ther way, new moms ex­pe­ri­ence ‘mom guilt’, with stay-at-home moms feel­ing guilty for not feel­ing com­pletely ful­filled by their role as a mother.” They may also ex­pe­ri­ence feel­ings of iso­la­tion and miss the men­tal stim­u­la­tion and adult con­ver­sa­tions of a work en­vi­ron­ment. “Women who pre­fer to, or have to, go back to work, may feel guilty for leav­ing their baby in the care of some­one else all day.” Sharon ex­plains that when it comes to whether or not to re­turn to work, there is no right or wrong choice. “Make a de­ci­sion that you’re happy with, based on your own per­sonal needs and cir­cum­stances.”

Find a bal­ance … or not?

Per­sonal de­vel­op­ment coach Thembi Hamma says there’s no known for­mula to strike an even work/fam­ily bal­ance. In­stead, be mind­ful and flex­i­ble about both your ca­reer and your fam­ily life. “Re­spect both as im­por­tant and un­even facets of your life and es­tab­lish prac­ti­cal and work­able bound­aries that suit your unique cir­cum­stances. All you can do is get up each morn­ing, show up and do your best.” Re­mem­ber to ask for help – if you’re jug­gling a ca­reer and a house­hold, hir­ing a helper or get­ting your part­ner more in­volved in house­hold chores will lighten the load.

“As much as we would like to take care of ev­ery­thing, the truth is, we can’t do it all by our­selves,” says Thembi. She also cau­tions that try­ing to be su­per­woman will not only ex­haust you, but de­mo­ti­vate you as you strug­gle to meet un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions.

Re­visit your ca­reer goals

If you’re em­ployed full-time and look­ing to climb the cor­po­rate lad­der, be­ing a mom shouldn’t de­ter you from pur­su­ing your dreams. Thembi sug­gests us­ing your time wisely, “Fo­cus on your work and get as much done as pos­si­ble, that way you won’t have to take work home.”

A good night’s rest can do won­ders for your mood and en­ergy lev­els. “Get enough sleep and re­sist the temp­ta­tion to stay up late at night as this will only make you grumpy and un­pro­duc­tive the next day,” says Thembi. If you find you spend a lot of time on so­cial me­dia, it’s a good idea to be more in­ten­tional about how you spend your time. “Cut out any un­pro­duc­tive habits that take up pre­cious time.” If you’re con­sid­er­ing start­ing a busi­ness, Sharon rec­om­mends net­work mar­ket­ing and sell­ing as this is a pop­u­lar choice that al­lows you to make your own hours. If you’re set on pur­su­ing the en­trepreneurial path, ask your­self: “What am I an ex­pert in and how do I use this to start my own busi­ness? Which of my hob­bies can

I turn into a busi­ness? What do my friends and fam­ily say I’m good at?”

Find your pas­sion

Sharon notes that it’s com­mon for moms to change ca­reers af­ter hav­ing a baby or when their chil­dren are older and start go­ing to school. To dis­cover your pas­sion and pur­pose, you need to re­flect on what’s im­por­tant to you. How can you make a dif­fer­ence to the world? What is the legacy you want to leave be­hind, and how can you use your strengths, knowl­edge and ex­per­tise to do this? Make a con­scious de­ci­sion to sur­round your­self with peo­ple who are in­spi­ra­tional. “This will in­spire you to bring out your best,” says Sharon. When you’re ex­cited about life, you ex­ude pos­i­tiv­ity and your kids want to be around that. They look up to you, and con­nect­ing with some­thing you’re pas­sion­ate about lets them know that it’s OK to be mul­ti­di­men­sional.

Rekin­dle your re­la­tion­ship with your part­ner

Re­mem­ber, you were a wife or part­ner be­fore you be­came a mother, and be­cause your baby has been your pri­or­ity, you may have for­got­ten that there’s some­one else who needs your love and at­ten­tion. “This is pos­si­bly one of the big­gest chal­lenges af­ter be­com­ing a mother,” says Sharon.

“Make spend­ing some alone time with your part­ner a pri­or­ity. Just like get­ting your baby into a rou­tine, find your new ‘nor­mal’ with your part­ner.” Re­con­nect and go on dates. “It doesn’t al­ways have to be in the evenings – even a lunch date will give you that much-needed break.” You can al­ways find a trusted babysit­ter who will al­low you to fo­cus on the other im­por­tant per­son in your life.

Our ex­perts agree that be­tween jug­gling re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and the need for rest, it’s easy to for­get your part­ner. Thembi cau­tions that putting off spend­ing qual­ity time to­gether, or leav­ing it to fate, could mean a well-run home, healthy and happy chil­dren, suc­cess­ful ca­reers, but los­ing each other in the process.

Give your­self per­mis­sion to date again

If your life con­sists mainly of you and your lit­tle one, the thought of dat­ing again may be daunt­ing. Sharon says it’s per­fectly OK to want to go out ev­ery now and then, and to pur­sue a re­la­tion­ship if you meet the right per­son. “Make sure you have a good sup­port sys­tem and that your child al­ways knows she is loved and is your pri­or­ity.” The rou­tine you have in place should con­tinue even with a babysit­ter as this will make you and your child feel more se­cure.

Sched­ule some ‘me time’

Spend­ing qual­ity time with your­self to re­flect on your life de­ci­sions will help you keep track of your dreams, goals and as­pi­ra­tions. “We all need that break from the hus­tle and bus­tle of life to re­group and take stock of what is hap­pen­ing in and around us,” says Thembi. If your idea of un­wind­ing is a trip to the spa, watch­ing a movie or sit­ting qui­etly in med­i­ta­tion, then go ahead. Thembi ex­plains that when we take time out to recharge our bat­ter­ies, we’re more ef­fec­tive.

Sharon agrees that it’s vi­tally im­por­tant for women to take care of them­selves. “Women wear so many dif­fer­ent hats, so we need to take time to get in touch with who we are at the core. Re­mem­ber, you can’t pour from an empty cup, so tak­ing care of your­self is not self­ish, it’s self-love.”

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