Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ten Steps to Being a Happier, More Balanced Mommy

I recently watched an episode of The Simpsons with my family. In the episode, Marge reconnects with her "mommy" friends and starts creating a social life for herself outside her family. My favorite part of the episode is animation of Marge's brain, showing the different segments of her life. A very large chunk of her brain is labeled "Repressed Rage," but after just a few moments of hanging out with her friends, that part of her brain is pushed aside by the part labeled "Social Life."

My oldest boy interpreted Marge and the other moms as "hating their kids," because they wanted to spend time with each other and not be with their kids every moment of every day. I explained, of course, that was far from the case and that like me, even those cartoon moms love their kids, however, moms are people, too. I explained that it makes me happy to spend time with my friends or go places by myself and do things I like to do, just like he enjoys playing with his friends and doing the things he finds fun.

It took me the first two years of his life to realize that and start trying to find a sense of balance and sometimes even now, eight years in, I feel like I don't have the full and richly balanced life I want. But I try. I know that if I have things in my life that matter to me besides my kids, things that make me think and breathe and feel and wonder and use skills other than my parenting smarts, I am a happier person. I am woman, wife, lover, friend, cousin, writer, creator, dreamer, and believer. Not just mommy, cleaner of spills and wiper of bottoms, storyteller and consoler. If I model a balanced life for my sons, hopefully they will one day strive to create lives of their own that balance responsibility with their passions.

If you're a new mom or if you've found yourself stuck in the mommy rut, never leaving your house except to grocery shop, never talking about anything other than your kids or to anyone other than your kids, and more or less feeling like you don't know who you are any more, here are a few ideas to help you reconnect with yourself and rebuild a complete life that celebrates your role as mother and allows you to be fully who you are:

1. Spend some quiet time alone each day or as often as you can, doing nothing.

2. Pray or meditate.

3. Learn to say no to your children.

4. Resume a hobby you put aside, like writing, reading for pleasure, painting, playing music, etc.

5. Take a class.

6. If you're married or live with your significant other, let your partner get up with the kids when they awake early or in the night.

7. Turn off the Laurie Berkner and listen to music you love. (Watch the lyrics, though!)

8. Plan at least one night alone with your partner each week or bi-weekly at the very least. (If you can't afford a sitter, trade with friends. Or put the kids to bed early and have hubby pick up some take out. Turn off the t.v., put on your favorite music, and just talk.) If you're single, plan a night out with a friend or friends once a week or so to unwind and be with other adults (besides your co-workers!).

9. Read. Books. Magazines. Online newspapers. Let yourself be informed and entertained and feel like you know about something other than Sesame Street or Yo Gabba Gabba.

10. Exercise. Whether it's a walk around the block, a Stroller Strides class, Zumba, training for a marathon, or lifting weights, find a fitness routine that helps you burn off frustsration and do something good for yourself.

And always remember to be kind  to yourself. Parenting is hard work and whether you're a stay-at-home mom or work outside the home, there are few breaks from it, at least until your kids start school and that requires a different kind and level of mental energy. Just remember the person you were before having kids and know she's still in there and all the better for being a mommy.


Kel said...

you are so right...being a mom is hard work and it is OK to be a mom and a person too. Thanks for the reminder!

Christine said...


Kimberly said...

I'm you newest follower! You are so right! We need to remember to not lose ourselves. Thanks for this!

Dawn said...

Thanks, Ladies!

Kimberly, do you have a blog? I'd love to visit if you do.

Dawn said...

Kel, where is your blog now? Can you send me a link?

Kristi at Spend Less and Save More said...

Great post! So true that we need to take time out for ourselves and yet, so hard to do! Joining you from 31DBBB

Magda said...

I'm visiting from 31DBBB forum :) Great post! Those list posts do work! :)

SuzRocks said...

I will save this list for a few years down the road when I need it. (aka- am actually a mom to more than a furry dog).

Great list though, especially about saying no to your kids!

bianca said...

Being a nanny for 10 years I know all too well the toll kids can take on any relationship - including the one you have with yourself. These are great tips for any mom (or caregiver)! My favorite one has got to be: Pray. Number one way to keep sanity = prayer! Number 2? Learn to say no to your kids. It can be hard to do this if you haven't before, but starting early makes this a much easier thing for both you and your children to accept. Enforcing is harder than sentencing, but more effective in the end :)

Alison Golden said...

Wow, I remember Laurie Berkner. She used to drive me mad! I would add let you partner give you one evening off and you give him one too. Someone else to do bath, put the kids to bed. Makes SUCH a difference.

That, and walking with a friend or two with kids in the stroller is wonderful. Exercise, fresh air, vitamin D, chatting and good for the kids too. You can't go wrong with walking.