For the last 10 years I have been mom. Just mom. Yes, Amanda was in there, and so were my roles as a mother, wife and friend, but mom is what defined me. My schedule focused on the needs of the children and everything I did had to in some way accommodate them. It became difficult to enjoy certain things because of the special needs of two of my children. And, the invitations to participate in certain things stopped because of the special needs of two of my children. Every day of every week for the last 10 years was about doing the best I could to meet the needs of my children. I don't say that to get sympathy, or to assert that my focus isn't still on my children and their needs. And I certainly won't suggest that I spent every day of the last 10 years in the company of my children. But I will reinforce that everything I did revolved around my ability to make sure that my kids were taken care of and that any care not by me was safe and appropriate.
And before you think I've given up on making sure my kids are cared for, that's not what I mean at all. They still need me, probably more than ever. And I still have to make sure they are safe. The thing is that for seven and a half hours, five days a week, my kids are somewhere else. So for seven and a half hours, five days a week, I am left to deal with just me. And to tell you the truth, I'm not quite sure who I am. I mean, I know what I like and don't like, and I know where my moral grounding is. But, somewhere in the last 10 years, I lost Amanda. You see, when your primary focus, (as it should be), becomes your kids, you tend to forget that there once was a you that didn't include tagalongs.
So, what do you do when you realize that you lost yourself? I haven't quite figured it out yet. I'm starting off slowly. But I know that what I am feeling is normal, that this part of the journey, is all a part of growing. And I know that it is but a precursor to the final flight of the kids when they will one day leave our home for good. No one warned me. But I probably wouldn't have listened if they had.
I don't want to leave any of you ill prepared. So, I complied a list of things you can do in your first days of attempting to find yourself once all of your kids are in school full time. Be gentle with yourself and remember it's a process.
- Go to a consignment store and try on the ugliest, most unflattering things you can find. Compare it to what's in your closet. If the things you tried on look better on you then the stuff in your closet, go shopping. You don't have to dress for spills and spit up anymore.
- Make a list of all of the things you used to eat hidden from the kids. You know what I am talking about. The candy bar you ate in the bathroom. The ice cream you hid behind your bent knees while the kids watched tv. Go to the store, buy everything on your list, sit in the playroom and eat. Make a production of it.
- Go to the bathroom and close the door. Read a magazine. Sit there for at least 5 minutes. Now take that same magazine to the couch and sit and read for 20 minutes.
- Get sick. Go lay in your bed and don't move. Heal.
- Go to the mall. Sit on a bench. Watch all of the moms with their kids. Notice how the child is not walking. Notice how the mom is pulling the child. Now get up and go visit every store alone.
- Watch a sad movie in the middle of the day. Bawl your eyes out.
- Take a shower. Shave your legs. Get dressed. Put on makeup. Do your hair. And take as long as you want.
- Chances are you forgot what lunch is. Make a lunch date with another mom who forgot who she is.
- Ask your husband to come home at noon. It's likely he remembers you, and he's the best source in helping you to remember too.