When a woman becomes a mother, she quickly morphs into one with her child. Wherever she goes, baby goes. Whatever baby needs, she provides. How baby feels, she feels. And then there are the constant societal reminders that she is to be consciously coupled with her child–as often as possible. There’s ‘Mommy and Me’ yoga, ‘Mommy and Me’ music, ‘Mommy and Me’ swimming, ‘Mommy and Me’ fitness–the list goes on and on. It is not long before she realizes that who she was before baby is long gone, and that who remains is solely someone’s mother.
And when you are a single mom, the ‘Mommy and Me’ cord is so tightly intertwined that it is nearly impossible to distinguish where you begin and your child ends. This has been the story of my life for about three and a half years now. Before becoming a mother, I had no idea how much of my life–how much of me I would sacrifice. Everything from how I schedule my day, to how I spend my money, to the amount of free time I have (which is almost none) is structured around my son. And here’s what I’ve learned. If you do not make a conscious effort to maintain your identity and create a life, separate and apart from being mom, you will one day look in the mirror and ask, ‘Where is [insert your name here]? It’s been so long since I’ve seen her. Wonder how she’s doing.’
This recently happened to me. One afternoon, while watching my son play, I thought about how, outside of daycare, work, some errands, and the extremely rare occasion when I meet up with a friend, we are always together. And I mean always. We are so recognized as one that when people see me alone, they immediately ask where is my son (as if I have not existed in the world without him for the past 41 years).
The universe must have recognized that I needed a little shake of the shoulders to wake me up out of my mommy slumber. My son’s sitter, who also works at his daycare, gave me a flyer for a half-day yoga retreat that was coming up. I’m sure she knew that everything about it would be up my alley. There would be outdoor yoga by the water. There would be a delicious healthy brunch. There would be fellowship with other women. There would be some much needed time away from my son. Everything about it screamed, ‘Do it!’
So with no plan in place as to who would watch my son (same sitter was going out of town that weekend), I pulled my debit card and reserved my spot. I did what so many people have encouraged me to do for the longest. I relinquished the reigns, called upon another sister-friend and asked would she watch my son. Thankfully, she was more than willing. A week later, another girlfriend and I were in my car driving to the Hudson Valley for the retreat.
The day was wonderful. I was doing one of my favorite things in the world, yoga, under a beautiful morning sun, by the water, with a friend I adore. But what made the day most amazing was that I emerged from my mommy cave. I had finally given myself permission to do something solely for me. And it felt good. I could enjoy myself knowing that my son was fine where he was, and I was fine where I was. No mommy on duty. Just me. Like it used to be.
And so I’ve recommitted to living–for me. Not in the same way that I did before my son, of course, but in a way that honors not only my motherhood, but also my selfhood and womanhood. It will not be an easy or perfect balance, but I must try. I have to stay connected.
Not only to the mommy in me.
But just me.