“…that it would be so hard to remember who I am.”
I loved this because in so many ways…this is my struggle, and it’s so hard for me to explain or to put into words that can be understood by anyone other than a mom in a similar situation. So often I’ve heard…”take a break,” “get a hobby”, etc. and while those things would be helpful, and appreciated…the issue is so much grander than that. There is no quick fix, or instant answer. An evening out, or a run to the bookstore doesn’t make it all better. 🙂 It doesn’t create the balance and equilibrium you need to know who you are – maintain your former self, your former interests, and your former identity, and reconcile that with your new role and identity as a mother. You’re still left with the choice of chosing one of 2 options, and knowing that no matter HOW you chose, something will suffer – even if only for a short period of time. The problem is, in my intense love for my children, giving everything else up for them seemed like a no brainer. In fact, it wasn’t even a conscious decision, it just happened. That’s supposedly what “good” moms and”good” wives do. So I began chasing after the fantasy of being the “perfect” mother with the “perfect” children, only to feel like a complete failure when I was far from perfect, and neither were my children. The result was – I didn’t really like myself – the person who I’d become who was nothing more than a failure and a loser – and in giving up other aspects of myself (even if the intent was only temporary) I was left with nothing else that I either liked, or was good at, to prove otherwise. In retrospect, I know I was being unreasonably hard on myself, but I went through some tough circumstances that only exacerbated that feeling in my mind. Everything was about how things would be better, easier, smoother, if I was “better” at my new role – the one that had swallowed up my entire existence and yet I still couldn’t get right.
It took an incredibly long time to let go of the guilt and even ALLOW myself to think, something needs to change – even though I was unhappy with myself. But I realized, I am many things – not just this one thing – and my embracing the other aspects of who I am is not a rejection of this role that is still very much the most important role to me. The problem was (and still is) that I had NO idea how to reconcile the two. I thought, ok, I need a “break”…and, don’t get me wrong, a break is always nice and greatly needed, but the problem still exists because ultimately, it was/is more than just about fatigue. So, for now, I resolved to recapture little interests of mine and slowly reintroduce them into my life – just as a reminder of my former self. The funny part is, every time I do something for me, even though it feels so good in the moment, I’m still riddled with guilt, because there is always something more “useful” or “beneficial” for my family I could/should be committing to because in my eyes, I am “second” and they are “first”. And just to clarify, and be fair, this isn’t something that was imposed on me, but rather something I had unconsciously imposed on myself.
Ultimately, I’m not sure how to achieve the perfect equilibrium and I don’t think I know anyone who has. But I think in entering the realm of motherhood, where everything really does change, you undergo a transformation of the self – and it takes years of trial and error until something comfortable and familiar and acceptable takes form. Hopefully, as the children get older and more self-sufficient, there is more time to settle into that new self – finding a path between being the selfless, giving mother you can be content being while nurturing the aspects of yourself that made you, uniquely, YOU – without feeling selfish, and riddled with guilt. It’s so hard to do one without feeling like you are neglecting the other – but I do think as our children grow and find who they are – insha Allah it’ll be easier for us to do the same.