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Sense of Self



I didn’t write last week not because there was nothing to write about (because oh there was) but because I’m feeling sort of lost.


As always, first my disclaimer – I am unbelievably thankful to have a baby and to get to stay home with her for these first months. I know what a gift this is and honestly cherish every sleep deprived moment of it. That said, I miss work. I miss adult interaction. I miss going to the bathroom and not having someone crying for me in the hall.*Β I miss having a clean house. I miss my yummy home-cooked meals. I miss going out for dinner and a beer. I miss evening cookouts/game nights.

Before I assumed the roll of stay-at-home mom I had this glorious vision of days spent trolling around town, my happy baby in tow. I visualized fun play dates daily, mommy outings, mama baby yoga, and more. My idea of life as a SAHM was very much what I saw on TV and movies. In four months I have learned that this is about as far from reality as it gets.

I am sitting at my computer at 5 a.m. typing this out with Sabine cooing in the Rock ‘n Play next to me. I have a 10-15 minute window to write this. I slept a total of six broken hours last night. My hair is on day three of not being washed; my body is on day two. My kitchen is a mess, my house looks like a bomb went off in it and at 4:30 a.m. I discovered my toilet bowl has grown some disgusting pink goo (WTF? I could have sworn I cleaned the potty last week…) I went out to meet a Mom friend and her baby and husband last night for 30 unshowered minutes. I just needed out. I felt disorganized, run down and like the shell of the put-together woman I used to be. I used to be interesting, fun and engaging. Now I am out of the political loop, running on fumes and obsessed with my baby’s sleep schedule and her poop explosions.

I cleaned out and organized my late fall/early winter closet on Sunday. All my pretty clothes remain and taunt me daily. I have no need for silk blouses and beautiful skirts. I now live in yoga pants and tank tops. On a good day I’ll put on a pair of jeans and a sweater. I miss work. But when I think about going to work and leaving my baby I panic. So really I’m at a point where I need to come to terms with my new “normal” while at the same time making an effort to do something daily that makes me feel like me, which is damn hard when you have a high need baby who will only nap in your arms (arms people, arms. No baby carrying device will do and yes, I have tried them all.)

My daily mantras have become, “This too shall pass.” and “She will never be this small, this cuddly, this helpless again. Cherish it.”

How have you maintained a sense of self as a new mom? Those who went back to work, how did your experience differ? Like everything, I know there are pros and cons to both sides of the story!

*HA! In proofing this I remembered one job where my boss would follow me into the restroom and talk work at me through the door so MAYBE life as a mom is not that different than life in PR? πŸ™‚



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  1. melliempa #
    November 12, 2013

    When I was pregnant, all of my friends gushed about how wonderful parenting was, how the unconditional love would guide me through it all, and about all of the wonders parenthood had to offer.

    So, you can imagine how shocked I was when a friend (and mother of two) took me out to dinner and upon listening to me talk about my impending excitement about being at home said, “it’s OK if you hate your baby every now and then.”

    WHAT?!?! These were such harsh words, they really rattled me. However, my post-baby self totally understands where she was coming from. You’re stressed, completely sleep deprived, and really do lose all sense of self. She wasn’t really talking about hating your baby. She was talking about mourning the loss of your pre-baby self.

    I, like you, wouldn’t trade the time I had at home with my son for the world. I love being a mother beyond measure. But, I also like working. I returned to the workforce after 7 months and surprisingly, found a little sanity. Being able to shower, dress in big girl clothes, and eat a real, hot meal for lunch gave me back something I was missing – a little bit of me time.

    I think balance is really difficult to find. I’m still working on it. But I also think it’s good for children to know that their parents aren’t just parents – they have careers and interests. On the airplane they tell you that in a crisis, airbags will drop from the roof. Secure your own airbag first before helping others around you. There’s some truth to that. See if you can find some time to do something for yourself. Splurge on a babysitter. Take a class. I think it will help you. Good luck!

  2. November 12, 2013

    I can’t remember what your plan or financial situation is in NY but would it be possible for you to go to back to work part time? That is what I did when the twins were 11 weeks old and feel like this is a good balance for me. I can pee without hearing babies (phantom or real) and interact with adults but don’t feel like Im missing all their milestones.
    I realize you’ve been at home for much longer but it helped me on maternity leave to get dressed and shower every day even if it meant letting a baby cry for a bit while I did it. More than just yoga pants and a sweatshirt too – real jeans and a top, even if I had no plans to go anywhere. It helped me feel more like a real human, which in turn helped me feel more sane and like a better mom.
    I don’t have a solution for the obsession over sleep, schedules and poop because I do that too.
    I also realize that every baby is different in terms of their needs and wants and many things are easier said than done.

  3. Jennifer #
    November 12, 2013

    If only there was a reality show that pulled back the curtain on what life is really like in the weeks and months after having a baby! It’s tough. I liken it to the movie Groundhog Day, with Bill Murray. Just when you’ve finally made it to bed, it’s time to wake up and do it all over again — the good, the bad, and the ugly. You’re certainly not alone in trying to keep your head above water. I’m a first time mom in my 40s — had my son at the end of June with the help of IVF. There are still days that I want to crawl out the window. πŸ™‚ I think that’s just the reality of being a parent. And blogs, like yours, are such a great outlet — particularly for someone like myself, who is sort of an oddity in Alabama. (Not many 40+ year old new moms in my community.) Hang in there! You are not alone!!

  4. November 12, 2013

    Stupid ipad. I have typed this comment three times!!! Gah!

    I’d say it isn’t so much maintaining a sense of self, as integrating mummy you with old you. Is tricky, and SAHM isn’t at all how anyone pictures it.

    I have one thing to hang the day on, then I’m ok. So I can say today we….did THIS, Then I feel ok.

    The other thing is, I have a selfish choices allowance in the day. Yep, you can cry while I pee. Yep, you can watch 10 minutes tele while I shower. Yep, actually, you’re gonna wait for this meal for five minutes while I get a snack and a cuppa. I have to consciously choose to do these things against my knee jerk mama ness, and I’m usually better for one or two “selfish” choices.

    Re the work thing, he’s going to be 18 months old when I go back, and I’m still terrified about it. I cannot imagine leaving him. He’s 15 months old, and the longest we’ve been apart is five hours. Ever. So I can’t advise anyone on managing this.

    And this too shall pass? I think you breathe that mantra til they’re five months old (then it goes down to about five times a day). It gets better, much better, when they get more interesting and interactive and independent. Just remember in a month, it’s like being with a completely different person. Each stage has it’s own new challenges, but I think so far it gets easier because you like them more, and like your job more, and you wear your new mama skin more comfortably. Though for a while it seems like it will never ever fit.

  5. November 12, 2013

    I am so torn right now. When I’m in the clinic/doing school stuff, I teeter between “UGH, I miss my BABY!” to sometimes realizing, “OMG, I haven’t thought about my baby for the last 10 minutes, am I a bad mom??” – when I’m gone I miss him so much and wish I could just stay home.
    HOWEVER… when I’m home, it’s the flip side of the coin. I don’t have enough time or hands to get things done. He NEEDS me, so I do a piss-poor job on my assignments to meet his demands and to fulfill my own motherly needs to snuggle on him, and I feel guilty again, thinking, “why did we have a baby now? why did I want this so badly before I was done with school??” It seems like everything is unfair to him, unfair to me, unfair to my hubby. (oh, yeah, the hubby, I barely remember that guy.) the moral of the story being, everything is good and bad all rolled together. SO, take a shower, let her cry a little (Jackson has cried through some showers and lived…) and enjoy your baby with clean hair and armpits. It’ll be good for both of you πŸ™‚

  6. November 12, 2013

    I really think that it took me a full year to adjust to the new normal of being a stay at home mom. I thrive on routines and predictability and that just doesn’t come for at least 6 months with a baby. It has been crucial to me to plan outings, activities and weekly meet ups that I know I have to look forward to and force me to interact with adults. I schedule my chores and errands for each day (Mondays — wash sheets and towels, Tuesdays — grocery store, etc.) and I also make an effort to go to dinner one night a week with girlfriends. And on the days I’m doubting myself or feeling like I need to go back to work, I focus on the positive — I get to stay in my pjs and watch Good Morning America in the morning. πŸ™‚ Hang in there. You will soon figure out your new normal!

  7. November 12, 2013

    It’s hard…SO hard! I started off life as a mother intending to be a SAHM for awhile, and those first 7 weeks were awesome and exhausting all at once. Then a job was advertised that I had to apply for (finances were getting the best of us & good jobs are hard to come by in a town of < 1000 ppl), I got the job, and the day Stella turned 8 weeks old I went back to work full time (working four, 9hr days). That was hard…SO hard – as well!

    The upside to that for me was being able to count down the minutes until I saw her again instead of counting down the minutes until her next (20 min) nap. That was the only way I could justify being back in the workforce instead of with my baby.

    That being said, I'm seriously considering every angle to try to work out how I could stay home full time now that #2 is on the way.

    I guess my point is that there is no easy answer, and no matter what you choose (SAHM, WOHM, or some combo), there will be so many days that you'll wish you were on the other side of the grass.

    My best advice would be to kick showering up the priority list – I ALWAYS felt better and more like a put together human being if I showered in the morning and put on a pair of jeans (and a nursing friendly shirt)! Have you tried showering WITH Sabine just to make sure it gets done? I just held Stella in my arms, but they also make mesh shower sling things too I think if you're not comfortable just holding her. Somehow my whole day just felt more productive if it started with a shower before 10am. πŸ™‚

  8. November 12, 2013

    Yes. Shower. Do it. If it means showering at 9 pm when she’s asleep or for 5 minutes while her daddy has her or – obviously less ideal – while she’s crying, just shower. And then put on something nice. Yeah, she’ll probably end up drooling and/or puking all over it, but you’ll feel better about yourself for the ten minutes you’re wearing it. πŸ™‚

    As much as we prayed for our babies and cherish them now that they’re here, it IS difficult to adjust to life being so radically different. For 39 years I could go wherever and do whatever anytime I wanted. Now…not so much. He needs me ALL THE TIME, and as awesome and humbling as that is, it also wears me down at times. I can’t even go to my monthly book club without him or he has a meltdown of epic proportions (think crying so hard he can’t breathe). I love being with him and raising him – and I really can’t say I miss work at all – but sometimes I need an hour or two of down time, just for me, where I’m not “on”, not having to think about feeds or diaper changes or sleep patterns. My brain needs that mental break. I’m just not really sure how to get it, though, since he’s so attached and dependent on me. So I’m afraid I have no advice for you when it comes to this. Just know that you’re not the only one going through this.

  9. November 12, 2013

    Oh sister, I hope you find comfort knowing you’re not alone! I went back to work part time when the babies were 9 weeks old, and it’s a nice balance for me. I love being home with my kids, but I need professional time too- to wear make up and have adult conversations.
    When I’m at home, I always make a point to shower and wear a bit of make up, even if we never leave our house. It just makes me feel good. I hope you find balance (and sleep) soon.

  10. jak #
    November 12, 2013

    i’m working full time and baby is in daycare 3 days/week. at first i felt like i was neglecting him as i was doing my work during his naps and neglecting work if i was spending any time with him. then i said, %#$#^ it. things are going really well, so i’m going to stop guilting myself. i’m doing well as a parent, and well at work – this working mom thing, while exhausting, is working. our baby is happy as shit and totally thriving.

    but – my house looks like buffalo bill’s house from silence of the lambs. my best friend from grad school is about to have their baby and their gift is still unwrapped in my living room. we eat sandwiches most nights of the week for dinner. nothing is getting done that isnt essential and my poor husband gets none of my attention and cleans the house all weekend while i wrap up work assignments. but this is temporary and it is working. it’s not perfect, but it never was, even before being a working mom. so i’ll take this. it’s good.

  11. November 12, 2013

    Do some yoga if you can or anything physical on the floor with baby, it helped me connect with myself again and brought back that “real person” feeling (and reminded me that I had my own physical body, as strange as that may seem). Someone also told me that becoming a parent you learn a new way of being. If before baby you walked now, after, you’re learning to swim… it’s a different sort of deal but it’s going to get better. I found it to be true that once you stop trying to walk (get back to normal) through the water and just accept that I was swimming. Lastly, my son was also an arm sleeper (for hours he would sleep but not if you put him down). I finally just started putting him down in his crib, waiting for him to wake up (5 mins or whatever) soothing him back to sleep then putting him down again. It was not scientific but eventually it worked for us but it was something that we had to address specifically and not just grow out of.
    Honestly though, at 4 months you’ve come so far! Things will continue to get better.

  12. Lisa @ hapahopes #
    November 12, 2013

    I have no answers because I am right there with you, sister. I’m still in the “this too shall pass” stage. I can offer you solidarity!

  13. arbrefleur #
    November 12, 2013

    Thank you for this post and the ensuing wonderful comments from your readers. It helps to hear so many great moms in the exact same situation. I hope it helps a little for you as well! “This too shall pass” is also my mantra and despite multiple nights with 3 hours of sleep, a 3 mo old baby girl who won’t nap unless being actively held and soothed by mom (sound familiar;), a cat with a urinary problem who’s peeing everywhere, and finances going into the toilet because I’m too sleep deprived to look for work AND childcare. Showering? Yoga? Playdates? Um, no. You are supermom from where I sit! So are the other moms responding above! πŸ™‚ And yet, I don’t feel alone. LOL to “my house looks like buffalo bills place from silence of the lambs!” Yup! We love our babies though. Mine’s alive and she smiles sometimes. Woohoo! Congrats to all of us!

    • arbrefleur #
      November 12, 2013

      p.s. I realize that my post sounded a bit manic. Like “you’re not alone and that solves everything so just smile!” And that is not what I meant to imply. This also sucks and is soooo hard. I feel that those emotions need and deserve equally intense validation. And I hope that we all allow ourselves that understanding without judgment, which is exactly what I hear from all these commenters and I think it’s a beautiful thing and some comfort to me personally.

  14. Amy #
    November 12, 2013

    Here’s my ass-vice: take a bath with baby, dress up one day a week just for you, ask for a session from a cleaning lady from everyone for Christmas, lower your expectations & remember you can have it all, just not in the same day.
    I bathe with both my kids every day to stay clean, I only wear clothes I feel comfortable & pretty in-even if it’s matching pjs. Honestly, you don’t belong to yourself anymore, you belong to your baby. It will get ‘better’, but it will never be like your life before. It’s sad & hard & lovely all at the same time. You are doing it right. No one looks back & wishes they let their baby nap in their arms less. Good work!

    • jak #
      November 13, 2013

      totally second this. we do this too. haven’t gotten a shower yet? no problem. dad jumps in to bath with baby, washes him, then hands him off to mom who jumps in, then hands baby out of bath and off to dad, who dresses baby for bed while mom washes her hair and dresses and gets ready to nurse baby to sleep. the process calms baby during an otherwise fussy time and he’s ready for bed when it’s over.

  15. November 12, 2013

    One thing that helped get me through the hard times was showering every day no matter what… I remember when the babies were waking up at 5am, and my husband would do the 5am bottle feeding so I could shower, and then he would shower and go to work and it would be me solo until 6pm.

    Showering every day meant I always felt like I could go out in a moment’s notice if I was feeling trapped in the house because all I had to worry about was getting the babies out. The days that I didn’t shower, I felt like I couldn’t leave, because in order to leave it meant showering and getting dressed and THEN getting the babies ready and out. Especially as the weather gets colder, getting that shower out of the way first thing is so important. And now that the schedule has changed for the billionth time and the babies are (thank GD) waking up at around 7am, my husband gets up at 6:30 and showers, then I get up and shower while he does the morning routine, and then we are both ready for the day.

    Here is the good news. One day not too long from now you will wear beautiful clothes again. Sometime in the next several months she won’t be spitting up as much or really at all, and maybe on a weekend when you have an extra set of hands to handle things you might venture to wear something *gasp* nice… ish. I can say that right now my wardrobe is only limited by what I feel comfortable being on the floor in, not what I am prepared to sacrifice to the stain gods, because my chances of staining is much lower than before (though of course not eliminated, but I am kind of a messy person anyway).

    Also I have made a deal with my husband and I get some Sundays off (in addition to the babysitter once a week, which is so important). I get to go out, maybe to a book club meeting or shopping or whatever, and he takes the babies all morning. I once signed up for a small art class at a nearby studio and got to go there for a little bit in the evenings while he came home a little early and put the kids to bed.

    AND I am going to hate myself for this last part but “it” does get better, especially in this sense. I was lost and sometimes I look up and realize I still am a little lost. But you learn how to grab bits and pieces of your old self here and there, and then realize that you can integrate your new self and your old self this way. It’s not the same self, but it isn’t so different either. ❀

  16. Nene #
    November 12, 2013

    I know it’s not socially appropriate to think this let alone say it, but I thought that having an infant totally sucked 75% of the time. I mean, I love my son madly, but I would have loved him even more had he come out of my vagina at 6 months old (although, ouch).

    For me, going back to work was key. I was a better (and happier mom) when I could spend 6 hours of my day doing something that I was an expert at. The emotions of separation/daycare were intense during the search and interview process, but once he started he loved it and he started sleeping better and became more adaptable and everyone in the family was better for the change. If you can’t or would prefer not to work, try to carve out a regular time to cultivate your personal interests without baby around. And know that even if you nothing but continue to muddle through, it will get easier as she continues to grow and you will find your groove.

  17. November 12, 2013

    You are SO not alone. Thanks for writing this! You two look beautiful by the way.

  18. November 12, 2013

    It does get better! When Molly was about 4 months old I started a 12w program for getting fit and healthy. It did give me a new focus. We also decided to sell our home so that kept me busy!! When I started losing weight and toning up I started becoming interested in looking after me again which disappeared during TTC. I went back to work one day a week when she was 7 months old and I enjoyed that. I did make sure I kept my days relatively full with catch ups or getting out of the house. I don’t know about you but the idea of being stuck in a small apartment must not help. The days when I feel like I am not going to get out of my PJ’s are the days I have to clean up, have a shower (I actually shower together with Molly!) and then put something nice on so I pull myself out of the mama slump. So normal though.

  19. Prairie #
    November 12, 2013

    It is tough. I bought a couple new t shirts, a pair of mom sneakers and some funky socks. I figured embracing the comfort without going to far down the yoga-pants road. Plus the funky socks were fun at play groups where everyone had shoes off on the mats.

    I also found ways to rediscover myself. I love hiking but hadn’t done it in years. It was easy to do with a lumpy baby in the carrier. I love movies and knew I wouldn’t be able to see as many as I used to. But I took in the ‘stars & strollers’ baby friendly movies as much as I could and felt like myself.

    Biggest advice: get out. Find people. Playground. Breastfeeding support groups. Library reading groups. Rhyming classes. Mom & baby exercise. It’s about the moms more than the babies!

  20. Victoria #
    November 12, 2013

    There would be times that I would shower just to get away from the crying for 10 minutes. I’d make sure he was fed and dry and in his bed/swing/bouncy seat he would go – I’d leave music playing or a cartoon on. Sometimes he’d be crying when I got out and other times he’d put himself to sleep. Once he could sit up, he went into the shower with me – and at 2, he still does some days. I work part-time and would not trade it for anything. It has kept me sane. Some weeks my house, laundry, dishes, closets are all neglected but that’s ok. Like everyone else has said, it gets better. So, so, so much better.

  21. November 13, 2013

    I have been meaning to get back to your post for 24 hours now! It looks like you have gotten some great input here!

    I second, third, fourth the shower suggestion. When Matthew was born, my SIL told my husband that it was HIS job to ensure I got a shower every single day. That set us off in the right direction, and B still makes sure this happens every day, 2.5 years later. Matthew screamed through many of my showers, but I just turned off the monitor. We keep a bouncy chair in the bathroom and Bryson is parked there each morning as I shower, put on makeup, and do my hair for the day. If he gets fussy, I take him to his room, nurse him, and put him in the rocker. He cries but is asleep within 2 minutes.

    Get to know your neighbors, or at least one of them who stays home with her kids. This has been #1 for me keeping in touch with ME. My neighbor watches my kids so I can run errands or anything I like, and I do the same for her. Its awesome!

    and finally, wear real clothes and make plans with people! Have a,reason to leave the house every day, even if to just grab lunch.

    It will get better. It takes time!

    • November 13, 2013

      Oh, and get Sabine dressed each day, within the morning hours. That way, you don’t have that holding you back if you randomly get an urge to do something! I’m dressing both boys right now… At 7:29. Then, I will shower!

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