“Mama, what’s your name?,” my precious, chubby-faced toddler asked me. I told him that my name was Reshae. “No, you not Reshae, you my Mommy!,” he responded. At that point in my life, he was so right — I didn’t even feel like the girl who used to answer to that name. I am Mommy now. This body hadn’t belonged to Reshae in a long time, and it wouldn’t for the foreseeable future because at that moment I was also carrying another new life inside of my growing belly…my third new life in roughly four years. I felt like I had packed up and moved into a new house but hadn’t quite had time to unpack all the boxes yet. This new house of mine was far more functional than fancy. It was amazing and complicated and always changing. I didn’t know how to settle in and decorate a house like that, and I couldn’t seem to figure out how to make this house feel like my home.
I had read so many parenting books and blogs that my mind was overwhelmed with information.
I was constantly researching different aspects of parenting, but you know how that goes; you figure out what you think is the right choice for your child, and then a completely different viewpoint surfaces and you suddenly feel totally clueless and like you’re messing everything up. I loved these little people so much that my chest hurt, and I was dedicated to doing anything and everything I could to give them the best life possible. I felt a sense of pride being a dedicated mother and a wife, but I knew something was missing. I didn’t have the emotional or physical energy to seek out things I used to do before I started a family and I felt very guilty when I would spend time away from my kids. In fact, I was really ashamed when I would admit that I ever needed a break or help at all. I stay at home with my children and I honestly believe that is one of the best gifts I have ever received, but it can be very isolating if you’re not careful. For a long time the only adult interactions were with people online and I was so lonely even though I was constantly around tiny people. Being the Massey boys’ Mommy was my identity now and I was clinging very tightly to that.
I finally realized something had to change in my life when someone asked me what I liked to do for fun.
I was paralyzed. I couldn’t think of a single thing that was a hobby even though my life felt very busy. Does breastfeeding 108 times a day count? What about watching Catfish reruns? Laundry? I told them hiking was my hobby and I felt like a complete liar. My husband and I went hiking regularly before we got married and started our family, but it had been years since I had actually been. This was a defining moment for me. I had nothing of my own outside of being a parent. It hit me that babies grow into children, children into teenagers, and teenagers into adults. I did not want to be emotionally crippled when my children no longer needed me, and more than anything I didn’t want to do damage to my children by relying on them as my only source of happiness and life satisfaction.
Being a fierce mama is my favorite part of me, but that is not the only part of me that matters.
It was an awkward adventure to get to know myself again. I am not going to lie; I cried the first time I went out by myself. I couldn’t have felt more exposed if I had been naked in the store. There was no cute baby to take the focus off me when people walked by and no more cute baby belly to define me without words. I went to Target and was determined to buy myself something because for years I rarely spent money on anything other than the necessities. I tried on shirts that lay awkwardly on my postpartum belly. I bought two based on comfort and ease of boob access for nursing rather than how they looked on me. But it was a step in the right direction, right? I drove around the mall for 30 minutes trying to pick a place to have dinner alone. I couldn’t make a decision for myself because I was so used to making decisions based on what made other people comfortable and happy. I finally just grabbed fast food and retreated home to my safe zone.
It should not be debilitating to be alone with your thoughts.
I knew that no matter how uncomfortable I felt, it was time for me to be Reshae again. I started having girl’s nights regularly. I would play dress up in fitting rooms and try to figure out what styles would flatter my mom bod. I read books for fun and not for research. I even re-enrolled in college and made friends on campus. It has been a couple of years and I have come to really enjoy my own company. I make myself laugh all the time. Getting in touch with myself has strengthened my marriage and made me a more patient, fun mom, which is the opposite of what I originally thought would happen if I didn’t devote every single moment to them. I ask for a break sometimes, and guess what? The world doesn’t fall apart (although, there is usually a mess to clean up when I come home).