This week hit me hard. I would love to say that after three months of 24/7 “mom-ing” that I have settled into the new role and have it all figured out. But I don’t. I actually believe that I am doing much better in the mom role than I thought I would, and I definitely enjoy it, but at the same time I have really been neglecting the “Kristen” role. And I don’t think that is healthy. The identity change during this time in my life has been a real struggle and it really caught up to me this past week.
I consider myself a fairly strong person when it comes to facing struggle and change. I’ve had a good amount of adversity in my life and have overcome a lot of challenges and obstacles that could have easily brought me down. One of the hardest times in my life was watching my dad battle and eventually lose his life to pancreatic cancer. I was in grad school at the time and continued on to earn my PhD even though part of me was devastated and wanted to quit. It was a time in my life where “struggle” ultimately transpired into a better me.
Which is one of the reasons I can’t quite understand why this most recent transition has been so difficult for me. It may not be evident on the outside, as I can be someone who internalizes things and puts on a strong external face, but this year has been hard. Really hard. Even though I had a fairly easy pregnancy, labor and delivery, and Axel has (so far) been a wonderful and well behaved baby compared to some of the horror stories I have heard, I have nonetheless had a difficult time dealing with the constant changes, loss of identity, and loss of control.
Since Axel’s birth life has been an emotional rollercoaster. I love him more than I could ever have imagined, yet I still continue to struggle with the number of unexpected changes that have emerged almost instantly. I have gone from being completely independent and having an open and flexible schedule, to the complete opposite where my world entirely revolves around another human being.
It can feel very isolating as a work-from-home, stay-at-home mom, as there is not a whole lot you can do with an infant. Yes I could take him to Target and roam the aisles spending money on things I don’t need to buy, or figure out if there is anyone who would be willing to have a play date, although most of my friends work, don’t have kids, or have children much older than Axel. Even the planning and execution of many of these events and excursions can be exhausting, and by the time I have him packed up and ready to go, I’m ready for a nap. I have talked with some other moms about my situation, and these feelings seem completely normal (thank goodness I am not the only one).
I have also noticed that my needs are the first to get pushed aside and often times go unfulfilled. I’ve learned to accept this as “life right now,” but there are times when the tank just runs on empty. Trying to work full time from home, and in a position that often requires me to be mentally sharp and spontaneous, can be challenging (and at times impossible) when also trying to care for an infant. It leaves very little “me” time. Thank goodness for my amazing mom who steps in a few hours each week so I can have an hour or two to myself to run or bike (or just pull myself together). Fitness and training are the one constant in my life, and are a time when I can feel in control and free. Without it I would feel a huge void. My mom has been a Godsend and I will never be able to repay the time and mental break that she allows me to have.
Am I wrong or a bad person for openly admitting struggle and defeat? I sure hope not. I am usually a happy person with an optimistic and bright spirit, but lately I feel spread so thin that it can bring me down. I know this is only temporary. I am human. I am a woman, who like many others, has experienced a great deal of change in a very short amount of time. Unfortunately, there is no training manual, no coach, and no self-help book I could read that could have prepared me for entry into motherhood. It’s one thing to read about what to anticipate in a book, or to hear it from a friend, but it’s a very different thing to experience it firsthand. Every experience is unique and we all respond and adapt to change at different times and in different ways.
I want nothing more than to be the best mom I can possibly be for my son. I want to be right by his side when he reaches new milestones, and to encourage growth in healthy ways. I also want to be a positive example and teach him all that I can about life, kindness, and possibility. At times I can put a lot of pressure on myself to excel in the roles and activities I take on. Motherhood has been no different. When I invest my time and energy into something, I go all in. Perhaps I need to give myself a little leniency and let go of these lofty expectations I have for myself. Easier said than done.
Who knows why I am sharing all of this. I debated whether or not to even share a post with a tone so different than my normal ones, but it’s a real side of my life and I don’t want to downplay or ignore it. Blogs and social media can often be portrayed from the “look how great my life is,” perspective, which certainly has its place but is also a bit of denial if its not balanced out by the story from the other end of the spectrum. Perhaps I just want to be authentic and let people know it’s not all smiles and triumphs in my world. Perhaps I just want others who are struggling with their own challenges or changes to know that you are not alone and we all go through adversity in life. Or, perhaps I just feel the need to purge these words and feelings to the universe, hit the reset button, and hope for a fresh start this week.