My advice to you and my younger self of 10-12 years ago is try to simply be the best mom you can be without driving yourself crazy. Being the best mom for you might mean that you splurge on a biweekly housekeeper to help you keep your sanity. It also might mean that your husband is the main cook in the house and you all do not fall in the traditional role criteria for Mom and Dad – that’s just fine too. Maybe you are the main breadwinner and both you and your husband work fulltime, so you child is in fulltime daycare. There are many excellent daycares our there that work out wonderfully for families (just be sure to vet them and be willing to pull the plug and change if for any reason you feel you should). It might mean that you hire a babysitter on your day off so you can recuperate and feel human again.
Yes, being a mom takes sacrifices that 95% of the time you are glad to make. The hard part I find (and in talking with other mom friends it seems to be a theme), is feeling the need to live up to all of the mom standards that seem to be imposed upon us. As your kids get older to preschool and elementary school age, you will find there is tremendous pressure to volunteer. Now volunteering is a good thing and a tremendous benefit to not only your child but other children and can be very fulfilling. But if volunteering becomes an obligation that crowds our calendar out of other priorities and the energy we need to be a good mom at home with our own children, then the balance has tipped too far. Sometimes as moms we feel that it’s okay to sacrifice ourselves to the breaking point and the truth is that when we are totally burnt out and spent and even ill, we are of no use to anyone, including our families. So, it is okay to say no and to ignore the guilt when we feel we do not need to give more if we are not going to giving cheerfully.
Also, you might find there are certain areas that you enjoy volunteering (and perhaps more gifted at) than others. I have found I enjoy teaching my kid’s reader’s workshop and some art classes, but I get antsy chaperoning for every field trip. My kids whine and complain when I don’t go on many of these field trips, but I tell them there are other moms that do that type of volunteering, but I do the other sort of volunteering in their art classes or reading workshops. The opportunities are endless for volunteering in the class, on the playground, on the soccer teams and for playdates of course. Don’t overcommit yourself or you will become bitter and there’s nothing worse than an unhappy volunteer or an unhappy mom. Choose how you can best contribute and leave your guilt on the doorstep.
In addition to busyness the other area we need to stand up for as moms (this goes for moms of older kids too), is the right to embrace our own identity. Once a mom, always a mom and that is beautiful thing. In the beginning it’s a new and novel identity that we can revel in or sometimes feel we haven’t quite deserved (don’t worry, that feeling will pass soon!) But, as we give more of our time and selves to our children and families, it is easy to get lost in the shuffle and forget that we have needs too. So, it is important, no matter how silly it may seem, to set a discipline early of not only taking couple time with our partners, and girl time with some friends, but also time alone to do something we really want to do even if it’s read a magazine and have a cup of coffee somewhere where no one will bother us for an hour or taking a little time out each day to walk or hit the gym. By doing this on a regular basis we will reconnect with our inner selves and have a renewed enthusiasm for our family and loved ones.
Fashion is also a way to connect to our inner selves and something that we can choose to express who we are. A famous fashion icon (can’t remember who) once said something truly revolutionary- it was “if we change the way we dress, we can change the way we think.” The gist of the message was that if we truly dress to express our identity, not necessarily the trend or please our partners (which is not always a bad thing from time to time on a date night), but play with and develop a style that suits our personalities, than that fashion statement becomes a means to expressing our unique personalities in our lives. This is why actors and actresses wear a costume or dress the part for a play or a movie, because not only does it communicate to the audience who they are in their role, but it allows them to fully embody the identity they are portraying. It is the same with fashion and quite liberating and fun as well to experiment with our style and give ourselves permission to change our style, until we find something that truly makes us feel alive and show our truth.
Pregnancy is wonderful opportunity to experiment with our style and go outside our comfort zone. The pressure is off because when you are pregnant, people are excited for you and your growing bump. The pressure to be thin becomes irrelevant (and should be). Also, you suddenly need to shop for a wardrobe of maternity clothes because you have outgrown everything in your closet. As your body changes, we can suddenly experiment with enhanced cleavage styles and empire waist designs that you might have never tried before. Have fun with it and play dress up on your new form with new styles and colors! Try out that maxi maternity dress or bold prints that were out of your former fashion comfort zone.
Motherhood is a wonderful time in life but it can also be busy. Focus on the beauty of your children and don’t second guess your instincts. Follow your gut in making smart choices for your child and for yourself. But remember to embrace your unique identity and have fun expressing yourself in your maternity fashion choices.