Recently I've had a HUGE mental shift in motherhood. I think there are a few things going on. First, I think I am more comfortable in my role as a mom and am not questioning and wondering if I'm doing things right. But, what I think is most important, I stopped trying to be the old me and have fully embraced being a mom and I think that has truly made all the difference in making motherhood easier.
I also gave up on controlling sleep. Now I track it find trends… and let it go.
I've also come to learn about a phrase called matrescence. I think there is a huge narrative about how hard (and in a lot of cases) negative being a Mom is and I think we need to start LOOKING and acknowledging the GOOD bits to enjoy it more! When does motherhood get easier? Some say 2-3 years after matrescense. I say when you fully embrace that your life has changed and soak it up!
Baby 1 vs Baby 2
I have a 2.5 year old and a 6 month old. And right now, I am finally basking in motherhood. I'm a bit hesitant to talk about this because I don't ever want anyone to feel bad about their own experience.
My experience with baby #1 was gnarly. I had such a hard time becoming a mother and I think it's because I went from traveling full time, not having any responsibility, not having anyone rely on me to COVID which put everything to a halt and then I had this child that was solely reliant on me. I have a partner that is fantastic so I had it all in my head that we were going to do things 50/50. But then I started breastfeeding and she would not take a bottle. Since, my husband doesn't have lactating boobs, we really couldn't be 50/50.
Self diagnosed, I think I had some postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety. I started talking to my midwives about it and they said they could get me on some medication but I didn't want to at the time and I talked to a friend who dealt with postpartum depression and she told me that if I was asking, there was definitely something going on. I think she was right, but, I never did anything about it.
I think I am more self-diagnosing it now because I don't have that feeling with my second, like it has been night and day different.
So again, I'm not talking about this to tell you all I'm having a great time being a mom, sorry if you're not. I'm talking about this to try and help you get there if you're not. To give you some things to think about or consider, and if none of it resonates with you, then that's okay. To be honest, I probably could have read this after I had my first and been like great, cool and not taken anything away from it because of where I was at during that time.
A few weeks ago, when this shift was just starting to happen and I was deep in my feels. I posted on my Instagram about how I was feeling. And this was it:
These nights used to be so hard for me. There was so much that needed to get done.
I needed to be able to do things like I had before. A child shouldn’t change that.
But they do, and it does. Everything changes. Your baseline drops, but not because everything is failing.
But because you need to make MORE space for this.
THEY were never a burden, the less time I had to do the things, that felt like the burden. But then something switched (almost 2.5 years into motherhood).
I finally recognized what a blessing it is that my body, simply my presence is what calms them. It’s what makes them feels safe, calm and secure.
Where else in the world do I need to be? Both a million other places and absolutely nowhere but here.
So I asked myself, what is my biggest priority? And the answer was them.
There’s a lot of talk about finding yourself, not mom self, not wife self but YOU.
And maybe it’s an unpopular opinion but that IS ME. Mom self IS me, Wife self IS ME. I’ve changed.
I never wanted to be just a mom, or to be the leader of the household.
That felt like a trap.
But once I realized what a gift those roles are, and how they’re both temporary and desperately needed, they felt liberating.
I’ve found it’s all up to me. Is this life a burden that I need to manage or a gift I need to bask in?
I still may cry in frustration or overwhelm, and in a few years things will likely change again.
But for now, I choose to see the blessing. And that has made all the difference.
THIS IS HOW I FEEL. After 2.5 years, I have finally started to let go of trying to be exactly who I was before babies. I am not her anymore. That is not my life anymore. And I also think it's because I have AJ, my first, who is growing up SO fast and then I have this new baby and I'm like oh my gosh I can't believe you are already 6 months old, I just want to snuggle you and enjoy all these little moments because I know 2.5 comes so fast. I think this realization has just caused me to slow down and enjoy it and stop fighting the urge to get back to no baby Shay.
I used to not feel like a mom. I just felt like Shayla with kids. And now I feel like a mom. I'm interviewing someone on my podcast about this (ep 036), but matrescense is essentially the transformation from no kids to motherhood and apparently it takes 2-3 years. And, she goes much deeper into it on the episode, but she told me that basically when you become a mother, your brain undergoes a complete reorganization. Massive neurological changes. That's why you don't feel like yourself. Just like with puberty where we never go back to being a child but aren't suddenly a woman by age 12, it takes a few years to mature into the next phase of womanhood and the same is true with matrescense. If all women had an understanding phases, they might be more patient with themselves during the initial phase transformation. There's no bouncing back, we only evolve forward and it takes time.
THAT'S HOW IT FEELS! It just feels like finally I am a mom and am I bummed that I don't get to go to the bridal shower without my kids, nah! They're a part of me now. I'm no longer trying to do things as “not just a mom” anymore. I was trying so hard to be exactly who I was before kids and now I'm not. If I can only stay at an event for 3 hours because I have to get back to my kid, that's the phase of life I'm in right now. This has been a wild change in perspective and mindset for me.
I was also not the person that was immediately bonded to my baby. I was more just like “oh my god, I need to keep this baby alive, I need to do a million things for it, but I don't know what I'm doing”.
Some people push out their baby and it's like an immediate bond. There are a ton of variables (personality, how you conceived, if you've had miscarriages, etc.) that change how you immediately interact with your baby. All of them are right, as long as you love your baby. I loved my baby right off the bat, I just didn't feel this attachment to her until she like started talking and interacting with me. So it took a while.
With my second baby, it wasn't immediate either but it was faster. And I think it was partly because I trusted myself a lot more this time around.
Confidence in Motherhood
Everybody has an opinion about what you choose to do and it makes you not so confident about if you're making the right choice for your baby and your family. And you think everyone knows better for you. They know better for their family, and you know better for your family.
The further into motherhood you get, the more confident you are to be like oh well, we don't do it like that. Something else works for us and I don't care what you say about it.
I started muting a bunch of Instagram accounts, even ones that posted about things I believed in. The majority of the accounts that I muted had to do with sleep because that was the thing that gave me the most anxiety. I loved what they talked about, but until I had a problem, I didn't want any more input or ideas to give me more stress about the topic. Really, I didn't want the incoming information unless I was seeking it out.
I think overall, Instagram (and other forms of social media) can be both so helpful and so detrimental to new moms. You're getting all this information and that can be great at times and super stressful at other times. Mute or unfollow when you need to. Unplug when you need to. Reach out to people and DM accounts when you need to. Do what works for you.
Like I said, sleep has been the most stress inducing thing for me. With my second, I decided to just throw it all out the window. I let her sleep when she needed to. I didn't wake her up from naps, I just tracked her sleep with the Huckleberry app to learn her patterns and let her body and natural sleep cycle do its thing.
What I learned was that she had a set number of hours, in a 24 hour period, on average that she sleeps. So if she sleeps 7 hours during the day, she sleeps significantly less at night. That helped me know how many hours she should be napping and sleeping, what to expect during the night, etc. And wake windows are superrr helpful for me. When she gets fussy I look and I'm like okay, it's only been 20 minutes, your diaper probably needs to be changed. Or, oh, it's been an hour and a half that's right on schedule for your next nap. This girl is seriously like clockwork so having it tracked is beyond helpful for me.
So, the moral of this is to trust yourself and do what is going to work until it doesn't.
Work has been another area of major shifting for me. AJ (my oldest) is in daycare 3 days a week and those are the days that I work. I work for myself and work from home. I used to think it would be so much easier if I didn't. That I could go into work somewhere, be a human, talk to other adults, and then go home and be a mom.
Now, I feel very lucky that I'm able to work from home and do what I do and be with my baby as much as I can. This was a shift in mindset and a shift to working on the days I work and moming on the days I don't. Because when I was doing 50/50 and kind of playing with my babes while also kind of sending emails and thinking about work, I wasn't really paying attention to either. Now I can be fully present for both my kids and my work. I don't feel bad working on a work day and when it's a non-work day, I don't work. Having the clear distinction has been a game changer for me.
I recently did a video on how I've started dealing with toddler tantrums and that also I think has a lot to do with this shift in motherhood.
It has seriously made motherhood so much more enjoyable. When I see my kid crying, instead of being like, “oh my gosh, you're crying for the 100th time” (which I do still feel at times), I'm like “okay, you're trying to tell me something” and then I work to figure out what that is.
I've started being curious and inquisitive during the tantrums to figure out what she's trying to tell me through the tantrum. That way, I understand what she needs, can help her, and solve the problem. And from this, she has started being way more calm too. Your kids aren't trying to give you a hard time, they're having a hard time. That really changes your perspective. Being less annoyed with them and more curious with them has made our relationship so much better.
If You're Struggling
So I guess what I would recommend if you're struggling through motherhood like I was, first, think about what your triggers are. What brings you the most stress, uncertainty, frustration, etc.
For me, it's primarily sleep. I really had to dig deep and figure out, how can I make this better. Really, it was just letting go of it all. Or, if I need to get my workout in to feel okay today, how can I make that happen? It might mean putting a gate around me so they can't touch the weights and putting them in front of a show for 45 minutes, and that's fine!
Think about what you need. Sometimes that's hard and you can't put a finger on it because you're overwhelmed. But try to really figure out if you need meals made, to workout, to have time to read a book, more sleep (you can hire a sleep consultant).
Then, figure out how to make it work. I wanted to go for outdoor runs. AJ screamed the entire 2 mile run because she wanted to go to the park. So maybe I need to start with a mile run or even a half mile, and make it very clear that we are going for a stroller ride and that's it. Or, teach her that you might go for a long stroller ride AND THEN you go to the park. Do a mile and get her used to it and then increase the distance.
Figure out what you need to do to make yourself happier and make changes to do that. Figure out how you can make it happen, give it a try, and then adjust to make it work.
Again, for me, the shift really happened when I stopped trying to be Shay before kids. I really started to take on what it meant for me to be “mom”. That is when everything changed.
I used to think, okay, two kids, we can do this and then we can start traveling again, we can do whatever we want again. And now with this shift, I don't need to do that. I'm like “let's have 15 kids” because I'm a mom and I'm diving in and this is what we do. So, I do need to pump the breaks a bit haha but I just feel completely different about motherhood and finally feel happy in that.
It used to feel like a trap. I didn't want to “just” be a mom, I wanted to be more than that. I wanted to have something else that I do. Now, I no longer feel like that. Being happy as a mom, and being with your kids and proud in that and making memories for them is more than enough for me now.
Everybody has a different experience in motherhood. If you're loving it, I'm so happy for you! If you're not, I truly hope you can find a grove, discover your new identity, and do what you need to do to make yourself happier and fully embrace motherhood.