How can you find yourself when you’re focused on raising someone else?

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Street Sign II
A lot of the content on Offbeat Mama really reinforces the idea of maintaining the person you were before becoming a parent, which I love. But what about those of us who are trying to be parent AND figure out who we are as individuals?

I was 20 when I found out I was pregnant, and I was just starting to carve out my adult identity. When I realized my daughter was coming, everything for me was put on hold — I had to get it together, get a steadier income, start planning. My daughter is now 3, and the hugest, most incredibly awesome thing to ever happen to me. And yet … I have been so consumed with raising her, and finishing my degree, and just making ends meet, that I sometimes feel like I’m still struggling to find me.

Do you have any tips for becoming more involved in offbeat communities, making offbeat friends, and finding time to know yourself? I want my daughter to cultivate an identity and sense of self … which means I should probably lead by example. -Blake

Comments on How can you find yourself when you’re focused on raising someone else?

  1. I am an older first time mom, and I had found myself professionally before parenthood. However, in the last few years before I became a parent, I realized that I was losing too much “me’ to my job, which was very key to my identity. So, even before motherhood, I began trying to focus on other ways of cultivating my sense of “me” (much of this was precipitated by a very real possibility of losing my job, which because of the line of work I am in, would have pretty much derailed me from this career forever, and I realized that I had to make some changes, because if this happened, I just could not let it be the end of “me” too). So I began reading more novels, reading more broad-based nonfiction than the literature in my field, cultivating friendships that have nothing to do with my work, and cultivating spirituality.

    The challenge for me now that I am a mom — and still in my chosen career (which worked out) — is still finding time for that core of “me.” Two things have helped. First, even when my baby was a tiny baby and I was incredibly sleep deprived, I still read for about fifteen minutes a night before bed. Reading just helps me be ME. Second, since he was about ten months old, I exercise three times a week — and I use this as additional novel-reading time, or sometimes TV time, and I also listen to music. This has become so important to me that I have already decided that if I become a new parent again, I am going to figure out the exercise much much sooner, and not use nursing as an excuse.

    I agree with everybody that our journeys to the core ourselves are neverending, and not just dependent on age/career.

    My main goal now is to continue to make time for old friends and to cultivate connections with new ones — and to connect to read blogs like offbeatmama that help me think about the ways that motherhood has and has not changed me!

    On another note, my husband has had a harder time figuring out a non-work and non-child identity. It is harder for men, I think, to make new male friends as adults, and he lives far from his old friends. I wonder how common this is?

  2. I definitely mentioned this type of inner confusion in a previous blog post comment. In fact, many a night now in my early pregnancy I find stress and anxieties building me up to tears from all the emotion. My husband is 11 years older than me and working in his meant-to-be profession, while I struggle with where I want to be in life before and after the baby comes.

    The biggest ‘aha’ was when someone mentioned ‘The Art of Non-Conformity’ book in a comment – a book that I will be buying this weekend after checking out he website. My biggest issue is that my dreams were all outside the box, do not follow the usual 9-5 job setup, and may carry us to all different places. I need to be accepting of the fact that strapping a baby to my back and still doing what I want is okay, even necessary. What I really need is people like me that want to or are already living the life I want for my family. Thanks be to the internet that I can reach these people easier.

    I’m not normally an outgoing or sharing person of my own personality and what makes me who I am, but I have to be willing to put it out there to reach my dreams. My husband makes it look so easy because he loves machinery on the side, and there are many people with that interest. I just need to find people who love small hobby-farm ranching, international travel, Japanese, cross-stitching, gardening, and many of my other interests. You’re going to be a kindred spirit with me if you can spend hours in the garden enjoying weeding because of the sounds and smell, and the sun.

    They do say, love what you do, do what you love, with people that love it too.

  3. It’s sometimes hard to be yourself when it is detrimental to your child. That is what makes it such a tightrope at times. I can either be myself, find people like me and be happy in my own self, or I can be a pseudo/hybrid version of myself and my children will actually be accepted by more mainstream mums. Sucky as it is at times, my kids come before my needs and I will play Martha Stewart (well as close as I get anyway) to have them be allowed a social life from a Stepford community. When they are older and get it, and have established friendships excluding mama’s, that’ll be my time to stop putting a front on. Until then, keep the real me to the people that already know me, or will have no influence on my kids ‘reputation’.

  4. I am also a young mama (22 with a 18 month old) and the best advice I have for making offbeat mama friends is to forget about age! For me living in a small town it is pretty much impossible to meet other young parents who are into the same things I am. Once I got over the whole issue of age I found lots of parents I have tons in common with and who cares if they are 10 years older then me?

  5. I would LOVE to know the answer to this question! Before I got pregnant, I really did know myself. But I didn’t know myself as a pregnant woman and now a mummy. And like it or not, things have changed and I feel like a new person in a lot of ways — but still one that I’m not familiar with. My body’s changed, my priorities have changed, and my circumstances have changed…the thing I’m not happy with is how much of my pre-baby personality that I feel like I’ve lost right now and I want back.
    Someone mentioned before too and I agree — I’ve found it really hard to make good friends and even further the friendships I already have because my lifestyle choices are so different. I parent differently, my lifestyle is different…its hard for me to put myself on the chopping block when it comes to what I believe is best for me, my kid and my family all the time.

  6. I can definitely relate to this! I was nineteen when I found out I was pregnant, had my son when I was twenty, and now it’s been almost a year. I had moved away from my immediate family, close to 600 miles, and met a guy, etc. When I said I really wanted to be with my immediate family, he supported me and we moved when I was six months preggo. I had some vague ideas of who I was before baby. I am not a social person, I honestly prefer to be alone most of the time for what ever reason, and so I did not have many good friends before baby. When I moved back to my hometown I realized I had lost touch with all my other friends and that many had moved away, gone to college, etc. They were in different places, both physically and in their lives. It has been really hard to find friends that I can click with, even more so for my FH.

    Despite all that I feel like becoming a mother was what I was meant to do. I know that sounds stupidly cliched but it feels really /right/ to me. It has made me stronger and more confident, while shifting my priorities around and changing the dynamics of all my relationships. I still love to do the things I did before I had my son: reading, writing, drinking coffee, camping, etc. I don’t think I have myself completely figured out but I realized that I don’t want that. How boring would that be?

    Finding time for myself is a struggle. I have plenty of family here, but they are all too busy with their own lives to really babysit for me. FH and I have FINALLY started having regular date nights, twice a month, but it’s a year for that to happen. My mother said to me the other day, “You really need to spend less time with Connor.” I laughed! It can be hard to separate yourself from your child but I do not have that problem. My issue is finding people who are willing to baby sit so I can have some time to myself. My FH is okay about hanging out with our son by himself, but he works nights and we don’t get much time together so he likes it better if we all hang out as family. Me time is very well non-existant. I have had two afternoons since my son was born that were just for me with no plans, no other people, just relaxing.

    Still I find that I can find myself amongst raising my son. It’s just staying true to your interests. Like Ariel said, think of it as setting an example for your child/children. Having things that are important to just you is just as important as anything else in your life. There is no need to feel guilty for wanting me-time for yourself. Being a mother is only one part of a greater person, albeit a huge part for most of us. :]

  7. Keep Calm and Carry on…It has taken me 31 years to find myself; Don’t rush it like a great master piece you will carve out yourself and then reinvent yourself all over again. A fine piece of art is never finished and neither will you be. I am a different person at 31 then I was at 25, 21, 18…you get the idea. The longer the journey the happy you are to just be and not try to be. Good Luck!

  8. i know this is an old post but i wanted to comment anyway. i really get this. my situation is a little different. i was almost 27 when my son was born, but it was just after my husband had passed away, so i was grieving, raising a newborn, and trying to figure out who i was without my partner in crime. it’s tough.

  9. Blake,
    I just turned 50 this October, I have two wonderful girls, who are young adults and I, like you, began my journey into adulthood with the same situation.
    I can tell you this,you have already begun to carve out an identity and it is one of a person who has so much strength that you can take on the massive responsibility of a child and still pursue your goals.
    You wake up everyday and make decisions that will have ripple effects for generations to come and you do ti with grace.
    You my dear have found it in your heart to not only take the right path, but to understand that you are no longer the center of your universe and have made peace with that. That speaks of great character,wonderful resilience and more maturity then many will ever reach in a lifetime.
    I can tell you this, you will find yourself in the little hand that you guide each day. The tender moments, the hard struggles,the joyousness of living in the moment. Children lead us down a path that not only benefits them, but also enriches us.
    There will come a day, in fact many days along the way and in the future, when you will question yourself, your decisions, your path.
    You may even be challenged by your children about them. But I can assure you that if you are looking for YOU, look not further than the task at hand and the hand that needs you to hold it.
    I understand as a young woman you long for adventure,success and ultimately a partner to share it with.
    You want to forge a path in this world , so you can one day say you “made it”, but I can tell you this, I have achieved financial success, even fame. I have walked many roads and seen many things. But the greatest of all was my connection with my children.

    XO Kim

  10. Best thing to do is to have a vision for yourself.. simple edible things for you to do.. that’s not “me” time spent on consumerism, but real things you loved to do before the kids arrived. Then, best advise, see how everything you are doing, is on the way, not in the way of parenting. How does planning the time, resources to do the things you love, contribute to becoming a better parent. If you find the gratitude of doing things for yourself, there will be no guilt or fear associated with doing things you want or doing things for the children.

  11. I was 21 when I had my son. I was not married to the father and our relationship didn’t last long after my son was born. I *thought* I had a plan when he was born, having been in a career of sorts for a few years before getting pregnant.

    As time passed and I became a single mother with little help from the father, I forgot to think about myself and what was best for me. I was lucky enough to have some family to take my son while I took a vacation – solo. I changed careers when my son was about 4. My friends and family pitched in there as well. And again when my career turned into a traveling twice per moth gig.

    I can’t say for sure that I know today exactly what I want to be when I grow up, but I can say that having a good, solid support system is crucial in the process. As Mothers, we tend to have this martyr mentality and, while it IS important to put our children first, we have to remember that it is also OK to take “Me” time.

    Our children will not hate us, the world will not crumble around us. Worst case scenario is there will be some crayon on the wall when we get home from a short break from the chaos. If you have been afforded the luxury of family or good friends near by, have them watch your kids for a day or two and take a vacation. Even a staycation in the house alone. Blast your Rock n Roll, eat ice cream in your undies!

    I have found that just a day or two by myself a couple of times a year has given me clarity and the ability to refocus on my goals and dreams.

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