“There's something you should know about me, I am a mom.”
You would not believe how many times I have said this line in the past three years.
People seem to have a hard time believing that I am a mother. How can I have time to teach yoga, have a full time job, write for leisure, raise my children, all while taking care of my body and mind? People often laugh at me and try to figure out if I’m joking. Seriously, I’ve had people demand to see photos of my children as proof.
Do mothers have to look super tired all the time? Do we have to have stains and spills on our clothing all the time? Should we drop off our children in a onesie? Not a splash of make up on our faces? Is there a ‘mom-template’ that we have to fit in to?
Why is there a general expectation for mothers to lose themselves through the process of parenting?
Let me explain one thing. When my son was born, I hardly took care of myself. I was trying to figure out how to make a baby bed, how to make sure my son drank enough water and how to keep myself from falling asleep in the middle of the day because he’d kept me up half the night. I can’t count the times I skipped lunch, or opted for an unhealthy choice instead of my regular plant-based diet.
I started to look like a slovenly mom with permanent bags under her eyes. Who was this woman in the mirror and what had she done with me?
The way I looked was slowly becoming the way I felt. Taking care of a baby, working a demanding full time job, and trying to make it all work to keep everyone happy was starting to take its toll on my body. I lost myself in my new life and felt like I was drowning almost everyday.
Slowly but surely, I began to feel very down, making it even harder to keep everything up.
So I tried to schedule me-time. To recharge. Which turned out to be pretty much impossible. Every time I made myself a cup of tea and was about to sit down and relax, something demanded my attention. Household chores, finances, cooking dinner, my husband asking me something, the baby waking up again.
If I had a dollar for every cup of cold tea...
Luckily, a friend of mine suggested I leave the house. That way, I couldn’t be tempted to clean the house. I wouldn’t be bothered by anyone and I could finally take some time for myself. I remember listening to her and feeling nothing but resistance.
How could I leave the house? Wouldn’t everything collapse if I weren’t home? My family needs me, right?
The truth is, I felt guilty for leaving the house to do something for myself. I wanted to have children and I brought them on this earth. They were my responsibility. And in wanting to do something for myself, I showed nothing but selfishness. It is my job to care for them and mine alone. It is also my job to make sure my husband is happy. It is my job to keep the house clean, put food on the table, and bring in an income. And my job to be a superwoman. Right?
I made up excuses not to do anything for myself because I was scared. And sad. If I left, would someone else take good care of my kids? Aren’t I the only one who knew how to truly care for them? What if something bad happened?
And what if someone took such good care of them and they would have such a good time, would they still love me as much? Wouldn’t they prefer someone else over me?
"Just go" my friend said. "Maybe you’ll be surprised."
So I got tickets to a three-day festival and committed to going. I said goodbye to my kids, leaving them with grandpa and grandma. I cried, kissed and hugged them until they begged me to let them go.
The first few hours I couldn’t do anything except think about home. I called in about ten times, only to have them reassure me that they were fine, that I didn’t have to worry.
By day two I started to think of them less, trusting that everything was alright. I started to feel at peace and could allow myself to enjoy the festival. I stopped calling home every ten minutes. Instead I called in on myself.
Who was I now that I had this new life? I felt different. I was a mother now, which was a huge responsibility. But was I not more than just that? Was there not more to me than caring, working and pleasing others? Where is the old me?
The woman who knew her body was a temple and her mind was a sanctuary. And she always worked hard to maintain the two.
As the festival ended and I got home, nothing had changed. My children had been cared for, they were happy and they still loved me just as much. The world had not stopped moving, there were no disasters and nobody was hurt. I started to believe that maybe I could leave the house a little more often.
I started to take time off to see friends, or and took much-needed walks around the park by myself. I started to force myself to eat healthy again, picked up my daily yoga & meditation practices and occasionally treated myself to a spa day. I made it a habit to look good every day, to put on my make up and wear a nice dress, even if I wasn’t going out.
Though it wasn’t easy at first, making myself a priority became part of my weekly routine. Taking care of myself was just as important as taking care of everyone else. I noticed that I started to change. I felt energetic. I became patient and compassionate again.
My body changed as well. I lost weight and my skin and hair started to glow. Even friends began to notice and started to compliment me for my new look.
Taking time out for myself has been the best thing I could have done for myself and my family.
I know I don’t have to do it for my kids or for anyone else. My kids don’t care what I look like or what I eat. But I do it for me, because it helps me to be the best version of myself.
I can be a mother and a gorgeous confident woman.
In fact, I already am.
Written By: Alyssa Demkes
Dutch girl Alyssa is a yoga instructor and a mother of two beautiful children. She also enjoys reading english classics and philosophy books. (You’ll often find her in dusty old bookstores) If she’s not there, she’s probably in the kitchen preparing healthy and delicious food for her family. For Alyssa, perfect happiness is sharing a home cooked meal with her loved ones. She shares her discoveries and thoughts on her personal blog and is happy to also share the love via Happygirl Yoga.