May 18, 2020

Motherhood at a Glance: How To Cultivate a Healthy Relationship with Yourself

I am thrilled to introduce our very first Motherhood at a Glance feature writer! I have had the pleasure of knowing Kasee Bailey for about a year now and she has become an inspiration to me ever since meeting her. She is a vibrant 27-year-old living here in Texas with her husband and four children (Nathaniel and Tobias, 3, Norah and Wyatt, 1). Kasee is a freelance writer and small business owner of Longhand Pencils. She is a multi-passionate creative and loves diving into new projects. Kasee enjoys reading, writing, napping, making and eating chocolate chip cookies when she isn't busy chasing down her two sets of twins! 

When I read what she had written to share today, I was floored. Her words are inspiring and her message is powerful. I'm excited for you to learn a little bit from this wonderful mother and friend.

It’s totally cringey to look back on my adolescent journals. Collaged in torn-out pictures from teen magazines and stuffed with newspaper clippings and ticket stubs, they were filled with meandering thoughts (like the embarrassing chronicles of the boys I crushed on) and passionate dreams for my future. That imagined future included a life of writing: a job at a magazine in New York, days filled with art and culture, and a strong-willed, independent identity. 

I followed those dreams as I grew older, earning a degree in journalism and working at magazines in big cities. But my life also grew to include (wonderful, miraculous) things I hadn’t anticipated — a husband, and in the course of four years, two sets of twins.

Nearly in the blink of an eye, I sharply pivoted from deadlines and city streets to diapers and late-night feedings. It was jarring. I didn’t realize it until much much later, but once I had kids and focused on family life, I lost an important part of me. 

Now, let me be clear: I love being a mom. It is the most important and rewarding role I could ever have. It’s stretching and challenging and miraculous, and I wouldn’t ever trade it for anything — even the dream I thought I wanted as a teenager. But the change started out for me as an either-or. I could either be a mom OR a writer. There were no ampersands. 

It has taken me years to figure this out (and it’s still a learning process, as my therapist would attest), but as wives, mothers, and women, we have to embrace the ampersands in our life —the ands. Becoming mothers — in whatever capacity — doesn’t have to mean we lose ourselves. We can be mothers and dreamers and makers and creators. It’s not either-or. 

It was hard for me to leave the corporate world once my first twins were born. I struggled to find complete fulfillment in the day-to-day minutiae of raising two demanding beings. But slowly, as I brought myself back into my life, I felt fully whole. I started writing again (in a new, adapted way), I started a small business, and I continually make time for creating, developing my unique gifts, and exploring my own personal identity. 

Now, I know. This all sounds counterintuitive. Focusing more on yourself is a strength in motherhood? YES. Yes, yes, yes. A hundred times yes. You know what happened when I started re-discovering myself after having children? I became a better mother.

Prioritizing time to develop and pursue my dreams outside of my motherhood role has made me a happier, stronger, and more capable mom. When we care for and nurture ourselves, we can better care for and nurture others. What’s more, through our actions, our children see the worth of their own individual identities, dreams, and goals. They develop confidence. They recognize the importance of working hard and the value in creating. Those are essential lessons. 

The past four years, I have a seen a drastic change in myself as I’ve re-discovered myself. As I’ve valued myself enough to cultivate my own identity, I have strengthened every aspect of my life — including my work as a mother. My children and I have thrived more together.

This is hard, I know. We get so immersed in the trenches of motherhood, and often without even noticing, we lose more and more of ourselves. Being the best mother we can be is important. We need to nurture our children in a loving way, provide for their needs, and strive to better ourselves in this role. But nurturing yourself is a big part of that. Here’s a few ideas for honoring your incredibly valuable self. 

Believe me, I am all too familiar with Mom Guilt. Like, intimately familiar. It’s been my obnoxiously-omnipresent companion since that day in 2016 when a nurse rubbed goo on my stomach and declared, “Oh my gosh! There are two!” 

You have to actively fight against the inner voices telling you that you shouldn’t take time for yourself. This takes practice. But time for yourself matters. It’s important for physical, mental, and emotional health — and for your own identity. 

And I know in the past few years, we’ve heard “self-care” thrown around like confetti (or the cheerios that you will be finding in the crevices of your car forever). But I think in that frequent conversation, “self-care” has become trite. It’s not about taking a bubble bath after a long day, or “treating yo’ self” (although, that can totally be part of it, Tom- and Donna-style). It’s about understanding — deeply— that you are not just a lean, mean, diaper-changing-machine (‘cause that is what I feel like a lot), but a person, and giving yourself the permission to cultivate yourself. You’re a human being with worth outside of motherhood. #micdrop. You're a person with gifts, talents, passions — and a calling that matters. 

Start by carving out a specific time each day or each week for yourself, whether that be an hour or two while your kids nap (or have “quiet time”), after they go to bed, or while your husband takes over on Saturdays. Whenever it is, mark it and honor that appointment with unwavering commitment. Talk to your partner or support system and communicate the importance of this time. And when your kids scream as you leave or stick their fingers underneath your door as you engage in YOU-time, remind yourself that you’re doing it for you — and for them

Okay, it’s time to get philosophical. Who are you? Take some time — yes, do it now— and think: what are your interests? Your dreams? Your passions, goals, gifts? What activities or practices make you feel like you? These are the things you should spend time investing in. If you’re unsure or have forgotten what makes you you, find joy in exploring. Take classes on new topics, visit museums or walk in nature, or work on developing a new skill. Find those activities that provide personal fulfillment and prioritize them. 

Whoa, whoa, I know. Balance. It’s a buzzword and that ultimate end-goal we moms strive for when working to juggle all our roles and responsibilities as wives, mothers, and women. But right now, you just need to ditch the idea of balance. Balance is a scale with even weights. And that’s not reality. 

You will experience different phases and seasons of life, and how you manage time and the division of yourself during those different periods will look different — and vary for each family. Try instead to think of harmony. 

Imagine one of those setups for recording music, the ones with a thousand buttons and dials, like producers use, (or the makeshift one your brother had in your basement when he had his own band….or was that just my family?) At times, you need to increase the volume in one area of your life, and turn it down in others. It’s not forever, just needed to create harmony in that phase. Adjust and edit sound settings (or routines, habits, or time) based on the needs of your family and the demands of the period you’re in. 

Maybe you have newborns and you don’t have a two hours to take a painting class, but you can still devote small pockets of time for writing in your journal, or sewing a few stitches. You can still create that important time for yourself, even when it’s not perfectly divided time- or energy-wise with your other responsibilities. Maybe your kids are in school, and you have more time on your hands for yourself. Different phases, different volumes. It won’t be balanced, but balance isn’t what we’re striving for. We want harmony. You will adjust throughout your life. Accepting that can help you nurture yourself and keep Mom Guilt where it belongs — far the hell away from you. 

Mama, you are important. Do you realize that? Prioritizing yourself
and your goals isn’t selfish or shameful — it’s essential for you to find fulfillment, self-confidence, and physical, emotional, and mental well-being. It’s not about diminishing your focus on motherhood or ignoring that role. Far from it. Valuing who are you enough to nurture your own personal identity is a key for being the best mother you can be everyday. Fearlessly and passionately embrace your ANDs. You need it, and your kids need it.

(Uhm, also. A final note: laying in your bed and eating the chocolate you hid from your children totally counts as YOU-time, okay? Okay.)

Thank you so much to Kasee for sharing her heart with us today. I hope you learned from her and feel more confident in your ability to cultivate a healthy relationship with yourself and your motherhood. Just to recap, the three ways you can apply this into your own life are: 

Value your time and honor appointments with yourself  

Introspect: Find joy in exploring what makes you, you

Ditch balance and instead, find a realistic harmony for your life

You can find Kasee over on her website

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