It began happening in tiny, subtle ways the moment I found out I was pregnant with my daughter in December 2009 and became more obvious after we brought her home that following August.
My body didn’t look the same. I knew it wouldn’t change any time soon, and it probably would never perfectly resemble what it was pre-Heidi.
My house didn’t look the same…it was messier and completely filled with baby paraphernalia: bouncy seat, swing, bumbo, bottles, play mats, baby food, office smashed into the guest room to make room for a nursery, lots more laundry, and lots more takeout (at least at first!). Even now, her toddler toys, clothes, books, crayons, dolls, etc. litter the entire house.
My time didn’t look the same. My early morning runs, late-night writing sessions, productive days of cleaning and shopping, coffee dates with my girlfriends…all were long gone. My morning routine…run during the sunrise, hot shower, coffee and favorite music in the car on my way to work, quiet time to think and pray and get myself together…was only a distant memory.
My brain didn’t work the same. My favorite pastime of journaling was a mere luxury. I forgot absolutely anything that wasn’t written down. And the sound of my child’s cry literally made me break out in hot flashes.
And the clincher that made me realize there was no going back? My name is no longer just “Jamie.” I’ve been called “Heidi,” “Heidi’s mom,” and sometimes people can’t even remember my name…but they know my kid.
Little by little, I began to lose myself. The lines between my roles get blurry. Any free time I managed to find was spent sleeping, showering, or scarfing down my lunch. My days had no structure, and anything that wasn’t revolving around Heidi was not a priority.
Granted, a lot of that was when I was still in survival mode (at least the first six months…hope that wasn’t just me, haha). Now that Heidi is two, she is much more independent and flexible. We can do lots of things together, and she is learning, learning, learning. But I still sometimes struggle with being me aside from my role as a parent.
Not long ago, I had a very teary conversation with my husband about this very thing. I was beginning to identify way too much with the crying and the naps and the diapers and the constant disciplining and the tantrums and the seemingly never-ending, grueling, and thankless (as my mom STILL says, haha) task of being a parent. Even on Saturday mornings and on “vacations,” I am still a mother. This was a tough adjustment for me…and in some ways, I’m still adjusting two years later (I also hope that’s not just me??).
I will never forget what Cody told me that day when I broke down. He said, “You’re still Jamie, though. You can still love the things you love, like running and writing and reading. It’s about making time for those things. You’ve always been ambitious; that’s one of the things I’ve always loved about you. So be ambitious.”
This made me cry. It felt so wonderful for him to remind me who I was…who I am. I had not lost those things. I had let life get in the way, and I let them get buried. I still possessed the motivation and the drive to pursue the things I loved. I could still set goals. I could ask for help. I could achieve things I wanted to achieve before having Heidi. I wasn’t afraid to fail before, but that was because I had more time and energy. This time I was afraid to fail because God forbid I waste what little time I have to myself on something that FAILS!
Even going through the motions of making time for yourself is a priority in parenting. Not only do we need to be refreshed as wives/mommies/friends, but we need to get back in touch with our hearts. Yes, being a mommy has grown our hearts tenfold, and our capacity for love and patience has expanded well beyond what we all thought we were capable of. And being a parent definitely leaves us feeling full and alive (and a walking train wreck of death…but that’s another blog post all together).
But what about our passions? And our life goals? What about those things we love to do for the simple joy of it, aside from sharing it with our toddler? Trying new hobbies. Writing a short story. An hours-long coffee date with a friend that has no time limit. A weekend getaway. Time alone with our spouse doing something FUN and something that does not involve any kind of parenting. Creating new recipes. Having a party (either send the kiddo to grandma and grandpa’s, or wait to invite friends over til after bedtime and have a fire pit outside!).
I felt renewed in those simple words my husband offered me. So I decided to make some goals:
- Lose the bleeping baby weight – There was always an excuse for this. ALWAYS. So I decided, no more excuses. I began counting calories in January and lost the last 10 pounds by April. I’ve plateaued a bit, but my exercise/eating habits are much more consistent and easy to follow.
- WRITE – I love to write. LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE. I love my blog. I love writing stories. And I want so badly to publish a book one day. There is nothing that says I can’t, but I have to make it happen. Even if I have to set my alarm every day for 6am and that’s all I do during Heidi’s nap. People with kids have accomplished far more than even writing a single book. And I only have one kid!
- Read – I joined a book club and completed the entire Harry Potter series FINALLY (And may I say….they are amazing). I figured those are good steps to keep reading a big part of my life. I’ve always been a book worm, and I enjoy it so much more than watching a movie or vegging in front of the tv.
- Keep my spiritual life a priority – A lot of my joy and inspiration for my writing comes from my faith, which permeates every aspect of my life. I begin to feel empty and bitter and less giving during seasons I don’t take the time for prayer and for reading the Bible. There’s a reason for that, friends. That book explains everything in life.
- Be a good mom -These last two should, obviously, be at the top of my list. But I do find these are both a tad easier when I’m happier, well-rested, and more motivated. I don’t think I’ve ever prayed for anything more than I’ve prayed to be a good mom.
As I started working towards some of my ambitions, I noticed something. Heidi followed along. She loves to sit and read. She loves to color while I write. And she LOVES to tag along on my runs; she even used to take her morning nap in the jogging stroller every single day. She loves to go on hikes at the park with me. She loves to socialize. I’m finding that as I take time for shaping me, I’m shaping my child too. Sure, she’ll learn to like different things as she grows older. And maybe one day she’ll grow out of others. But I’m giving her a place to start, and I’m living out some of the values we hold dear as a family. I’m drawing boundaries on how we spend our time, and hopefully I am teaching her the world does not revolve around her. (Because it actually revolves around me…Haha, I kid, I kid). The more I did what I loved, the more energy and patience I had in motherhood. God made us all unique for a reason; our unique giftings not only refresh us…they refresh those around us.
And of course the biggest thing, hopefully, is I’m intrinsically teaching her how to set goals, be active, get things done. I’m teaching her how to be ambitious.
Though usually, when I see that mischievous sparkle in her eye, I’m pretty sure I won’t have a problem with her ambition.
“The sin God rebukes is not trying and failing, but failing to try. Trying, failing, and trying again is called learning. Failing to try will have no good result; evil will triumph. God expresses his opinion toward passivity in Hebrews 10:38-39 (“But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back. But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.”). Passive shrinking back is intolerable to God, and when we understand how destructive it is to the soul, we can see why God does not tolerate it. God wants us to “preserve our souls.” That is the role of boundaries – they define and preserve our property, our soul.”
~Dr. Henry Cloud