Sometimes it feels like “mom” defines every single thing about you. But it’s not always the healthiest for a woman’s psyche. Contributor (and new mom) Holly Ellis Spiegel shares her tips on keeping your own identity outside of motherhood.
As soon as my baby bump was prominent enough for folks to ask me about it, they stopped asking me about anything else. I was so used to the following questions, usually in this order: “when are you due? What are you having? Are you sick of people asking you about the baby?” and then responding: “October. A boy. No, of course not! (Read: yes, of course I am.)” I could make small talk with my ears plugged. When I met a stranger at a party and his first question was, “so, what do you do?”, I nearly wept with gratitude.
Your rapidly changing body, the awkward (and sometimes creepy) stares and comments from strangers and friends, not to mention the kicking and squirming alien (I mean, blessed baby) growing inside of you, make it hard for an expecting mom to maintain a sense of self. This can be even harder after the baby is born, when suddenly all your time is taken up by the enormous responsibility of keeping that darn baby alive (I mean, with the joy of motherhood).
Here is a list of easy ways you can hold on to what makes you you, both before and after you become a mom.
Steer the conversation. Don’t be disheartened by the lack of variety in the chatter at cocktail parties. If you get tired of answering the usual onslaught of queries about how much more weight you think you’ll gain or (after the baby comes) how much weight the baby is gaining, change the subject. Seen a cool new series on Netflix? Talk about it! Read something interesting about a new exhibit at the Whitney? Find out if your fellow guest has been to see it. Ask them to describe it in detail so that you can live vicariously until you have the next opportunity to get out on your own.
Now, speaking of getting out…
Go on as many dates with your partner as possible. As a pregnant woman, I was always tempted to stay home with my feet up, but I’m glad I can look back on my pregnancy and see it as a time when my husband and I focused on ourselves and each other, in addition to prepping for the baby’s arrival. Along the same lines: have sex. If you’re lucky to be one of those pregnant ladies who like sex, have lots of it.
Also during pregnancy: move your body. Money was tight for us, so I found some wonderful pregnancy yoga videos online and did them almost every day. Even if I wasn’t able to do all the poses, or commit more than 10 or 15 minutes, I was able to go about my day with the assurance that I’d started it by doing something healthy for myself.
Baby steps (pun intended) for after baby is born:
As early as you feel comfortable, take a walk alone. Just around the block. Work your way up to longer walks (as your doctor advises), and then eventually a yoga or other light exercise class. As you go, breathe deeply and remind yourself that this is your body (and while you’re at it, be proud of that body and all that it is capable of doing).
As your baby grows, fellow Brooklyn mama Hannah Roth suggests: pick an extracurricular activity that you can go to regularly (a book club once a month, an art class once a week, a volunteer gig 3 hours every other week), put it on your calendar and make it happen. Your partner stays with the kid(s) and has special alone time with them. Hannah has 2 book clubs that meet once a month and a monthly dinner with some girlfriends. On those nights, she doesn’t rush home; she takes her time and enjoys her adultness.
My last piece of advice: when someone else is holding the baby, find someone to hold you. Remember that Scrubs episode about the loneliest guy in the room? That’s me when I’m not holding my baby. I find myself lingering in hugs with friends and kissing just about everyone I meet – I get some pretty puzzled looks. To keep the awkwardness to a minimum, my husband and I steal as many opportunities as we can to hold each other while our friends and family ooh and ahh over our son. This is also a great way to keep us connected, which is as hard to do after the baby comes as everyone warned us it would be.
Holly Ellis Spiegel is a writer and freelance film and video producer based in Brooklyn. She’s produced four feature films including the Sundance-selected Prairie Love and countless videos for parents and families on CafeMom and other outlets. She is also a new mom. See her work at www.hollylynnellis.com.