Written By: Meg McAlarney
I remember the day quite vividly, it was March 2016, I’d been a new mom for eight months now and I sat on my kitchen floor in Orléans, France hysterically crying to my husband that I had no idea who I was anymore.
Let me make it clear that I loved my life, I loved being a mom and a wife but something was definitely missing. I realized at that moment that since my son was born that I hadn’t really done anything for myself. I thought I’d give birth and go back to my old self, new mom naivety I guess because that was the furthest thing from the truth.
My son James was born on July 20th, 2015 and just three short weeks later I was packing up my little family and moving overseas to France for the next nine months, it was just my new daddy husband, new mommy me, baby and our golden retriever, Wooden. I remember once again crying in the airport to my father-in-law telling him, I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t go over to France. My hormones were still crazy since I pushed out a baby less than a month before and all I kept thinking was I’d have no help, my husband would be going to training camp for his job and I’d be alone.
I could lie to you right here and say that my first year as a mother was all unicorns and rainbows, and for the most part it was great. James is a great kid, a good sleeper, super happy, healthy and a little smarty pants but this post really has nothing to do with my job raising James, because there I’d give myself an A/A- grade. This is about how in devoting myself to being the perfect parent, my grade for taking care of myself was a D, ok maybe a C- at best.
Let me be clear, I am not looking for your sympathy, I lead a very good life. My husband has a great job that has allowed us to purchase a home, I have a beautiful, healthy son and come from a very loving family. But that doesn’t mean my life is perfect or that I don’t struggle with finding the balance of being a good mom while carving time out of my day to do something for myself.
So let’s go back to me crying on my kitchen floor in France, let’s just say it wasn’t one of the greatest moments of my life but I can say that it helped me to understand the importance of doing something for me.
Before I had my son, I was a runner and a pretty good one at that, I wrote a blog called Jeans and Tees and Travel and Cakes, where I documented my life living overseas and the ups and downs that come with being an expat. I ran a little online shop through Skreened, where I found moderate success selling cheesy graphic t-shirts. I was a certified yoga instructor, who loved the way I felt after a great yoga sequence. Lastly, I was a dreamer, I was always setting goals for myself, trying to accomplish things on my life’s bucket list but I noticed after having a child I was doing not one of these things.
Now you’re probably saying, “Why didn’t you just start running again?” I can honestly tell you I don’t know why but I found myself making excuses. I’m tired. I am breastfeeding, what if I start leaking on a run? What if the baby needs me? The excuses kept coming and I was becoming more and more unhappy with myself. Who was this woman? I would blog here and there, but it felt forced. I’d begin a yoga sequence and I was out of breath and felt defeated within the first five minutes. Ladies and gentleman, I was definitely in a rut and this only made me feel worse.
It wasn’t until that March day, crying so hard to my husband that I realized I needed to make a change in my life. My husband who is always supportive, told me to go out and do whatever I needed to do. He was always encouraging me to get back into running, he knew that it was my passion. He told me that it was ok to desire time to myself, that doing something for myself didn’t make me a bad mom. These were things I needed to hear and took away some of the guilt I’d been feeling. I felt so guilty that I wanted time to myself, away from my baby. I felt selfish, I knew working moms that would kill for the amount of time I get to spend with my child daily and here I was looking to get away from mommy duty.
It is so important to do something for you! Now I am not saying, abandon your child and go set sail on some grand adventure. What I am saying is that it’s important to set aside some time in your day to focus on you. Even if it’s sitting in silence while your child naps enjoying a cup of coffee, or going for that jog or taking that kickboxing class you’ve always wanted to try, you deserve it. I am learning that the days I take the time to go for a run or work on this website I am in an overall happier mood, and if my child sees me working towards my dreams and goals then that will encourage him to have the confidence to find his own passions and dreams.
This year we decided that because we are living overseas and are away from our family and “the village” it takes to raise a child, we’d have to find a way to create our own village. James is 14 months and now enrolled in Crèche, which is the equivalent to a nursery school back in the States. He goes two days a week for three hours at a time, it’s so good for him because he’s around kids his age, which will help with his social skills, with the added bonus of learning French. For this mommy, it’s six hours a week where I can focus on me, even though most of the time he is there I’m thinking of him. Whether it’s going for a run, working on The Hobbyist Life or just sitting on the couch uninterrupted catching up on the latest Bravo TV show, it’s much needed me time.
We also found a babysitter, thanks to the help of a friend. This was so necessary! Last year the only time Kyle and I went out on a date while overseas, was one night while my mother-in-law was visiting. We went out ONE time together in nine months, that isn’t good for a marriage, that was not going to cut it for us this year. It’s so important to have one on one time with your spouse, it’s important to get out of your sweatpants and off the couch and enjoy a night out together, where you can connect, reset and focus on your love for each other.
Parenthood, marriage and self-love is a very tricky dance that is really hard to master. It seems like when you focus on one the others suffer. This year one of my goals is to find a better balance, I want to raise a happy child, I want to go on dates with my husband and I want to achieve my dreams and goals. It sounds like a lot of “I WANT”, but I know while it might not always be perfect, finding balance is possible. So here I am, trying to be a good mommy, great wife and do things that set my soul on fire, I am rooting for myself like I root for all of you. Life can get crazy and I want you to know, if you are ever feeling the way I felt, a few simple adjustments can make all the difference. It’s not glamorous crying on your kitchen floor but sometimes it takes a good cry and tears to see what you need in life.