Motherhood has turned me into the person I was destined to become. I always knew I wanted to be a mom but I could never articulate exactly why. Now, of course, I know the answers to this question. When my daughter hugs me I think: wow, I made her. I created this love. When I rock her to sleep and her little head rests gently on my chest, I think: this is what I was meant to do — be a mom!
And that may be true. But before I was a mother, I was other. I was a yoga practitioner. A traveler. A business owner. I took language and cooking classes. I had weekly happy hours with my girlfriends and spent weekends adventuring and doing house projects. A leisurely bike ride without a Burley in tow? I did that, too.
Sometimes I think about the person I was before becoming a mom, and I miss her. There’s a small space within me where concerts and late dinners used to reside. Time with my family fills a lot of that space — and all of the other spaces, too — but there’s a jagged little corner which needs to be satisfied.
And this woman? The one who had a lot of energy and few responsibilities? She’s still here. She’s just dormant and in need of awakening.
While thinking about rediscovering the old me, I engaged in an internal debate. I like the person I am now. I don’t want to be anybody else but my daughter’s mother, I argued. The person I used to be was great, but I wouldn’t change being a parent for anything. You may feel the same way. My guess is this is normal. But I think we’d all be doing our children a big favor if we revisited the people we once were.
We need to rediscover the other because we are our children’s role models. If we want to help them cultivate a confident sense of personal identity, we had better do the same for ourselves. We must create space for the things we love outside of our family — the things within which we lose ourselves. We must find flow. We must think of nobody and nothing else but the present moment.
To you, this may look like fly fishing or wheel throwing. Or maybe you were one of those people who, before children, spent mornings meditating and evenings reflecting. Whoever you were when you were other, that person still matters.
I do not have this figured out. I do know, however, that I’m a better version of myself, and therefore a better mom, when I devote a part of myself (however small) to the things I love to do.
Here are some of the ways I’ve reconnected with the person I was before becoming a parent. They might help you, too:
Revisit your ambitions
What did you previously aspire to be and do before your main priority in life became keeping your tiny humans alive? Remind yourself of your dreams before you became who you are today. I bet they are still relevant. They may look a little different, but the foundations are likely the same. Dig up your old dreams, and if they still resonate, go after them.
Go on the walk
Or take the spin class, or hit up the gym. Yes, you’re likely tired. Yes, you’d likely feel more productive if you were at home helping your kid her with homework, but exercising is productive, too. Do you dedicate as much time to working out as your body needs and deserves? For some, this comes naturally. For others, not so much. No matter how much I love going to yoga, it is a struggle to go as often as I used to. In order to revive this old part of myself — a part of myself I loved — I have to work pretty hard at it. But it’s always worth it. Think about it. When have you actually regretted working out?
Read the book
Not the parenting book. Not the book promising to make you a less anxious, more patient, or healthier person, either. Grab the book that’s been sitting on your bookshelf or nightstand — the one you’ve been wanting to read but haven’t because your time would be better spent learning about child psychology, or something ambitious like that.
Take the class
I realize not everybody is obsessed with taking classes. If you’re not, this might be even more important for you. Continuing to learn and grow has been one of the most enjoyable ways to rediscover the person I was years ago. Within the past month I’ve taken a basket weaving class and an aerial yoga class. Next month? Thai cooking. While soaking reeds in water and maneuvering around a giant silk, I forgot all of the responsibilities waiting for me at home. Classes teach you something new, which in and of itself is valuable, but they also require you to leave the house, leave your children, and stimulate your brain in a way that benefits you. I can’t speak highly enough of it. (By the way, community education is a great place to start. The classes are affordable and plentiful.)
Pick up the journal
You don’t have to be a writer for this to benefit you. Pick up your journal (or the back of a Target receipt, or your computer) and capture your thoughts. Work through the layers separating you as a parent from you as other; you as the person you were for the many years before you became a parent. What did you love to do when you had no restraints? Which hobbies brought you joy? Where did you go on your days off? Find out something you miss about your old self and revive it, if only for a happy hour.
Commit to the job
I say “job” because this won’t necessarily be easy. But keep in mind that spending time revitalizing the person you were before becoming a parent is not selfish; it’s selfless. Because if you don’t rediscover who you used to be, it may be harder for your children to discover who they are. And isn’t that every parent’s goal?
You were somebody else before you had a kid, and that somebody matters. I urge you to find them, to love and nurture them. Take them for a walk and let them come back to you. You may discover a beautiful depth you forgot you once had.
This post originally appeared on Wit & Delight