Losing and Finding Myself Amidst Motherhood
I never meant to lose myself, none of us do. I was strong, independent and smart. I’d worked hard to get to where I was in my life. I told myself I was ready and prepared for whatever motherhood might bring. Twelve years, two neurodivergent kids, several physical and mental health events, and countless meltdowns from all of us later, I look back and want to hug who I was. She was strong, independent and smart. She’d worked hard to get to where she was. However, she did not understand what would be required of her. She was not prepared to be buried beneath the mental load of motherhood.
In the beginning, the shift was subtle and expected. The first year of my daughter’s life was a whirlwind of diapers, feedings and developmental milestones. Eventually, my husband and I made the decision that I would stay home when childcare costs exceeded my income. Then my son was born and I was taking care of a toddler and a newborn. This time I was more prepared for the diapers and feedings, but not the missed developmental milestones. As time went on, our life became that of speech, occupational and behavioral therapies. I will forever be grateful for the amazing professionals that continue to help our family to this day.
During this time, my sole identity eventually became that of a mother. Friends drifted away as I became increasingly occupied with the intense lifestyle of therapy appointments, research and meltdowns. I slowly became disconnected from the things that gave me joy. As the behavioral challenges extended beyond the toddler years, the looks and judgmental comments started to chip away at my confidence. I began to doubt my ability to parent children with such intense needs. I ultimately lost touch with the part of me that fueled my ability to challenge these inner voices.
In my experience, motherhood has been a humbling experience where I continually come face to face with the best and worst of myself. I love with the ferocity of the quintessential Mama Bear. I fight for and protect my children as best I can. However, I also make mistakes that must be repaired. I have come into contact with parts of myself that I would rather not. Aspects that reflect my very human emotions of anger and rage. At the world as it interacts with my children. At my ideas of who I thought my children might be when the reality is different. At my own parental imperfections and loss of who I thought I would be.
I recently had the opportunity to start remembering parts I had forgotten of my pre-motherhood self. Parts that reflect strength, fortitude, and perseverance. Parts that have informed, however unconsciously, my journey as a parent but stopped short of imbuing the same sense of pride and accomplishment. After all, parenting is a marathon not a sprint, for neurotypical and neurodiverse families alike. I have an amazing therapist and am slowly reconnecting the fiery part of me that can stand against the critical inner and outer voices. I have an incredibly gifted professional team supporting and guiding my children. As for joy, that continues to be a work in progress. However, as I sit and write this, I feel a spark of joy in my soul. The spark illuminates the me I thought I had lost, and in that moment I think, “Ah, there I am.”
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