Last time I saw me I was about 15 pounds thinner, I stood up straighter and my shirt was ironed. My make-up was creamy and flawless, my nails were painted and glossy and my hair was pristinely styled. I was jetting in or out of some business meeting and my cellphone was buzzing with people who urgently needed my input on whatever was the hot topic of the moment. My girlfriends were giddy with gossip about last weekend’s wedding or an upcoming getaway with their new husbands and I had warm, fuzzy feelings while sipping wine. The biggest challenge of my day (aside from work) was which sushi restaurant to order dinner from.
Last time I saw me I was fairly newly married to a man I had known for over five years. I had just purchased a lot (read: pile of dirt) from a builder and was anxiously awaiting that builder to break ground and build my dream home. I would stay up late worrying about the *perfect* stain for the hardwood floors and the pulls and knobs for my custom-painted kitchen cabinets. Stainless steel or pewter faucets were another source of debate.
I thought I saw me in the mirror this morning briefly. Aside from the obvious physical changes, there was something very different about the woman I saw in the mirror. She looked older, but not in physical years. She looked wiser, but not from books. This woman looked familiar and comfortable, but I’m telling you, something was just “different”. This woman didn’t seem to mind that she looked slightly disheveled, and it wasn’t a big deal that there was a mystery stain on her shirt and the bag over her shoulder was not a Louis Vuitton but a Dora the Explorer backpack. The woman that I saw in the mirror didn’t really seem to mind, at all, that the grout in her designer bathroom was looking a bit dingier than she would ordinarily tolerate and she most certainly couldn’t have cared less that last night’s dinner plates were still on the dining room table (don’t tell her mother though, she would care).
As a giggle and scream of joy sounded throughout the house I realized that the woman in the mirror was in fact me – I had found myself. The new me. The mother me. The wife me. The caregiver me. The selfless me. The me that I was meant to be. Trading in Gucci for MEC, Louboutin for StrideRite, Pinot Noir for homo milk and organic oatmeal for Cheerios wasn’t the old me, the “missing woman’s” plan but little did the old me know that there would be nothing in the world that I would trade for one minute of tickle time with G. The new me balances my career with my baby. The new me prioritizes cleaning and playing. The new me does her best to be a supportive friend, wife, daughter and sister.
It took me 18 months, countless crying fits in front of the mirror, night after night of soul-searching and too many conversations with friends to count to let the old me get lost and find the new me. As parents it can be extremely difficult to find the balance between our old lives and our new future. Our jobs are no longer the be-all and end-all of our day, our partners are no longer the centers of our universe and our priorities drastically shift (perhaps more so than we can ever imagine). We go from somewhat immature, self-indulgent, spontaneous people to adults who are responsible for keeping humans alive within seconds and there is no book, class, seminar or parenting forum that can prepare us. We need to take the time to re-discover ourselves. Meet the new “me”. The new version of ourselves will have different favorite foods, she will enjoy different music, different things will make her laugh and new things will bring her joy.
Here are some things that helped me let the old me go and welcome the new me into my life:
1. Naps are sacred. Whether it’s a 20 minute nap or a three hour nap, that is YOUR time. Do whatever you want. Eat crappy snacks, do your hair, sleep, cook, read, watch tv – do whatever you want because you own those minutes.
2. Read books that matter. I’m not suggesting that you read War and Peace, but read something that will help you escape to a fantasy land for a few minutes a day. Reading will keep your mind sharp and will get your creative juices flowing.
3. Be your own best friend. Your relationships with your pre-baby friends are going to change whether you like it or not. You will make new friends who have babies as well, but you need to be able to spend time alone with your thoughts. It’s easy to let your anxieties, insecurities and fears get the better of you, so take the time to learn what makes you happy so that you can focus on that when you are alone. A warm mug of coffee, a trashy magazine, a manicure – whatever you love, learn to love it solo.
4. Re-introduce yourself to your partner. Whether you have been with this person for 10 minutes or 10 years, the person who you are co-parenting with will look, feel, smell and be totally different to you. Instead of letting yourselves become co-habitants of the same house, channel your energies together to become closer than ever. Kids can rip a couple apart (hello money stress, sleepless nights, different bodies and new priorities) – head the troubles off at the pass and communicate any and all issues and concerns clearly and respectfully. Also, tell your partner that you love him or her. It’s nice to hear.
5. Friends. Respect them, love them, be engaged with them and support them. They need you just as much as you need them. Whether you need parenting advice or a good laugh, your friends will be your greatest ally. They will keep you sane when all you can see in front of you are dancing monkeys and headless clowns. Trust.
6. Family. Your mom, dad, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, whoever, will love you no matter what. Confide in them. Seek support from them. Trust them and ask them for help when you need it. You don’t need to suffer alone or feel lost, because their unconditional love and incredible ability to know you better than you know yourself will help guide you down the right path.
I am so happy to say goodbye to the old me, I wouldn’t recognize her if I saw her. The new me is the best me and it’s the me I want to be. I also rhyme really well now.