Finding Your Identity After Parenthood

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Having kids is like nothing else in life. It changes the way you think about the world, and lets you love someone in a way that you never knew possible; but parenthood it is not to be underestimated.  No matter how much you love being a parent and adore your kids, it is the ultimate test of grit and resilience and there are going to be times where you are exhausted, mentally broken, and feel lost in your direction in life. It happens because you start to care for someone else around the clock, someone who needs you, and only you for every waking moment, and all the things you had on your life to-do list gets put aside so that you can dedicate your whole world to this little person’s needs, while often neglecting your own.

 

Being a mom is such a blessing, and every day I am so grateful for those little boys who are growing into sweet and hilarious people who challenge me every single day.  It is the hardest thing I have ever done, and I am always conflicted about my life as a mom and where I stand in the professional world. I have worked hard as a manager and as a student, and although being a mom comes first, I still very much value my future as a financial provider for my family while finding my own satisfaction in my career path.  I have spent three years putting my heart and soul into taking care of my family, and I find myself thinking a lot about my own identity besides being a mom. Cheryl Richardson, author, radio show host and teacher, states that “many mothers fall prey to the common misconception that their identity is merely wrapped up in what they do. You are more than the care you give your children and the responsibilities you take on for the good of your family, and you can reclaim your identity after children and marriage.”

 

Here are some things that have helped me on my journey through parenthood:

  1. Discover your interests: Spend time exploring what you like. The things that interested you before might have changed, and that’s ok! Take time out and get to know yourself again. For me, even listening to my own favorite music rather than Disney songs from Moana over and over again makes me feel like myself again. Take a class. Going back to school changed my life! It made me feel like I had “me” time again and a chance to start fresh with my career options.
  1. Do something out of the ordinary. Most of the time, being a parent is all about routine, especially if you stay home with the kids. Routines can help us to be more efficient, but breaking that routine every once in a while can be liberating. Take some time to go on a hike with friends, or find a fundraiser for a cause that you care about.  Social time is so important for creating connections and nurturing the ones you already have. Making yourself visible in your community can help you find a job, internship, or volunteer opportunity. Don’t get a lot of alone time? Take your kids! Go camping, head to the beach, or even go to a movie. “When we consistently stick to the same routines, some brain functions run on autopilot, but by changing our habits, we can force the brain to pay attention and exercise itself. Simply switching up your environment or changing your workflow exercises your brain, generating positive and lasting changes.

    My husband and I on a scuba diving trip to the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, Australia. We left the kids with my parents to have some one on one time.
  1. Have some “me” time. Take time to take care of yourself. It does not mean that you are being selfish. For me, sometimes it means dropping of the kids so that I can focus on school work, or spending time with my husband one on one. The options are limitless if you just give yourself a little time to do whatever it is you want to do while re-charging and taking time to reflect.  Having uninterrupted time to think about what you really want can help you create a game plan for getting closer to your goal.
  1. Find your tribe. Whether it is your family, friends, colleagues, or someone you met at the park, finding people who you can relate to can help you form important connections and can help build a community of trust and support in your life. My tribe is my family. Many of them live in Reno and I know that when I need to get work done or do something for myself, I can count on them to help me out with the kids. My friends with kids help keep me sane because we can all laugh about the crazy things we do as parents while the kids play, and my friends without kids encourage me to think about where I am going next in my career and what I want out of life for myself.
  1. Use your resources. Find a quick class to take to sharpen your skills on a subject or program, or ask a friend in the industry to give you feedback on your resume. If you are still exploring your interests, try volunteering for a local organization. You will likely form valuable connections while helping others in your community that you care about.
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When spending so much time working with and for your kids, it is common to feel detached from who you feel that you really are. Parenting is a role that you play; it is an important one, but just as we are employees, students, friends, and volunteers, those positions are roles, not necessarily what defines us or who we really are. As parents, it is also common to be too hard on ourselves for not living up to who we think we should be in those roles. Parenting is hard enough as it is, but if you never make anything happen for you, you can’t expect anything to happen to you.  What are some ways that you have found your identity while caring for others? Whether you have kids or not, take some time today to reflect on who you want to be, what kind of example you want to set for your kids, and if your current path is leading you in the right direction.

Let the World Know You’re Here: How to Express Yourself Authentically

Recently I took a personality test, which asked me about 144 questions about myself and how I view or feel about different situations. Some of the questions were spot on, easy to answer, and I was sure of how I felt. Others made me think a lot more, and some made me a feel a little uncomfortable because my honest answer wasn’t the answer that I hoped would reflect the real me. There was one question in particular that stood out to me in terms of who I am and who I hope to be. It had two statements to choose from and looked like this:

  • I have preferred to inhabit my own little world.
  • I have preferred to let the world know I am here.

This question really stuck with me. I am someone who has definitely inhabited my own little world! Of course I want to be recognized, accomplished and make my mark on the world, but I am also a mom of two boys under 4 years old, a grad student, volunteer, daughter, sister, friend; and sometimes just getting through the day and getting everything done is a “win” in my world. Although it is chaotic, it is also my comfort zone, and sometimes it takes just one experience outside of your comfort zone to open up a whole new perspective for you.

I was asked for a class to Google myself and see what came up. According to Google I pretty much didn’t exist in the world.  Of course, not everyone wants to be found online, but if I am going to show up at all, I want to be found for the things that matter to me, my contributions to others and that reflect my own voice, not just my Facebook profile. I am more than my day to day life, and I want express myself in a way that represents the bigger picture of who I am.  So how do we stand out and make our voices heard in a way that represents ourselves authentically? First we need to identify our values and how we want to connect with others, and then express ourselves in a real way that adds value to your presence.

Representing yourself and finding achievement through self-expression can be inspiring, creative, and can help you find emotional energy and freedom in your work. Self-expression is being aware of your true self; what you value, care about, and what gives you energy and motivation. Once you define this in your life, you can control when and how to present it to the world in a way that represents you.

Here are three ways to start expressing yourself authentically:

  1. Do it for you: You don’t need to impress anyone. Don’t be afraid of how others might react to when and how you express yourself. You don’t need anyone to validate or approve of you, especially when you are being authentic. Sometimes we take so long to create the perfect message in our minds that when we are ready to share it, the moment to do so has passed. Try and live in the moment and nurture your own voice. Don’t base your value on the number of people who “like” what you have to say.
  2. Find your passions: What do you love to do? How do you want to help people? Maybe it is something you want to do but don’t take the time to, or are afraid to do it because of where it might lead you. Experiment with different hobbies, sports and classes to find what outlet allows you to feel like you can be true to yourself.
  3. Let go of the outcome: We can’t control how others are going to express themselves and it is not always going to be positive or supportive. Be truthful to yourself and let the real you shine through. People will appreciate your genuine thoughts whether they agree with you or not.

Everyone has something to say, and expressing yourself in person and online can allow you to have a real connection with people who appreciate you for more than what’s on the surface. Having a presence online allows you to be found and attributed to the things that you care about. You are probably going to be found one way or another, so why not control that information yourself? You can be seen for the real you and the messages you want to send to people. Find your voice and an outlet to express yourself in a way that makes a difference in your life and in your community. Let the world know you are here!