It seems silly that I have to think of this occasionally, but, yes, in addition to all the hats we wear at this party called parenthood, Mommy is a person. Some moms are great at being people; they know how to balance their own needs with the needs of their families, they are happy and fulfilled, and they are respected by themselves and their loved ones. Over the past nine years, I have learned so much from the examples of mommy-people around me, and this article is what I wish I had read at the very start.
Mothers have an amazing capacity to love and care for their families. We do not expect our lives to be unchanged once we get to have children; their laughter, smiles, darling antics, and the love that radiates from them (even as infants) are worth whatever it takes. The challenge comes when we start to feel like martyrs and forget that behind the snuggles, carpools, discipline, and endless procession of meals, we are still women.
The first time I remember wondering where “April” had gone was during lunch one afternoon when I sat down with my three young children to eat a sandwich. Before I had even gotten past the crust, someone wanted a refill of milk, another needed a side of cheese, and a third wanted the sandwich opened, not folded. You’ve been there, right? I didn’t like the frustration I felt, so the next time we all sat down to eat, I did things a little differently. After serving everyone their food (and a napkin and drink and utensils), I asked, “Does everyone have everything they need? I’d like you to tell me right now because I am going to sit down and eat my food. I’m not getting up again until I’m done because Mommy is a person. Let’s say that all together. Mommy…is…a person. That’s right. I get to eat, too. Everyone is all set? Great!”
It took a few days of training before my children stopped asking for things mid-meal, but it actually worked! Sometimes I have to stifle a giggle at the dinner table because I’m deliriously excited to actually eat a whole plate of food in one sitting. Now my son will say, “Mom, can I have another roll with jelly…when you’re done eating?” I want to kiss him on his head and say, “Bless you, child!”
What surprised me was how quickly everyone agreed to my person-hood. My children want me to be happy—they’re really not trying to be overly-demanding. It’s just that they are children. I need to let them know what I need. This epiphany has helped me in many areas of my life, so I have included a few ideas below that will hopefully be helpful to other moms out there.
Deep down, we need to think of ourselves as people
I once read a book called The Sacrificial Mother, which describes many mothers who sacrifice pretty much all of themselves for the sake of their children. For example, they dress their children in designer clothes and provide them with lessons of all kinds, yet they dress themselves in old sweats and never take time to do things they enjoy. Over time, this habit leads to depression and frustration, and often the sacrificial mothers simply want a way out.
We know that if we really want to have the stamina, enthusiasm, and patience to raise great children, we need to take care of ourselves first. The common airplane/oxygen mask analogy applies here: you put the mask on yourself so you can then care for your little ones. Underneath the title of “Mommy” is a real live lady with her own name who is just as important as everyone else.
There are certainly times when sacrifice is necessary and noble. We give up sleep for the sake of our newborns or sick children, we let the house get messier than we’d like it so our children can play and enjoy the excitement of childhood, we give our children the last grape popsicles (even though that’s our favorite flavor) because their eyes light up when they see the color purple. Each of us has benefited from the sacrifice of a mother, and we are dedicated to sacrificing for our own children, but throughout all this, we need to believe that we are of value as women…as people.
All people get to do certain things
There is definitely a balance between realizing this time is not just about us and recognizing that an empty well can not give water. To further explore this topic, I have made a list of some basic things that people get to do.
(1) People get to use the restroom. As a little girl, I would lay on the carpet in the hallway and watch my mother’s feet through the gap under the bathroom door. I would beg her to please come out soon. Did I have nothing else to do? I’m paying for it now—everyone wants to sit right next to me and talk, read books, or climb on my lap. It does get a little tricky, but as my children get older, I am starting to want a little more privacy—and that’s okay!
(2) People get to take a shower and get ready for the day. My days of 45-minute showers are a distant memory, but as long as I move relatively quickly, the lunch-packing, permission-slip-signing, and squabble-solving can wait a few more minutes. While awaiting the birth of my first daughter, I told my husband, “I’m not going to be that kind of mom that is still in her pajamas at 9 am. I’m going to get dressed and ready every day.” I ate my words not more than a week after my daughter was born, and we took a photo to celebrate the day I became “that kind of mom.” The time and frequency of the “getting ready” is negotiable, but when we have the desire and ability to do so, we don’t need to feel guilty about it.
(3) People get to exercise. This definitely can take some planning and creativity, but exercise relieves stress and has so many other benefits—isn’t it funny that when the day gets hectic, that is often the first thing to go? I haven’t always been the best at this, but generally, we’ve been able to make this work. Gym memberships and jogging strollers are great to have, but exercise can happen at home, too. I used to do a pilates video a few times a week, and my children liked to throw their big bouncy balls at my feet while I did the “kick-kick front, kick-kick back.” It kept them entertained, and I got a little workout. Exercise is not always easy, but it’s worth the effort!
(4) People get to read. We are constantly encouraged by society to read to our children, make plenty of books available to them, and sign up for the library’s Summer Reading Program, but outside of my book club or casual conversations with my girlfriends, no one seems to care if I pick up a book or not. Reading is one of the best ways for us to keep our minds sharp, enriched, and excited about life. It is okay to sit down sometimes and read while our children play or read near us. We can slip a book into our diaper bags or carry a great volume with us in case we have to wait somewhere. At the library, I used to avoid the adult section at all costs because my children would get bored and noisy. Now, I ask, “Do you want to get your books first, or do you want me to get my books first?” I look up the titles and call numbers on the Internet before I go, so I don’t have to peruse the aisles while saying, “SHHHHH!” over and over again, but now we all come home with great books, and I’m a happy camper…er, reader.
(5) People get to think. Julia Roberts once told Oprah that when she became a mommy, her brains fell out. Oprah wasn’t sure what to make of that, but all the moms in the audience were nodding with understanding. It takes everything I’ve got to keep my brain synapses firing when I am in the midst of “mommying.” When I had three children under four years old, the noise was sometimes too much. My oldest child was very verbal, and I would sometimes have to say, “Alia, Mommy needs 15 minutes of quiet so she can think.” One time Alia responded very seriously, “If I stop talking, my body will die.” Somehow I convinced her otherwise, and she went along with my request, but think-time is like gold, and it’s all right to ask for it.
6) People get to have conversations with other people. We can’t spend all our family time talking on the phone with our friends or chatting online—our children need us. However, if we would like to have a reasonably-lengthed conversation with another adult, that is an acceptable request. If my children need me while I’m talking to someone else, they come hold my hand until there’s a break in the conversation (Okay, actually, they interrupt all the time, and I have to keep asking them to please hold my hand if they need something. Occasionally they remember, but not very often).
(7) People get to snuggle with their spouses. I like to sit by my husband, and if we want to smooch in the kitchen while the kids are yelling “Gross!” that’s okay.
(8) People get to take a break. In the general work-force, each employee gets a lunch break and a couple of short breaks during the day…enforced by the law. When I am home with my children, no one is knocking on my door saying, “Excuse me, but did Mrs. Perry get her nap in today? We’re here to make sure she has a twenty-minute break for every four hours she works.” That would be great, but we are the ones responsible for planning our own breaks. We can sit down and put our feet up every once in awhile, take a night away when we’re in need of some rejuvenation…whatever we can creatively come up with. It is an investment in our families!
(9) People get to dream. Just because we’re caught up in the pressing needs of our children doesn’t mean that we can’t think about our own goals and dreams. I know one mom who’s working on her “six-pack”, one who is training to be a photographer, another who wants to travel with her children all over the world…there is no right or wrong way to dream, but let’s not forget that dreaming is a wonderful activity! If we want our dreams to come true someday, those dreams have to exist in the first place.
(I’m sure there are probably several more that I haven’t even listed, but you get the picture. If you would like to add an idea, you can list them in the “Comments” section below.)
Your goal is to be better than “sane”
One evening as my husband and I were trying to figure out our schedule, he said, “How can I best be of help to you this week?” I looked at my calendar and then replied, “Well, to be sane, I need…” and I proceeded to list a couple of things he could help me with so I could complete all the “have-to’s” for the week. What my husband said next was so sweet that I almost jumped into his arms. He said, “April, I don’t want you to just be ‘sane’, I want you to thrive.” That was a whole new perspective for me. After thinking about his question for three seconds, I replied, “WELL THEN…here’s what I need to thrive. I need 8 hours of sleep during each 24-hour period, four days of exercise, three hours at the library each month…alone, a date night once a week…and I went on for awhile more. Nothing was unreasonable, just formerly unmentioned. I recognize that not everyone has the support of a loving spouse. We each have our own challenges, and we need to figure out how we can thrive in the circumstances we are in. What do you need in order to thrive?
Why does all this matter?
Because YOU matter. Maybe no one has told you that today, but you are important—not just because you do a whole lot of work for everyone else, but because you are a person. There are times in our lives when we are out of balance—when we have a newborn, when our week is incredibly hectic, etc.—but as we treat ourselves as people, we will feel happy, valued, and more content with our families. We will be able to see more clearly what we have to offer the world, and we will teach our children that if they get the precious opportunity to become parents, they will still be people, too! Being a mommy is the greatest…I hope you can enjoy the process and treasure every moment because you are a person.
QUESTION: What do you do to remind yourself of your “person-hood”?
CHALLENGE: Choose (at least) one way you are going to be a “person” from now on, and enjoy!
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Said this on 6-27-2008 At 09:26 am
April, you are awesome! These are great insights for moms. I’m glad you’re putting such great things out there for us.
Said this on 5-5-2009 At 11:31 am
Loved this article! It really hit home. Just yesterday, after an especially frustrating time with my 13 year old son (who despite his incredible potential somehow just isn’t the perfectionist that I am – and I have a hard time dealing with that fact) I told my kids to tell their dad that I was leaving and not sure when I’d be back. I put on my walking shoes and headed out the door not sure of my destination or how far I would really take my threat. My 10 year old and 3 year old followed along and begged me not to leave. Luckily a walk around the neighborhood (with concerned kids in tow) gave me the strength to return and say I was sorry to my son. I truly believe my frustration and lack of tact with my kids lately is due to the fact that I don’t feel worthwhile anymore. My teenager disregards any advice I give and the kids often ignore me or roll their eyes when I ask them to practice or help out. Once top notch at everything, I now often feel that I am a failure as a mother. Given that I have let everything but my kids slide, I feel pretty depressed. I have given it all away and not filled my own reserves. I am recommitting myself to me. I will seek out opportunities to build freindships, get involved in the community and possibly try out for a play or join a choir. I will have my kids repeat over and over that “Mommy is a person” so I can eat dinner too and possibly even get help cleaning up afterward!
Said this on 1-7-2010 At 03:13 pm
I love this! I have definitely been there, in fact i was thinking this just today (about just trying to finish a 30 minute workout that ended up lasting 1 1/2 hours due to the interruptions and then again at lunch) Great read, with wonderful ideas I will be trying!
Said this on 3-28-2010 At 05:20 am
April –This is a great post!
Said this on 4-3-2010 At 06:21 pm
I needed this advice years ago. All I can say is WOW! What a major “ah ha” moment for me. Thanks so much for recording these thoughts.
Said this on 4-6-2010 At 12:11 pm
Thanks! I’ve recently become involved as a leader in a service club for my kids. I’ve also been invited to be on a couple of city advisory councils. I used to think this wasn’t okay since my kids are all under the age of 8, but now that I’ve reaped the rewards of fulfillment and feeling like a PERSON that can give outside my home (and in my home) it has been a tranformation. I’m so much happier. I am enjoying my hobbies again! Being a mother is super wonderful, and super hard and it’s nice to sometimes complete work that is recognized and valued by others. Thanks for the post.
Said this on 8-4-2010 At 08:00 am
I always tell my kids, no seconds for you until I’m done with my firsts… it’s such a simple thing, but I think it helps kids stop and think about the many demands they make on mothers. Great article!
Lindsay Szczesny says
I remember the shock it was a few years ago to realize how far I had distanced myself from my individual identity. I had 3 kids at the time and the oldest was 4. I needed to return something to the University’s library in town. After dropping it off I walked back to my car along the campus sidewalk amongst single, college-aged people. As I saw my little red Pontiac Grand Am filled with my little demanding family, the following distinct words rolled slowly through my head, “I am a human being.” I was stunned with the reality of the simple realization. Woah. “I am a human being.” It had been a concept easily forgotten in the crazy life of moving almost anually, having babies, trying to keep the couch cushions where they belong, and cleaning permanent markers off walls. It’s true–Moms are human beings. Thanks for the great reminder and the awesome list of things that every person gets to do. It’s like a bill of rights or something. 🙂 Giving and giving is so much more enjoyable when I have myself to give.
April Perry says
Lindsay, I just realized I never responded to this lovely comment you made a few months ago! That moment you shared is priceless. I think I need to add, “I am a human being” to my screensaver! Thanks so much for all you contribute to our community.
I didn’t have a name for so many of these thoughts, but you have given that to me today. I can relate to everyone of these things people need to do. Loved the mealtime declaration. The bathroom is a biggie – I’ve recently decided my children are old enough to cope with me locking myself in the bathroom for a reasonable time to get some peace. My three-year-old will hang outside the bathroom whining for a time before she finally gets bored and moves on. And, your No. 5 made me bust out laughing. Both my daughters go through periods when they will talk non-stop. Neither has said she will die if she stops, but I’m sure that’s what they feel!
Thank you for highlighting this great article and confirming my desire to be a person as well as a mom.
April Perry says
Thanks so much for your comment! My three-year-old hangs around outside the restroom, too. Then he puts his little fingers under the door and waves. Good luck claiming your personhood!
Another “right” for moms and all people: SLEEP! People get to sleep. I realize that newborns, sick children, and kids with nightmares have their night-time needs, and I never hesitate to meet those. But when I was being awakened multiple times each night being kicked in my OWN BED by a 4 year old or a 6 year old, or sometimes both, I said, “enough is enough.” I put a blanket under my bed and a pillow nearby on the floor. If they feel the need to be near me at night, they can come sleep on the floor beside my bed. Most of the time, they come in and tuck themselves in and don’t even wake me at all. Many mornings, I wake up and see my 2 cute little guys snuggling together asleep on the floor beside my bed and I think, “Aaaaaaaah, I slept all night!”
Thanks for a wonderful article and such great ideas!
I’m going to finish my workouts and finish hugging on my kids without being interrupted!!!! The more I work out and the more i love on my kids the more I am going to feel like I am more than just a mommy!! I am a person who loves working out and loves my kids!!!! I always knew this but in all the chaos of the day somehow forgot how to find the time to do either!!! Thank you for giving me that “ah ha” moment!!!!
April Perry says
Ingrid, how did I not include sleep on there? You are absolutely right. Thanks for your great comments. And MAMATIF, I agree–exercise is amazing. I love it, too.
I LOVE this article! It took me a long time to remember that I was a person, and now that I am trying to take better care of the person inside me, I’m having to re-train my kids. It’s hard for them to remember to respect my space and time when for so long I didn’t respect it myself. But it is worth the effort to change things for the better and give my kids a mommy who smiles.
I wrote this blog post (http://frugalfunottawa.ca/frugalfish/?p=2296&cpage=1#comment-1960) the other day, and one of the comments brought me to this article, which I will print and post on my fridge! What a great reminder that we are people too – thanks!
This just put into words exactly what I have been feeling lately. Thank you for your “list” of things I should not feel guilty asking for!!! I think I’m going to get “Mommy is a person” printed on vinyl and hung in my kitchen 🙂 Just kidding… but I should!
I feel like this now. There is no “Dora” left. I am wife, mommy, housekeeper, cook, laundry doer, Nurse and daughter. I am having a hard time getting “me” back.
“Mommy is a person” definitely resonates with me. I have said this countless times to my mom friends, “before we were moms we were people too.” My husband and I have a great partnership when it comes to giving each other what we need as individuals. We make it equal for household duties, putting our daughter to sleep, and having nights off from family duties. It is a lifesaver for us. The hardest thing is when our schedules change. It throws us off our routine and expectations change. We have a nice system in place, but we need to remember to sit down and reassess when things change like income and our schedules. We are totally “off” when this happens and we don’t redefine our expectations and duties.
I love the snuggles with your spouse when your kids say, “gross.” We’ve been getting a lot of that latetly from our almost 5 year old daughter. 🙂
Oh my gosh! I love this post, just so darn, darn relatable. First of all, your husband is amazing–serious awesomeness with that “thrive” comment 🙂 That said, showering, exercising, reading and taking breaks are the top things I miss. Also loving on on Julia Roberts brains falling out remark–go you for capturing the essence of my life better than I ever could! 🙂
I really needed this! Every article I have read I have needed…but yet again, you provide me with thoughtful encouragement. My “New Year’s resolution” this year was to “take care of me” in some small way. I had noticed that my make-up was all at least 4 years old and not worn very often (probably why I still have it), my clothes all were either too tight, washed too many times or otherwise unflattering…and on and on. So I decided that each pay period I would get something small just for myself(i.e. new nail polish, a new shirt, etc). Nothing big, just something to make me feel nice about myself.
But I find that I am still struggling. I stepped away from my career path to teach at my son’s preschool and although the benefits have more than outweighed the negatives I find myself getting to the end of the day and feeling like “no…I don’t want to watch tv with you” or “I would rather sit on this park bench rather than play on the playground”. I joke about being a stay-with-my-kid mom rather than a stay-at-home mom or working mom…but some days I really feel it. I know down the road I will treasure this time.
Hahaha, my little girl sends me her paper creations under the door of the bathroom. 🙂 Love your article. Thank you for the reminder!
Welp I came across this site as a friend posted a cute FB about you. I thought why not.. I’m being selfish taking a minute anyways. But I’m thankful I did find you. I just came back, from an extended Family gathering, with the decision that I was making changes. Big Changes to myself, whatever the cost. I am giving myself time to read this daily, since I’m a slow reader.. it will probably stretch the “weekly” articles for each form.
I’m a Very “Burned Out being a Mom” of 4 girls and 1 boy. The boy being youngest is 9. Two of my older Daughters are out of High School and I’m “fried” for the rest. I read this and I couldn’t believe how far off track I’ve become not remembering this “human” fact. I’ve become very resentful of being a Mother and feeling like I gave up Everything, and that there is nothing left of me. I related very much to Laurel (5-5-09)since I have a 13 year old daughter that has pushed me farther than my already pushed limits, self imposed.
I also printed out and put on my mirror “I’m Human” and a “What will make me thrive:” List next to my vanity so that my moments of remembering can be put down. ;o) I am already Thankful for Your Time and those that I haven’t yet read. I am feeling a spark again and that’s a big deal!
I appreciated this when you shared this at the recent retreat in Sydney April, but I wanted to share, that this ‘concept’ has allowed me to not feel guilty about the fact that there was just a few things I wanted to do for myself (bookclub, play the piano, sing), I thought I was being selfish, but now I realised, I was just trying to be me, so I could be a happy mummy all around- Wife, Mother, & Daughter of God.
Sharon Leevy says
Thank you for your article! 🙂 Being a single mom to my 9 year old daughter for the past 7 years has really not allowed me any time to myself. I am both mommy and daddy 24/7. But, I determined that I DO deserve to be happy with who I am and one thing that I need to do is lose some weight. I am tired of making excuses and blaming it on everyone and everything else. Since November 1, 2011, I made a commitment to myself to exercise every day for at least 30 minutes NO MATTER WHAT! Because I work full-time, during the week, I get up at 4:30 am and go to the gym. I have successfully done this, missing only a few days because of illness. I cannot believe the increased energy I feel, in addition to the amount of pride I feel for sticking to my goal, and for putting myself first. I cannot take care of my daughter if I cannot take care of myself first. This past year I have lost 50 lbs, with 20 of that coming off since I started at the gym. It hasn’t been easy, and I still have about 50 lbs. more to lose, but I know that I am happier when I am getting my needs met and when I put myself first.
Alisha Gale says
What an amazing accomplishment, Sharon! Congratulations!
That was a well needed article to lift my spirits. Thanks for that. It is hard to expect all these things and not feel guilty like we are asking for too much for ourselves. But we are people. I am a person too. I often find myself trapped under the shroud of motherhood and forget that that is not ALL I am. Thanks for helping me remember that.
Brenda Jean Bird says
I think people need to grow them selves up first before having children, Animals autimatically procreate and I see too many in our society doing the same w/o thinking, I apologize if my words are hurtful, however I am seeing alot of pain in many lives because people do not grow themselves up first, this is associated with where we are at culturally. I did not see a spiritual path on the list, I did not see psychological reflection of behavioral and relational patterns and regular intentions set to improve ones mental health, balanced nutrition is important. I would love to assist others in thriving, however I see so many busy reacting to life and lots of ederly people suffering as a result, kids too.
Lisa at Tipster Mom says
This is so true and very well timed! I’ve really been struggling with this the last couple weeks. It’s been especially hard since my husband and I work well as a team and he’s been traveling. My favorite part about this is that it’s not an article about working inside the home vs. outside the home but just about being a mom in general. We wear so many hats, I guess I’ll have to add the “person” hat to my collection 🙂
Thank you for the reminder. I actually said this to my kids at dinner tonight. 🙂
Thank you! This is a wonderful and needed message. I loved the comment someone made earlier about it being like a “bill of rights.” So true. And your thought about balancing noble sacrifice with needing to have water in your well to give. Just…loved this. Thank you!
Kerry Belanger says
Wow, I truly needed this, especially this week. I have been feeling very frustrated lately because my kids seem to “need” everything “now”, and they scream and whine until they get it. I have been trying really hard to remind them that they do need to talk nicely to me. I took my children shopping with me yesterday to buy new bras which I was in desperate need. I felt very guilty for spending money on myself and for subjecting them to that. But, Yes, I am a person and I do deserve these things. The meal time demands really hit home to me, I am going to work to change that! Thanks so much. This was really helpful! Great to know that other moms feel frustration too.
April Perry says
Kerry, I am so glad that you got to shop for yourself–and it sounds like you are teaching your children a great perspective. It’s a constant effort, but honestly, it pays off in the end. You can do this!
Gina Ricks says
That article gave me goose bumps! I think restlessness with motherhood sets in when I haven’t made time to be a person. Great reminder!
I totally agree with you on this! I’m a mother, not a martyr! It really is okay to use the restroom BY MYSELF and at times, put my own goals and projects first. It not only teaches my kiddos patience, but I think when they see that I respect myself and my needs, it helps them feel more confident that their needs will be met–if that makes any sense. Not that they would know how to articulate that, but if I’m doing something that makes me feel good and happy, they share in those feelings, too.
Sometimes at meals when my little ones are all asking for things, I say, “How many hands do I have? Am I an octopus mommy or a human mommy?” (They usually have to stop and think for a second!) Sometimes just the reminder that I’m human, and I’ve only got two hands helps them be a little more patient.
Kelly Transfield says
I wish I would have thought of this as I was raising my little ones…I’m just starting to figure this out and my kids are 20-12! But now my daughter is a Mom and I will share this great info with her…We can’t lose ourselves in the process of motherhood…how will our kids know how to not lose themselves if we never show them! Thanks so much for this wonderful post! You are all such thoughtful and awesome moms! 🙂
I love this. I am a relatively new mom (my baby is about to be seven months old – I swear she was born two seconds ago!) and about a month ago I got a bad case of the baby blues. I had to sit down with my husband and have a similar conversation to the one you described. I’ve been working on my personal list of what I need to be a person and a mom at the same time. It’s definitely a work in progress, but my husband is supportive when I need a night out (with him or without!), I’m finding activities that will get me out of the sit around the house staring at the baby with the TV on for background noise mode (Mommy and Me swimming lessons next month!) and I love being with my daughter, even if I feel overwhelmed some days and can’t figure out how to get anything else done. Thank you for the great reminders – I’m excited to read more on this site!
April Perry says
Welcome to Power of Moms, Megan! So glad you’ve found this site. Please know you are DEFINITELY not alone in the challenges you’re going through, and there are lots of amazing ways to really THRIVE. Wishing all the best to you!!
Rineke de Bruijn says
April I like your article. The following hint about using the bathroom may be helpful for some one. When I had toddlers, they used to bang the bathroom door, when I tried to sit in peace. I soon discovered the kids didn’t panick when I didn’t close the door (an inch was already enough).
In the meantime my “babies” range from 51-43 years old):-)