Where is the life that you loved and what life have you been thrown into?

I will admit, I had a bit more time to get a little too comfortable in the land of “Me” before my daughter was born. I’m probably considered an “old mom” in today’s standards. Living in the city, on my own, working on my career, and doing what I wanted, when I wanted was my normal. There was nobody to answer to but my landlord, my boss, and ME. My free time was filled with relaxing on the couch on a Sunday watching movies or “Sex & The City”, traveling with girlfriends, staying out late, and sleeping in later. I’d grab coffee on a Saturday at the local coffee shop, find a comfy couch, and read the paper… alone. Taking a walk on the shore of Lake Michigan on a whim didn’t require an, “Is it OK if I…?” At times I’d bring a book on that walk, stop to sit in the grass, and actually read without interruptions. Perhaps even nap. I’d come home late at night and play my favorite music so loudly my neighbor would knock on the wall. I could make a last minute decision to work out and not have to arrange childcare. TGIF actually meant something and the weekends were cherished. All this sounds a bit self-centered but this was the time in my life when I could do what they call “selfish things” with NO GUILT. This was the time I didn’t have to check with my husband to see if it was “OK” for me to meet up with girlfriends for a drink (never has my husband said “no” by the way.) I didn’t have to rush home, feel guilty for being gone too long, feel selfish for leaving her for a night or weekend with my husband or parents, or check in to make sure everything wasn’t blowing up.

So what’s really going on mom?

I diagnosed myself with being nostalgic with all of these changes in my life, to include the adjustment as a new mom. However, there’s a big difference between being nostalgic where you talk about the “good times” versus holding onto the past to where it paralyzes you. Nostalgia can be a very healthy emotion that can benefit not only your present but also your future. “Nostalgia is the warm, fuzzy emotion that we feel when we think about fond memories of the past. It often feels bittersweet—mostly happy and comforting, but with a tinge of sadness that whatever we’re remembering is lost in some way.” (Erica Hepper, Ph.D., a lecturer in the School of Psychology at the University of Surrey in England in an interview by Huffington Post.) Nostalgia can positively connect you to your past, people of your past, and learn from your past to create an even better future. As moms, I believe we are more sensitive to this as we have a heightened awareness of how quickly life can change. However, the other side of living in the past can keep you stuck and prevent you from finding the life you actually should be living RIGHT NOW. The life you deserve. Even though I warmly reminisce about certain events and people of my past, there have been times where certain changes brought on debilitating anxiety inside of me because of my fear of the future and how I would handle it. So if nostalgia is supposed to feel all “warm and fuzzy”, why did I seem to have a nervous breakdown and latch on to the past when a big change was in front of me? It was more safe and comforting for me to long for what was rather than what could be. It was invulnerable to go back to a life that was established, somewhat predictable, and a life I had pride and confidence in. When I became a mother, I basically went into a mourning state of my past life, disconnected from my present, which prevented me from moving towards the future. I never had a funeral or any sort of closure to be able to say goodbye to that life and recognize that I was in an entirely new one. As a new mom, why couldn’t I let go and be vulnerable so I could welcome this new life in front of me? This wasn’t nostalgia and something bigger was going on.

I was recently asked about my difficult journey into motherhood,

“Oh yes I had huge regrets about having a baby. There were TOO many changes going on. Not only was my body torn up, burning, squirting, sore, floppy, and just exhausted ALL the damn time but also I had let go of so many things. I missed all the fun and exciting things that I couldn’t do anymore, and was sad wondering if I ever would again. I felt like the world around me didn’t change at all, but here I was being thrown into a new life that I couldn’t escape. Gone were the water cooler conversations at work, lunch dates, drinks after work, dinners with clients, meeting friends out for a cocktail, weekend trips, vacations with my husband, concerts, plays, errands with no rush to get home, reading in the morning without looking at a baby monitor, and just doing things when I wanted to versus fitting them in with panic. I honestly felt these things defined me and I was lost knowing that I could possibly never do them again. There was no definition of time when it came to doing the things I loved. I feared that these things would never be a part of my life and that I would have to create an entirely different person as a mom. I never felt more boring, insecure, and lost. The scary thing was, I couldn’t return this new life for what I used to have. The even scarier part? I didn’t even know what I truly wanted for my life.”

What you’re searching for…

Feeling safe and secure about your future is a basic human need that is probably amplified when you become a mother. It’s a natural human behavior to avoid pain and to seek things that will give you pleasure. If we want to get technical here, the safest and most secure state to live in is a life without change. I’m sure you will agree though, it’s an impossible way to live. So if change is bound to happen, how are we as mothers navigating through this huge change into motherhood? And at the same time, feeling safe and secure about our new life? This desire can motivate us to figure out our new world with excitement but it can also create situations where you end up altering your life to avoid anything new coming into it. Let’s figure out how you can welcome this change and figure out your own expectations, desires, and dreams so you can be certain that this is the life you’re meant to live.

We are on the same team

Like you, I’ve had financial stress, moved, changed jobs, lost loved ones, and I will stand by this statement until the day I die: BECOMING A MOTHER IS THE BIGGEST AND MOST DIFFICULT CHANGE I’VE EVER EXPERIENCED. It is time that we as mothers acknowledge this feeling, honor it, and figure out how to work through it. For some reason, there are still people out there that make you feel uncomfortable to even think this way. When I was doing research for this book, I decided to do an online survey asking moms about the challenges of letting go of their past life when they became a mother. There was an outpour of responses about all the time periods, events, trips, careers, and freedom that they missed. But as you can imagine, there are the gems that pop in with “I don’t have ANY regrets, I love my life!” along with “You have nine months to prepare for motherhood, so it shouldn’t be a big shock.”, or the best one was, “Motherhood is a choice, and you chose this life.” First of all, if these women don’t have ONE thing that the miss from their past life, then I truly feel they either lived in seclusion on top of a mountain or they are lying. Or if you truly didn’t have a hard time adjusting, there’s nothing wrong with that either. Live by my mom’s philosophy instead. There are times when you need to be the mother-in-law at her son’s wedding. You just “Show up, shut up and wear beige.” The judgmental tone versus sympathy for us mothers who are struggling is the exact reason these mom divisions and battles even begin.

Let’s also face the facts. Like me, you miss your past life because it was a lot more fun than the one you’re sitting in now. You’re not selfish for admitting this nor are you a bad mother because of it. We as new moms are hypnotized by everything and everyone telling us how grateful we should feel, how blissful motherhood is, how it’s changed someone’s life completely (in a good way), how a baby “completes” them and they NOW know what their purpose is (I’m clapping for them but it’s not everyone’s reality), and how it’s the BEST thing that’s ever happened to them. There are staged photos, edited stories, perfect family vacations, a family hugging with smiles and laughter, and a mom painting the town red as if nothing has changed. The reality of motherhood isn’t the most marketable so why would anyone feel comfortable telling the real story? As a result, we are afraid to be honest with how motherhood can really be.

Why isn’t anyone telling us that…
1. I wouldn’t immediately enjoy being a mother.
2. I would have to say goodbye to so many things.
3. That I would miss these things as much as I did.
4. I’d have regrets about becoming a mother.
5. Not everyone feels the same way that I do.
6. But there are so many that actually do.

Changing your expectations

A challenge I see for new mothers, and I experience this myself, is avoiding the reality of the new life and new role we have when we become a mother. We first need to end the shame and acknowledge that becoming a mother, whether it’s the first time or fourth, is a fucking hard change and takes time to adjust to. Maybe years. You need to find courage admitting that at times you may feel regret, nostalgia, frustration, and there may be days where you don’t want to be in the chaos you’re in.

For some reason, the outside world feels it’s their duty to tell us we should be grateful and happy to be mothers. “WHO SAYS WE AREN’T?!!” is what I want to shout back at the world and all the people that think they need to tell us how to feel. These outside voices, whether they come from your mother, friend, book, podcast, colleague or a social media post, need to be blocked from entering your brain. Get that filter out, my friend! Sitting in your unique spot, finding those feelings, acknowledging them, and talking to them with someone you trust, is what will fuel your soul to figure out how these changes can fit into your life. Never push them under the rug. Just because one person tells you she didn’t feel that way, that doesn’t mean you’re a bad mother or your feelings aren’t real. They exist and are alive and you need to take care of them. Perhaps your career is still an important part of your life. If traveling with your friends was an important part of your life, that doesn’t mean you’re selfish. Your lazy Sundays on the couch with zero interruptions were heavenly, and no one can argue with that. What’s awesome is you’ll either get these things back eventually, or you may not want them at all in the future. Remember that you already had these experiences, so what’s awesome is you already know how to get to them back once things die down a bit. It’s perfectly OK to put them on a bookshelf while you focus on the human you are raising. If it gives you anxiety simply thinking about fitting in something you used to do, honor this season in your life and that it may just be the wrong time period for it. This season of your life is unique, so honor it and nurture it, versus holding on to something just because it was part of your past. Remember, you may not be saying goodbye to certain things completely, you’re simply saying “Until the next time, my friend.”

Let’s break the patterns that are holding you back
1. As you’re adjusting to your new life as a mom, do you find yourself constantly going back to your past life? If you are, the question you need to ask yourself is, “Am I letting these feelings hold me back from moving towards my future?”
2. As a mom, try to avoid using the word “never” too much. Most of the time you bite your tongue and it makes it even harder to adjust to changes.
3. Expectations are bound to disappoint you and keep taking you further from joy. Just roll without expectations as much as you can and pay attention so you can appreciate how the day naturally unfolds.
4. Connect with the things that you miss and be honest if they are going to work in this season of life you’re in. It doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to it forever, just put it on the shelf for when it’s a better time for it.
5. On the same subject, connect with the things you miss and be honest if you even want to do them anymore! For me, I can’t drink until 2am, dance on tables and flash people anymore. But more importantly, I don’t want to!
6. Dig deep to find the awareness that this is an entirely new life you’ve been given and it should be honored, not avoided. Admitting that your life has changed and talking about it with others that understand will allow you to connect with your new life. Like all the other changes in your life, you will eventually find ways to embrace it and be proud of it. It just takes time so be patient, aware, and know it’s OK to relax and change your expectations in order to find your happiness.

At the end of the day

Listen, it’s perfectly normal and SANE to tell people that you LOVED that time in your life. It’s not self-centered or ungrateful. It’s OK to tell people that you MISS it at times. Be proud that you had an amazing time before you had a baby. Whatever you accomplished, the memories you built, the laughs, culture, exposure, growth, strength, and creativity you created should all be CHERISHED. These years have shaped you into a strong woman and hopefully the confidence to match. The years & experiences before you became a mother have all prepared you for the mother you are meant to be.

Let’s make you feel even better with something that took me years to believe. It’s absolutely healthy to admit that you wish you had some of those things back. Maybe you don’t want all of them back, but you can say it out loud and remember that you should never feel guilty for admitting it. There are some roadblocks that you’ll need to get through which can only be conquered with acknowledging what’s going on and talking about it with others. And remember to be prepared for different responses. These people will tell you their experiences, interpretations, meanings, and stories that literally have nothing to do with your life up to this point and beyond. I had to actively learn and try really hard to listen with intention, process it all, then filter it all so I could figure out what I connected with.

This is an exciting new story for you and you have the pen and power to create your own unique life. You have to believe this and commit to taking action towards this every day of your life. Don’t run from it, this will only take you further from the joy that awaits you. Don’t hide your feelings, this will only take you further from your healing. Be proud of your past but remember to connect to what is going on RIGHT NOW in this moment so you can be the creator of your future.

As a mother.

With Honesty,

Michelle Mansfield Blog

Want in on a secret? You can have the feelings you're having and still love your baby at the same time. Don't believe me? Get my Momspirational Cards today!

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