When a baby comes into the world for new parents, everything changes. Time speeds up and slows down at will. Night and day seem to blur into one. In short, from the instant this beautiful little creature lets out its first tiny shriek of life, everything becomes about the baby. The whole household rhythm quickly adapts to the many and ever-changing needs of the newborn, needs that only evolve with complexity as the child gradually develops.
This perpetual game of catch-up that comes with parenting demands so much of our physical, mental and emotional energy. By the time our kids start becoming little people of their own, we find ourselves spent, and hit with the panicky realization that we have given every little piece of ourselves to those little people, and quite possibly at our own expense. A big “now what?” creeps into the picture. In many cases, the “now what?” is quelled by the prospect of baby number two. But what happens when baby number two, and three, and so on, are also on their way to growing up? What happens when one’s children stop needing the vigilant, unyielding, around-the-clock supervision of their mother? What happens to their mother?
For Latina women, motherhood is sacred business. Hands-on, no-nonsense child-rearing is among the most noble causes that a woman can undertake. But because we live in a world that celebrates longevity, where 40 really is the new 30, it is important to nurture all the different parts of ourselves. Thus, when we do find ourselves standing at the rim of that proverbial empty nest, we’ll have something to hold onto—our very own identity. Before you were someone’s mother, you were someone—and that someone has needs that are as crucial as those of the newborn’s.
According Dr. Rosa Lavergne Ph.D, a family counselor based in New York, “A sense of complete identity is crucial for a woman and/or mother because it allows and pushes her to exist in the truest expression of who she really is, and for that reason poises her to be the best person and mother that she is meant to be.”
Like everything else, it all comes down to balance. You must work to find that unique sense of equilibrium that only you can acknowledge in yourself, a feeling that all the various parts of you are being expressed. So, as the top dog and number one advocate for your own peace of mind, your job is to stop for a minute and look closely at yourself, and in a focused manner identify (notice the word identity aptly embedded into the verb) the key facets of yourself that you know deep down you will never fully be able to ignore. For some women, this comes in the form of a creative urge that has been nagging at them since childhood, which they gingerly pursued during their college and early professional years before the furnace of Mamihood was turned on to full power. For others, it might be a lifelong love affair with a certain sport, or a long lost yoga practice, or even a profound love of the outdoors, which perhaps fell by the wayside when busy motherhood schedules abruptly kicked into high gear.
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However, nurturing creativity and spending time in the outdoors can be among the most effective ways to express identity. By doing so, even during life’s busiest moments, that unique piece of you will remain steadily lit. This will give you that sense of completion that makes life, motherhood and inner peace all feel like part of one harmonious dance.
If you slightly shift your consciousness and start to think about embedding your passions directly into your care-taking and motherhood duties, a whole new realm of possibilities might begin to emerge. So ask yourself, what makes you most happy? Where do your interests lie? And how can you make the most of these passions as both a mami and a woman?
THE ALMOST HAPPY CAMPER
Your schedule has become dominated by kids’ birthday parties, play dates, and after-school/camp activities, so you never seem to have time for the kind of rustic recreation that you really dream of, such as: a long weekend in the mountains, or maybe an improvised road trip up the coast. But these very outings are the ones that make for some of the most cherished family time. Release your inner pioneer and consider re-thinking how you plan your family’s weekends, making sure to balance out the social obligations and plans with some down-and-dirty outdoor fun.
THE YEARNING YOGI
As parents, the concept of sacrifice is one of the first lessons we learn. And fast! Oftentimes, this means that we are forced to ditch or compromise some of the very activities that keep us sane enough to parent. Perhaps motherhood has slowly chiseled away at your once-devout yoga practice, which is completely understandable. But then why not become the de facto in-house yoga instructor right at home and start to develop a practice with your family? This allows you to not only rekindle your own discipline, but to also pass along the basics of this ever-healthy lifestyle to the ones you love most.
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THE TORMENTED SCRIBE
Dare to become the documentarian of your family history by putting it all down on paper. This is a perfect exercise if you are the kind of mami who needs a ‘writing task’ every day to flex your literary muscle; it also allows you to become the creative chronicler of your family’s colorful narrative. The result can be a stirring, inspiring and informative archive that stays in the family for decades to come. Start with three pages per day, and work up from there.
THE FRUSTRATED FILM BUFF
You always wanted to go to film school, but the timing was never quite right. Well, why not take advantage of the ultimate muse—your family—and start making movie magic right at home. Today, with cutting edge home video cameras that shoot just like film, and editing software as simple as iMovie and Final Cut Pro, the technology has been democratized so that pretty much anyone can tap into their inner Spielberg.
THE BEDROOM MUSICIAN
Nothing can stop the music—except maybe a busy mother’s schedule. And yet, music is one of the most quintessential artforms to introduce to a child (just think about the rhythmic nature of a heartbeat, or a lullaby). So, if you are a musical mami whose chops have gotten rusty as family life took over, consider bringing some melody into your family’s every day. Take them to live concerts every week, write songs together, or dare to bust out your old college guitar and hold a family jam session right at home.