The Personal Labyrinth of Parenthood

In my years as a mom, I have noticed that it is becoming a social norm to lose your personal identity once you become a parent, as if you are completely lost in a labyrinth of feeding, butt wiping, and lack of sleep. Parents will joke about how they haven’t had the time to brush their hair or change out of pajamas for days because of how demanding their parenting journey has been. Sometimes the conversation will even turn into a strange ‘Pain Olympics’ competition over who is the biggest mess.

 I feel it is completely normal for there are times where being a parent is exhausting and I can hardly find the time to squeeze a shower in. Even more importantly, it is such a relief to vent to my #ParentSquad about the hard days and celebrate the triumphs. Yet, it is unhealthy for self-deprecating behavior to be the everyday normal that parents are experiencing. It should not be normal to entirely lose who you are as a person after you make a person.

            I worry that this behavior becoming ‘normal’ could end up masking more serious underlying issues like postpartum depression or anxiety in parents. It seems that sometimes, parents either try to mask imperfection anxiety by maintaining perfect perceptions they are silently struggling behind or attempt to convince others they are totally fine and the lack of personal care is just normal when you procreate. 

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

First off, I want to stress that if you are experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, anxiety, or depression, it is so important that you reach out for the care you need to feel healthy. With the concept of ‘self-care’ popping up everywhere lately, I thought it might be a great time to address that self-care in parenthood is especially important. Moreover, self-care is not just facemasks and fancy coffees. Sometimes selfcare is simply getting a shower by yourself or it is checking in with yourself and asking, “How am I doing? Is this okay? Am I okay? What would help me?”. If your answers concern you, it might be time to reach out for support.

Reach out for Support

If things are really difficult, mama (or papa), it is okay to get help. It is 100% okay to reach out for support, whether that is from your friends and family or a psychiatrist/doctor.
            Not sure if what you are experiencing is depression or anxiety? Try this test out if you are curious. ( This isn’t a diagnosis but it’ll help you figure out what might be the next steps to take next.

Practice Self-care & Find Yourself

            Like I mentioned earlier, self care is not just face masks from Lush, (although those are quite the treat!). Reclaim your personal identity and find out what makes YOU happy. There is life outside and beyond caring for your children. I love my children fiercely, but having my own hobbies and interests outside of them makes me even healthier for them and demonstrates to them how important such things are. Be the Adult you want your children to grow to be.

Above all else, I want you to know that you are loved and lovable. You will learn this from my words and actions–the lessons on love are in how I treat you and how I treat myself.

I want you to engage with the world from a place of worthiness. You will learn that you are worthy of love, belonging, and joy every time you see me practice self-compassion and embrace my own imperfections.

We will practice courage in our family by showing up, letting ourselves be seen, and honoring vulnerability. We will share our stories of struggle and strength. There will always be room in our home for both

-Brene Brown, an exceprt from ‘The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto
OKC Doula Oklahoma Doula

Some parents might scowl at you for being ‘selfish’ or harbor animosity towards you for taking that time out. Remember, Taking time out for you self is not selfish, it is healthy and necessary.  You are a human being with needs and goals.

So how do you take better care of you?

There are so many fun hobbies and skills for you to try out on your journey to finding yourself again! I would have never imagined I would be a fire breather, yet here we are! Some ideas of things you could try to take some time for yourself are:

  • Try out a new recipe
  • Take a yoga, cooking, barre, hiphop, bellydancing, hoop, or pole class.
  • Drink enough water
  • Join the app ‘Meet Ups’ and find a group with similar interests
  • Get that TV out of your bedroom
  • Listen to an audible book
  • Journal!
  • Set personal goals for each quarter of the year. There are family based goals like hiking with your kids and teaching your little how to read, but pick some personal goals that are all about you and what skills you want to grow.

            Taking the time to invest in your own personal identity now could potentially lessen the grief of the empty nest syndrome phase when your child(ren) become adults.

You Don’t Have Time? Or It Isn’t a Priority?

            For me personally, it is helpful to challenge myself when I think, “Ugh, I just don’t have the time to paint my nails” to ask, “Do I not have time? Or am I not making this a priority?”.  It could be something totally different for you, painting my nails is just something I enjoy and I always feel a little more like a #MomBoss with fresh nails. You could be investing your time in places that don’t foster joy. For instance, the time you take to scroll absentmindedly through Facebook could be spent investing in your personal happiness!

Smart Phones Are Time Bandits

            If you are a smart phone user, you can go into your settings and track exactly how much time you spend a day on your phone, even down to the time spent on individual apps or how many times you pick up your phone! It blew my mind to see how often I was on my phone so I set up limitations on my phone. I can only be on social media for a total of an hour a day. It was a wake up call to me to see how much time I was losing to my phone, when the time with my kids is already so sacred.  I would advise to check out what your usage is like and limit yourself. When you go to pick up your phone to browse, think ‘what can I do instead that would be more worthwhile?’. Just this simple trick was a game changer for me.

Find your #ParentSquad

            It has been consistently demonstrated how beneficial it is to have members of friends and/or family supporting you. Human beings are becoming increasingly isolated, even in a world full of social media. This unfortunate tragedy is directly affecting our family units because we have lost our ‘villages’. “It takes a village’ is not just advice meant for children, it is especially important for parents.  A village is somewhere parents can feel comfortable being vulnerable about their imperfections in parenting and receive genuine support. Venting to like-minded parents about how tough terrible threes are or how tired you are of cleaning up poop or puke is invaluable. Try and remember to to discuss the highs as well as the lows too though! Maybe your youngest trashed his room after you just finished cleaning it, but your middle child finally got the hang of wiping their own butt (hallelujah!).
Check out this Link for more info on the benefits

Practice Vulnerability

            People are the most insecure about parenting because there is no right or wrong way to go about it yet the cost of failure is so wrenching.  “Parenting is a shame and judgment minefield precisely because most of us are wading through uncertainty and self-doubt when it comes to raising our children”. This insecurity drives us to be guarded and sometimes, even aggressive with one another. This type of behavior does not create an environment where our fellow parents can feel secure in being vulnerable about their struggles. I would prefer to create an environment that parents feel they can be supported and get help when they need it. Vulnerability is a super power. I high recommend Brene Brown’s book, The Power of Vulnerability because she talks about parenthood and the importance of practicing this crucial skill. 

For any questions or comments on this topic, be sure to reach out.

Jenni Jenkins Sekine Student Midwife

Jenni Jenkins – Sekine is an Oklahoma Student Midwife, Midwives Assistant, Birth & Postpartum Doula, and Child Birth Educator who serves her Central Oklahoma  community. She began her journey as a student midwife in 2022 at the Midwives College of Utah.

To learn more about Jenni, please click here.

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