Do you have a clear delineation between where you end and your family starts? Have you been such a good wife and mom over the years that the lines have blurred to nothing? Have you ever noticed this or thought of how it might be affecting you? Do you already know that you have lost yourself?
For so many of us when we take on the titles of wife and mom something happens. It happened to me and I have seen it happen to my clients and my friends.
We love our families. We love being the CEO’s of our homes. We know that the inner workings of our entire family structure depend on us and in many ways we thrive in the position and wouldn’t have it any other way. We want the best for those we love and we are willing to sacrifice our selves to make sure our husband and kids have the best possible support.
There is nothing wrong with this and much of it is necessary. But—and there is a big BUT here—this tactic has pitfalls.
When we throw ourselves 100% percent into being wife and mom, constantly putting everyone else’s needs ahead of our own, something unintentional can happen. If we are not very careful, we lose ourselves. Everything becomes about people outside of us and suddenly we aren’t sure who we are anymore. What do we want? Who are we in the family picture? Are we more than chauffeur, shopper, chef, cleaner, fetcher, Mom where’s my……?
Once the 24/7 years are over, your kids and husband need you, but not the way they once did. You are still doing what you’ve always done—but suddenly it feels different. You don’t feel as necessary as you did for so many years. This is a turning point for many women. Some go back to work (or work longer hours). Some women start volunteering more or spending lots of time on something they love.
From my perspective, no matter what you do, the most important thing is to create boundaries. To stand up for yourself and let your family know that while you are there for them and you take your family position seriously, you are not at their beck and call. You are not 100% available to them day and night. You have things that are for you and that are non-negotiable. You decide what those things are—work, exercise, going back to school, self care, women’s groups. That part doesn’t matter. What matters is that you see the delineation between where your family ends and you start. Because when that line blurs—there can be serious discontent.
My youngest daughter has always been very attached to me. She has never liked me leaving or going out of town. I always felt very guilty leaving her. A few years ago I started taking a class in Manhattan that had me out of the house multiple nights during the week and often full days on the weekends. It was very difficult for my daughter and really ripped at my heart strings. Was I damaging her? Was I being selfish?
Ultimately taking that class was good for both of us. My daughter learned how to be more independent, and I had something that was just for me. A place where I was Lorna Gager—not Mom, not Honey, not Lorna, wife and mother of five. Having that freedom and feeling like an independent woman away from my family was a crucial turning point in me finding myself again.
While that is a bigger example, I also think it is important to point out that this comes out in smaller daily ways. Our children can wait for us. They can be told—“not now” or even better, “no, you can take care of that.” If we do too much, if we are always there for them—then they don’t learn that we are people too—they come to depend on us being there and don’t realize that we are individuals who have our own needs and wants. This is not their fault. It is up to us to draw that line and stick to it.
Do you see this in your life? Is there a part of you that worries (or knows) that you have lost your sense of self? Please leave your comments below.