How To Be An Awesome Mom + Still Have A Life


This is a guest post from my amazing friend, Andrea.  She’s a fantastic mom and still manages to have more fun and do more stuff than most single twenty-somethings I know.  What’s her secret?!

When Sarah asked me to write a guest post for her blog, I was not only honored but also sort of bemused. After all, my life feels so…mundane! I have fun, sure, but it’s of the pretty ordinary variety. But that’s what she asked me to write about…how to have fun in MY (mundane) way. Or, as she phrased it “How To Be An Awesome Mom and Still Have a Life.”

I’m a mom of a precocious, adorable, sensitive and smart-assed little boy, Alex, who is 4 going on 27. His dad and I are amicably divorced and we share 50/50 custody. I’m (hopefully) an awesome mom (Sarah seems to think so, and she knows her awesomeness when she sees it,) and I (hopefully) have a life.

I always wanted to be a mom. I knew this even as a wild-child punk rocker running drunkenly through the streets of Uptown and managing a tattoo/piercing/clubwear shop in the 90s. It would happen someday, I knew. Oddly enough, I didn’t think about the marriage/partnership part so much – that didn’t seem as important. I just knew that someday I’d be Mommy.

I married a good guy, got pregnant as planned, and promptly gave up most of what defined me. I was a Mom, first and foremost, and that was what now defined me. Alex came before my husband, my friends, my pets, the activities I’d enjoyed before being a mom. I didn’t go out as much, neglected my marriage, and became unhappy. I was a mother – I had what I’d wanted. So why did I feel something was missing? Because something was—me.

I failed at marriage but realized I had a second chance at a fabulous life. The trick, I found, is in nurturing your own self as well as the little shadow of you…be Mom, yes…but also give yourself permission to play (semi-responsibly) with the big kids, too.

You CAN balance motherhood, a career, and a fabulous social life with a bit of thought and planning…think of the three areas as the legs of a tripod or, for nerds like me, a Venn diagram. I can focus on one or two of the three, but without all aspects I am never whole. (Please note this is NOT to say that women who are not mothers are not whole – NOT AT ALL. I have tons of friends and colleagues who don’t wish to or cannot have kids and their lives are completely rich and wonderful. But for me, I need the trifecta.)

With 50/50 custody, it’s actually pretty easy. I elected for this custody agreement mainly because I don’t think it’s fair to Dads (or their children) to be solely “weekend parents.” If both parents are able and willing to raise their child(ren), then both of them should GET to. But this also left me with a best-of-both-worlds situation.

One week, I’m Mom all the time. Cuddles and forts and T-ball and swimming lessons and coloring and Play-doh and kissing scraped knees. I love it. I revel in it. I’m good at it. On the alternate weeks, I’m still a mom, of course, and I call Alex every night…but I am Andrea, NOT solely defined by being a mom.  I still play and kiss and cuddle and build forts…but with the grown-up kids in my life. My patient and accommodating friends and dating partners work around this schedule and I’m so grateful for it, and for them.

For those parents who don’t have another person to parent/share custody with, it is harder but still doable. Try this:

* Nurture yourself in addition to your little one(s)

* Find adult interests (new or pre-kid) and MAKE the time for them

* Do things for you and you alone…it sounds selfish but in fact you’ll be a more complete person and a    better parent for it.

* Remember that you’re a woman, a friend, and a rock star in addition to being a mom.

I don’t know.  I might be full of it but I think I’m a pretty good mom and I DO have a lot of fun, so I must be doing something right.  What do you think?  If you’ve got little ones, how do you make time for yourself and the things you love?

9 Comments

Rosie

I've experienced this situation from the other side. My mum took about 10 years off to raise us when we were little, but when my little sister went back to school she went back to work, and I think we're infinitely better off for it. It's true, she doesn't make dinner every day of the week or take care of all the housework, but that has been a great influence on us. I'm continually astounded by how little my friends know how to do for themselves, and we value her all the more for it.

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Pooja

Oh my! Andrea is an ultimate cool mom. I know many moms who are defined by what they are- mom, wife, daughter, etc. It is definitely important to take care of kids as well as SELF. This is such a good example for not just being an awesome mom (which is definitely much more difficult when compared to the other roles) but be awesome anyway! Truly appreciate Andrea's spirit! You are awesome, friend!

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MaryKate78

You are a cool mom! One of the coolest. I'm lucky because I see you as a professional and as a fun chick, but I've also seen you chasing a sleigh of reindeer down 50th & France so your little dude will turn his frown upside down.

This is good, timely advice for this mommy-to-be.

Thanks, girlfriend!

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Samantha

Such a great post. The reason I started blogging was because I lost myself after I had a baby and blogging helped me to not only get some of my identity back, but also to redefine who I was. There is so much pressure out there about what a mom is suppose to be and it is so conflicting that it is so easy to find yourself lost. It is so important to know who you are and take care of yourself as a parent and not loose yourself in trying to become someone you aren't. Children learn from what they see and when they see a confident mom who loves and takes care of herself I think it sets them up to treat themselves the same way.
Great post.

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Melissa

I like that idea about 50/50 parenting. It's sweet, actually.

I grew up in a divorced family, and a lot of my friends were in divorced families. Most of the fathers just don't even like their children and wouldn't even do weekends.

Reading about alternate weeks where both parents are totally into it just blew my mind in the nicest way possible. Very cool.

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Jessica

I both agree and dis-agree.
I don't have children but have experienced how you end up cutting away things that have previously defined you in the name of something, whether child-rearing or work. For me it was the latter. One day I was a person that had many interests, the next all I was doing was to work. It took me a year to re-shuffle my priorities. An illness that made working impossible helped as well.

But. I think that there's an immense pressure to have it all. I have friends who are stressed out over having a good family, a great social life and tons of interests. There's truly nothing wrong with living a rich life, just as long as you cut yourself a little slack.

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Anonymous

I am sure you are a cool mum and I totally agree with the message, one should still take care of oneself and have fun to be complete, happy and hence a better mum. However, the post seems to imply that the key to this is divorcing your husband to have every other week off …

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Anonymous

I am the writer of the post that was apparently a little more critical than what was considered proper. I administer a blog as well and respect the judgment of whomever that was. So, let's just say that what might seem like a great situation for one person is not for another (duh). My only point was that your freedom to have such an active social life seems TO ME to have come at a high price. But that does not mean I don't wish you happiness and continued success in making the best of your current place in life.

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Anonymous

Absolutely positively and without a doubt the reason your life is so balanced between motherhood and selfhood is because of your marital status. It is the one major upside of divorce (if your spouse is a decent human being and shares custody equally). Without that circumstance, it is far more difficult to maintain a life of your own. Working outside of the home can make this better if you can afford a lot of help, or can make this worse if help is not an option. Just my opinion from life experience.

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