There was a time when I felt like I was disappearing into motherhood, like I had zero individual identity aside from whatever was happening that involved my offspring. Actually, I felt like I was disappearing in general. Everything was terrible. EV-ERY-THI-I-ING. I barely recognized myself – not just my face, but my thoughts. I didn’t feel like me and nothing felt like mine. My worst fear about motherhood was coming true – that it would consume me.
I knew I was vulnerable, because like most moms, I desperately loved my kids and wanted to be everything a mom “should” be. I just wasn’t sure what my shoulds were and I was having a hard time figuring it out. I knew I had to figure it out before I disappeared completely, because I saw it coming. I felt it happening before I knew for sure what my motherhood shoulds were, but I did know what MY shoulds were, the Nikki shoulds. Those I had complete and total confidence in.
So I pushed back. HARD. I pushed my kids out of the space that was NOT theirs to take. At first I felt guilty and selfish, but as I figured out how to be my own someone in my relationships with everyone again, I started to feel joyful, energetic, full of purpose, and VISIBLE.
How did I do this?
Carefully. Calculatedly. (I know that’s not a word, calculatedly, but I don’t care. DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO, GRAMMAR POLICE)
I set a bunch of new limits and boundaries to protect my identity, privacy, and personal space. I prioritized self care. I explained it to my family, what I was doing and why it was important. I didn’t want them to panic and imagine awful things, as people often do when someone they love starts to act differently. I taught my kids independent living skills, i.e. laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc. I stopped doing everything for them and started letting them do some things for me. I taught them that I was deserving of space, that I wasn’t an object. Don’t even get me started on the limits I set in my marriage. That’s a BOOK, not a blog post.
Self care didn’t mean showering more or taking time to eat. Self care for me meant getting another graduate degree and taking time to write. I started a blog – this blog! I wrote a book.
Click HERE if you want to check it out!
Those who have been around from the beginning have asked about my “sabbatical.” Thank you for noticing that I was disappearing. I decided to take some time away from blogging and book writing and go back to work as a clinical psychotherapist in private practice. I also started doing gerontology case management and consulting. And volunteering. Know what else I’ve been doing?
I’ve been doing relationships my way, navigating the fine line between being someone for everyone and also very much my own someone. I feel grateful and humble and proud. I have worked my ass off – metaphorically speaking, you know, because my ass is actually a bit fat, but it’s my ass, and in keeping with the theme of this post and in the spirit of not being invisible, maybe it’s a good thing that it’s big and super visible, you know, just in case I get lost again, it will be easy for someone to grab to help me back.
It could happen.
I often wonder what other women are thinking and doing in the early days of motherhood, whether they stay at home like I did or go back to work part or full time. Mothering takes up a ton of personal space and so much time. How do other mothers stay themselves, how do they keep from disappearing? Every mother was her own separate person before she became THE person to other people, so why do so many mothers forget that and disappear into motherhood? Why do so many fade away, giving away all of their space and identity to their children?
I’ve known some mothers who didn’t have their own identity or space to begin with, women who didn’t know who they were until they became someone to someone else via a relationship – romantic or parental. But the someones who felt like someone all on their own, yet managed to give way too much of their someone separate from everyone space to others, are the someones I so often wonder about.
Did they willingly let it happen or did they go down kicking and screaming the way I did? Maybe they were blind sighted? Were they buried too deep underneath the needs of others that by the time they realized it, they had nothing left of themselves that even they wanted to see so why not let it all go?
I feel like I’ll never stop struggling with this. How much do I give and how much do I keep? How much of me is mine now? I am constantly assessing this. Seriously, even in my sleep. I dream that I am running to my children, that I can’t get to them fast enough, that they will disappear and I won’t have the joy of holding and loving them. I also dream that I am trying to get away from them, screaming at them, but I can’t get away because my feet are sinking into the ground, that I am sinking into nothingness.
A few months after my book came out, I felt myself disappearing again for an entirely different reason. I stepped away from this blog because the bigger the following I amassed on social media, the more disconnected and invisible I felt. The more I became something to other someones, the less I felt like me. I didn’t think I could do this and be me, but I wasn’t quite sure so I didn’t shut down completely or sell it, because this blog is MINE. I did at least know that.
My life is very different than it was when I started this blog in 2009 and I have different reasons for wanting to write and share. I used to think of Moms Who Drink And Swear as the knot I tied at the end of the rope I was barely hanging onto. Now I see it as a big, comfy swing secured by that knot. I get to swing as high or low or fast or slow as I want. I’m secure and safe and there’s room for me and someone or lots of someones if I choose to include them. I can be me here now.
I can be me with anyone now.
I’m not done saying NO, but I now know how to say YES without disappearing.
I wouldn’t be me without my kids. They make my life. Yesterday, I took the day off of work to care for my daughter. I love my job, but I love her more. It was an easy choice. I cancelled all of my clients, yet I didn’t feel like I was giving up any of me to give to her. This morning my son explained trigonometry while we had breakfast. I love that I could be the me who doesn’t get math and at the same time, the me who does get that I can truly listen even when I have no fucking idea WHAT he’s talking about.
I’m trying to re-appear here. World Mental Health Day is October 10th. I’ll be taking that day to be visible, because a huge part of who I am is a mental health professional, educator, and advocate. If you have any requests for a topic, please leave them in the comments. Until then, please enjoy my ranting and raving on Ana’s podcast. Maybe I’ll have one of my own someday. Hmm…that feels like something I would totally do.
Last but not least, PLEASE take time to read the ABOUT page before you email me asking for this and that because I will most likely say NO. Unless I say YES.
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