Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

Tag: self-esteem

Keeping Your Sense of Self When You’re a Mother and Wife

contributed article

It’s fair to say, as women, we have drawn the short straw in many respects, and there’s no doubt we have it tough at times. Along with growing, carrying and giving birth to our babies, in most cases, we’re their primary caregiver, too. And as wonderful and special as this is, it does mean that everything else in our lives can be twice as hard as we’re fitting it around our children. One thing many women struggle with after having kids is losing their sense of self or identity. You’re no longer just you, you’re a mother. Your new name is “mom,” and your new role is of a parent and sometimes wife. But just because you are these roles (and as enjoyable as they are), it doesn’t mean you have to totally lose the person you once were. Keeping your own identity is important; here are a few ways you can go about it.

 

Take Care of Your Appearance

As a busy parent, the way you look often falls to the bottom of the list of priorities. In the morning, it’s probably all about getting your little one up and washed, fed and dressed. But you don’t have to give up on yourself entirely, and actually making a small effort with your appearance is one of the best things you can do for your self-esteem. Perfect a super quick makeup routine- some foundation, bronzer, and a sweep of mascara will instantly make you look your best without being too done up. Every now and again, visit the hairdresser. Have a style cut, which is easy to maintain and quick to do in the morning. The trick is to work with your natural texture, for example, instead of shoving it into a ponytail. If your hair is already straight, run it over with the straighteners for just a minute or two. This will make it look tidier, get rid of any frizz or fluffiness, and allow it to sit better. If your hair is curly, you could scrunch through with some mousse; it won’t take long, but you’ll feel much better being well presented. You probably have your comfy “mom uniform” that you wear to run errands and get stuff done around the house; but a few changes here could make all the difference, too. Instead of a tracksuit, for example, a pair of leggings with a jersey skater dress and a long cardigan would look cute but be just as comfortable. If you run into anyone you know or catch sight of yourself in the mirror, you’re likely to be far more confident, too.

Exercise

Keeping fit is useful when you have energetic children to look after! It will allow you to play with them far more easily and generally keep up. You probably don’t have all the time in the world to hit the gym five days a week, but there’s plenty you can do. Go on a power walk with the pram, or take a ball or frisbee to the park and run around with your kids. Instead of driving shorter distances, walk them instead, and go on family bike rides. You’ll maintain your figure and the endorphins will make you feel good.

Maintain a Social Life

You might have hung up your dancing shoes long ago, and a night out with friends these days might not be to a nightclub or bar like it once was. But keeping friends is so important; find activities that you all like to do now that you’re mothers and wives. Whether it’s play dates with the kids, brunch on a weekend, or an afternoon tea, keeping those connections there is so important. There are of course other ways to keep in contact with friends too; you could use a postcard app to send any funny or sweet pictures as a postcard right to their house. You could talk on the phone, video call, or of course, use social media. But having that support and friendship group around you will help you keep a grasp of your own identity.

Go Back To Work

One way you can keep and maintain your identity is through your job or career. As a parent you might not necessarily want to go back full time, when you have children to look after. If that’s the case, how about part time? You could even start a home business or do some freelance stuff online. Either way, maintaining your career interests is a good way to go, and bringing money into the home will make you feel good.

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Don’t Let Fear Rule You

I typed this title on this blog post, as if I don’t let FEAR rule me. I know sometimes I do. Actually, I have to make a conscious effort to NOT let fear rule everything I do. I first realized this only a couple years ago when a very good friend quoted Dune and said, “Fear is the mind-killer.” Here’s the entire quote if you haven’t heard it before:

Why do I bring it up today?

I’m the type of person who needs to hear the same advice time and again before it sinks in. And I’m still learning. I’m the type of person who probably needs an entire bedroom mirror full of quotes and tips and things I’ve learned from books, so I don’t forget them. BUT…I bring this up today because recently I heard Andrew McCarthy speak (Oh no, not this again, will she ever stop going on about him? you think) and he talked about Fear. He talked about Fear a lot. He talked about how we have to face Fear right in the face.

Immediately, I became defensive and thought: Who is he to tell us that we are fearful? Well, after listening to him talk from his heart and realizing how hard he tries at everything in his life now: writing, parenting, directing, AND how he is successful, I decided to listen to his message. He told a story to the audience, which he also wrote for National Geographic, about how he was on a 500-mile walking pilgrimage in Spain when he had a meltdown,  where he says, “I literally shook my fists at the heavens and cursed whatever God it was I half-believed in.”

He goes on to say (to read the whole article, please go here):

I became aware of something I’d in some way known all my life. It disclosed itself with the simplicity of the absolute. There wasn’t something lacking in my character; I had an overabundance of something. It had dictated so many of my actions, been behind so many decisions, obscured so much of my judgment. FEAR, I SAW IN THAT MOMENT, had ruled my life. The vulnerability between my shoulders was the space created when the weight of that domineering, life-directing emotion had been temporarily relieved. It was in this experience of fear’s absence that it began to lose its hold on me.

When he said the same thing in his talk at St. Louis County Library Headquarters, I realized that I have allowed FEAR to rule my life also, and most of us do, in spite of friends and the universe reminding us not to. I felt an overwhelming sadness and disappointment in myself at that moment because I wasn’t in control of my own life or my destiny. Fear was. Fear is.

I could give you a bullet point list of my fears, and many of you reading this would probably nod along; but instead of that, I decided that they can all be boiled down to one little sentence:

I fear that I am never doing enough–in my relationships, in my career, at my home, with my child.

And because of this, I spend a lot of time in chaos and worry and listmaking and pacing around my house, where I am not actually accomplishing anything. It’s a vicious cycle. It’s exhausting.

I want to tell you I’m done with it. I can’t do that yet. I can tell you: I want to be done with it. But we all know patterns and habits are hard to change. What I’m trying very hard to do, in this year where I’m also searching for Peace, is to be aware of when I am feeling Fear and figure out why. Then make a decision based on what I want for me life, and not on what Fear wants for my life.

“I’ve learned that fear limits you and your vision. It serves as blinders to what may be just a few steps down the road for you. The journey is valuable, but believing in your talents, your abilities, and your self-worth can empower you to walk down an even brighter path. Transforming fear into freedom – how great is that?” ~Soledad O’Brien

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Raising a Tall Daughter

I titled this post raising a TALL daughter, instead of just raising a daughter, because all of us raising a daughter know some characteristic people  bring attention to, possibly unaware they are doing this, that makes our daughters self-conscious. For my daughter, it’s being tall. Maybe your daughter is short. Maybe she is super smart. Maybe she talks fast. These are all characteristics that people consider okay to comment on.

We also know bullies like to draw attention to personal traits in a negative way, such as being overweight, wearing glasses, or not knowing the answers in class. We think this is horrible, and we fight the good fight against these kind of comments, whether in person, in writing, or online. But do we realize, as adults, that we are constantly bombarding  our kids with messages about their body or their intelligence? And this is not always raising their self-esteem. For my daughter, it’s being tall. Let me tell you what inspired this post.

Katie started cheerleading (she is 6). The wonderfully nice coach said, “I’m going to line you guys up by height, so we can figure out a good formation for our dance.” She told everyone to get in line, and I immediately saw Katie slouch down as much as possible, so she wouldn’t be the tallest one. The next words that came out of the mouth of the short, innocent girl next to her were: “Well, she (pointing at Katie) is the tallest one.”  I had to step in.

I said, “Katie, stand up straight. It’s awesome to be the tallest one. Mommy is always the tallest one.” The coach then chimed in with similar praises, and Katie smiled and stood up straight.

I probably don’t need to go on and on about this story for you to see why it bothered me. But…I am a writer, so I will say this: Before anyone even said she was the tallest one, she knew it was going to be her and she didn’t want it to be her. She is only 6! I remember feeling the same way when I was young.

Is part of that because we innately want to be the same as everyone else? Probably. But a large part of her slouching is because so many people, young and old, are constantly telling her how tall she is and how much older she looks and sounds.

Because I have this blog, I can say: Please stop.

You can only control you, as I said in my last post, but you can stop talking about how short or tall some child is and asking your family to do the same.

fall_dill_007Look, I am as guilty as the next person for drawing attention to my daughter’s height.  My way of coping with this, my wrong way, is to say: “I know. She is really tall,” before the person gets a chance to say it. And I know what several of you reading this are thinking: I wish I was tall. Being tall is great.

And you’re right, it is. But it took me 19-20 years to think this; and sometimes, on bad days, I still don’t think so. She and I can’t control this. We can’t go on a diet to get shorter. We can’t read a book to get shorter. We can’t practice to get shorter.

We are tall. We need to be proud of it. But we don’t need to be constantly reminded of it. 

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Tired

I am tired.

I am tired of fighting every day:

my emotions

my desire to hide

other people’s opinions 

my feelings for other people

my negative thoughts that I’m not doing enough as a parent.

I’m tired.

But I decided today that I’m just giving in to these things I’m fighting because I think in order to heal, in order to become whole again, in order to be the person I eventually want to be–I have to stop running. And one way I fight is by running away, by closing the door, by keeping it locked.

I am accepting reality the way it is. I am going to stop wishing and dreaming. I am going to be in the NOW and deal with what I have to deal with at this present moment.

I’m also acknowledging that I’m going to make a ton of mistakes–probably more mistakes than I’m going to do things right, and I know that I am not alone, no matter what other people are admitting to in their own lives. We all lose our temper sometimes. We all say things we shouldn’t. We all feel things that are not good for us. We all make choices we wish we wouldn’t have.

For a while, I’ve been blaming a lot of these types of feelings on endometriosis, and one reason is because it does screw with hormones and the regular female cycle. And I do realize that this blame is deserved.

But I also know that I’m stronger than this .I am stronger than some disease that has a hold of my body. I do not have to let it rule my life. I don’t have to say the things that are coming to my lips and blame hormones.

I can control it. But this also makes me tired.

But I would rather be tired at the end of the day because I’m living an authentic life instead of being tired because I am trying to be someone I’m not.

 

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