Having a Life Outside of Motherhood

Mom guilt is a very funny phenomenon. On one hand your rational mind knows that you deserve a few occasional child free moments, but at the same time your heart is telling you that you shouldn’t spend moments away from your child(ren). Even worse, mom guilt often makes you think you’re a bad mother for enjoying said alone time.

I have been on a constant battle with mom guilt, and I’ve accepted that it will always be present for the rest if my life. What I refuse to accept, however, is allowing mom guilt to stop me from caring for myself, nurturing other relationships, or achieving my goals.

I vividly remember as a brand new mom the immense guilt and anxiety I felt when I left my daughter for short periods of time. One specific instance I was at grocery store, and I remember calling Jeff after 15 minutes irrationally thinking my exclusively breastfed infant would “starve to death” despite having nursed her prior to me leaving.

Although I eventually got better with the overwhelming sense of mom guilt, it still lingers three years into my motherhood journey. I keep it in check by acknowledging that it may actually be useful in small doses, but if left unchecked, can have devastating effects on one’s quality if life.

First time leaving my daughter

Going to the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games was the first time I left my daughter Chidera for an extended period of time, and it’s a moment I will never forget. Due to regulations surrounding covid protocols, it just didn’t make sense to bring her to Japan, and my in-laws were gracious enough to watch her for 2.5 weeks while Jeff and I were away. Although I knew they would do a fantastic job caring for her, the amount of tears I shed while heading to the airport where not only alarming to my mom in law, but it actually surprised me as well.

I haven’t admitted this to many people but I did have thoughts of canceling my trip to my third and final Olympic Games despite the fact it had always been a childhood dream of mine. In my mind at the time, I wasn’t sure if it were worth it to leave my toddler for such a long period of time (2.5 weeks), even though I never had any doubt she’d be in good hands.

Looking back now, I am obviously very glad that I didn’t allow that mom guilt to talk me into missing an opportunity of a lifetime. Life would’ve looked so different and in hindsight I’m aware that the guilt of missing the Olympics over something so trivial would’ve eaten away at me way more than the fleeting mom guilt would.

I am always so grateful to my inlaws for their kindness in that moment, and this is a testament to the importance of community. We must maintain an appreciation for those who go out of their way to help you reach your goals. We may get far alone, but we can get much further with help.

Recent child free trip

This past weekend I took a quick 48 hour trip to Vegas for a reunion with my former training partners Shara and Anyika. It had been over six years at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games since we were all together, and it was such an enjoyable trip. We were able to celebrate Anyika’s birthday, attend the Usher concert (which was incredible), eat amazing food, attend a pool party, catch up, and uplift eachother.

I wrote about the importance of nurturing friendships and this trip further reinforced that genuine friends are invaluable and can drastically impact your day to day.

This Vegas trip was exactly what I needed.

And guess what, my daughter was just fine without me.

Now that she’s older, and I’m no longer nursing her, the process of leaving her while I travel is simplified, and I no longer feel as bad compared to when she was much younger. Now, let me be clear that the majority of the time when I travel, she comes with me, but every so often I am intentional about having an adults only experience.

And I’d encourage you to do the same.

I have been told by more seasoned mothers of the importance of having an identity out of motherhood, and this is advice that I’ve clung to. Sure, being a mother is a key part of my identity, and one that I’m so grateful to experience, especially when there were times where I doubted if I’d have the privilege. With that, though, I’m learning that being a full and fulfilled woman will positively impact your ability to care for your child.

I get that we all have varying levels of access, and having a supportive team that allows you to explore other interests outside of motherhood is a privilege, and one I don’t take for granted. But I do encourage all people (not just moms) to find things, no matter how small, that make them feel special and remind them of their greatness from a wholistic perspective.

Examples of how self-care can look:

Do you love to read but caring for the kids all day makes it a little difficult? You can try cutting down your frivolous social media browsing and dedicate a specific time block to finally reading that novel.

Do you enjoy painting but feel guilty for indulging while there’s a stack of laundry to be folded? You can try teaching your kid(s) to help with household chores like laundry to lessen the burden on you and free up time for yourself. I am a huge proponent of delegating when possible.

Do you get an endorphin release when you workout, but have been feeling bad because you haven’t been making it a priority? You can try waking up 20 minutes earlier and completing a YouTube at home workout session to get your day started right.

Regardless of your own specific interests or hobbies that bring you joy, always remember that you deserve me time. In fact, I’d argue it’s imperative to being the best version of yourself.

Whether you’re a “mom guilt” suffering parent or not, know that self care is not selfish. You show up as a better verion of yourself when you fill up your own cup versus only focusing on filling up the cup of others.


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