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Rajeshni Naidu-Ghelani is the assistant editor of Globe Advisor at The Globe and Mail.
Every Wednesday night, with my hands on my hips, I squat my 41-year-old body into a position called aramandi. As the teacher starts to drum the beat on a piece of wood, I get ready for my next lesson in Bharatanatyam – a classical Indian dance.
The group of pupils in my dance class includes my five-year-old daughter. Initially, I had signed her up to take the class on her own, but then figured – why not get some exercise and spend some “girly” time with her by joining in? That’s how it all started, at least. I have two boys as well, and when my husband asked me if I really needed to be in the dance class too, since that meant he’d have to handle dinner time on his own (not so easy with a two year old), I emphatically replied, “Yes!”
I realized that as much as I’m doing this for my daughter, I’m really doing it for myself as well.
I used to dance all the time. I took Bharatanatyam in my twenties, but I also did hot yoga, watched sports, travelled, went shopping and got really dressed up, just for fun. Then, in the past decade, I had three kids.
Slowly but surely, I started letting go of all the things I liked to do – things that were part of my identity – to be a mom. Between being pregnant, giving birth, raising kids and restarting my career each time I returned to work, “me time” was effectively gone. I justified this lack of self-care as, well, this is the new me. The Mom me.
As any parent knows, your child’s life can easily become your life. In some ways, that’s totally fine – they need your constant support and guidance to become good, functioning adults. But because I’m so invested in my children, I started to feel like I didn’t know who I was anymore, like I was completely losing myself.
After I had my third child and turned 40, that feeling became more acute. I was also tired of feeling like the glass was always half empty – when there’s nothing left from constantly giving.
That’s when, although I didn’t realize it at the time, I began the journey of finding myself again.
First, I returned to the newsroom. I had left mainstream media after having my second child, because waking up at 3 a.m. to make it downtown to go on air by 6 a.m. while my children were still asleep wasn’t working out so well, and it was also putting too much pressure on my marriage. So, I took a job as a journalist in the corporate world, only to realize how much I missed the newsroom. I became determined to return, and completed the Canadian Securities Course while on maternity leave with my four month old, to ease my way back into business news.
Soon after I started dancing again, I started thinking about what else I used to like to do before I had children.
This summer, I took my eldest son to baseball games and went to watch tennis with my dad. My son plays baseball, and we had never watched sports together before. Needless to say, he was surprised when I told him that at age 13, I declared I was going to be a sports commentator, and it sparked my decision to become a journalist. It had also once been a life goal of mine to visit all four tennis grand slams. I did one in my twenties – the Australian Open – which is the farthest away. The other three on are this side of the world. I now hope I can attend them all with him.
I’ve also started shopping for myself again. Online, that is, as I still don’t have time to go to stores. Once the kids were born, I exclusively shopped for them and forgot it was one of my favourite pastimes, which I usually did with a friend. I’ve also bought new makeup and my husband surprised me with “luxury” hair styling tools for Christmas. Probably because he noticed my renewed interest in how I look.
Overall, I’m making more time for myself, trying to see my friends more and going out with my husband alone more – in part because it’s easier to do so as the kids get older.
But the one thing I now acknowledge in this journey is that I don’t enjoy doing most of my favourite things alone, like I used to. This new me likes having my kids involved. Maybe because I want to share the things I love with them. Or maybe it’s just mom guilt – but either way, I want them there with me.
Having children has also contributed to the way I’ve approached rediscovering myself. My children have given me more of a backbone and taught me to embrace new possibilities and take on risks. In the past year, I finally learned how to ride a bike, thanks to them, and started skating again after 20 years.
Whenever it is, I look forward to the day I can share the stage with my daughter and perform Bharatanatyam together. I’ve found myself again, but with my family by my side.
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