There are many things I miss about my pre-motherhood days. I miss my old body. I miss having spare time. I miss knowing what real sleep feels like—the kind that doesn’t keep one ear and one eye open all night long.
But what I miss most of all is the rich inner world I had before having kids. As I write this, my five-year-old daughter is standing beside me recounting an episode of Bluey she just watched in mind-numbing detail. My son has just interrupted to tell me for the fourth time that he is full, as if there is something I’m supposed to do about that. And although I love every moment that my children want to give their time and attention to me, I miss getting to hold thoughts in my head, uninterrupted.
I have always had a rich inner world. My mind is a busy and creative place, always keeping itself occupied with both the inventive and the mundane. Sometimes, I’m weaving plot lines and building worlds for books I want to write one day. Other times, I’m worrying myself over that hard conversation I had with my best friend, wondering whether I was too stern or not stern enough. My brain is most satisfied when it’s focusing on something quiet and internal.
I don’t get that satisfaction much anymore.
I knew motherhood would keep me on my toes. I also knew that most of my time, energy, and attention would necessarily be devoted to my kids. I just wasn’t prepared for how much of my mental focused would be lost. If my children are in my presence, they’re talking to me. I absolutely cannot co-exist in the same space with them without being regaled with every thought that comes to their tiny, adorable heads.
I love hearing how their little minds and hearts work. I just … kind of miss the sound of my own.
Nobody warns you about how disheartening this loss of your inner world can be. It feels like losing touch with yourself—forgetting who you are at both the surface and the deep levels. If you squint your eyes, you can see her there, dimly. Almost like perceiving her through foggy glass or a screen of smoke. You can’t reach her. Can’t connect.
I’ve spent the majority of my years trudging through motherhood resenting this feeling, yearning for what I’ve lost. But recently, I’ve felt my attitude changing.
Amidst the chaotic beauty of motherhood, I’ve come to realize that the rich inner world I once knew hasn’t disappeared; it’s just transformed. Instead of getting lost in my thoughts, I now cultivate the art of swift mental multitasking. My mind has adapted to the rapid transitions between breaking up sibling rivalries, preparing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and calming a nighttime fear of monsters under the bed. It’s a different kind of mental focus, one that involves shifting gears at a moment’s notice and finding profound joy in their laughter, even when it interrupts my thoughts.
As the years have passed, I’ve discovered that my children themselves have become a part of my inner world. Their innocence, curiosity, and boundless imagination have enriched my mental landscape in ways I could never have predicted. The elaborate tales my son spins from his Play-doh creations and the colorful drawings my daughter creates are now cherished parts of my inner world. It’s a world where love, patience, and the resilience to adapt are the guiding principles, and where I’m continually learning and growing alongside them.
Although I’ve had to bid farewell to the uninterrupted serenity of my inner world, I’ve also gained something equally profound: a deeper connection to my children and the priceless moments we create together. While I may miss the sound of my own thoughts at times, I wouldn’t trade the symphony of their laughter, the warmth of their hugs, or the sparkle in their eyes for anything in the world. In this beautiful chaos, my inner world continues to evolve, reminding me that love and family have become the most cherished and enduring parts of it.
The rich inner world I once had may no longer be solitary and contemplative, but it’s now alive with the energy of my children’s hearts and the enduring bond we share. It’s a world where memories are woven, laughter is abundant, and love knows no bounds. And as I watch my children grow and flourish within this world, I find that I’ve not lost touch with myself but have discovered a deeper, more compassionate version of who I am—a mother, nurturer, and guardian of their precious inner worlds.
Amber Wardell is a doctor of psychology and author who speaks on women’s issues related to marriage, motherhood, and mental health. Subscribe to the free newsletter to get exclusive content delivered to your inbox and to never miss an upload.