One of the most important things I learned in 2015 was how to be selfish. And that being selfish was the key to being a good mom.

Parenting is draining. I learned the hard way that you can’t pour from an empty cup.

Parenting really chewed me up and consumed me in my first year as a mom. By the time Ellis was 14 months old I was deeply unhappy and really questioning if I wanted to be exclusively defined by my role as a mother. I had become a mother, but I had totally lost myself.

By the end of the day all I wanted to do was zone out and have a few hours alone to do nothing. Unfortunately doing nothing (or binge watching TV and drinking wine) doesn’t really recharge me, so I still felt just as depleted and I had lost a few more hours to a mindless show (I’m looking at you Say Yes to The Dress). But I finally figured out that I can’t recharge by checking out. Lesson learned.

I started to reclaim bits of myself in the smallest way at first. My whole wardrobe had been overtaken to service children. From my stretchy nursing tops to the flats of my now practical shoes, I didn’t even look like myself. I was dressed for mom success, but wasn’t sure I was still under there. I decided early on to never wear toy/teething jewelry. I didn’t want my kids to think they could just chew on my necklace or pull on my bracelets. That little small choice represented a big shift in the way I thought about being a mom. It was ok to say “no you can’t play with that.” It was necessary to have a few things that were just mine.

Just wearing jewelry didn’t transform my life, but it was the start. The real push to change came with our second baby. You might think that more kids mean less time, but I found the opposite to be true. When it was only Ellis it was easy to focus solely on him. Adding Calvin demanded that we divide our focus and in that division I remembered to save a slice of time for me this time around too.

Sure most of our daily activity is for the kids. They have story times and playgroups and school. We watch their shows, eat their food, and speak their language. But for one hour twice a week I drop Ellis off at school, and Calvin off in the nursery and I go to the gym. Which is just time for me. I joked on the blog about joining a gym when Adam started his new job, but I actually did it and it has made all the difference.

I should be clear that I don’t love working out. I am much happier sitting on the couch knitting or reading (or let’s be real, watching reality tv; don’t worry RuPaul’s Drag Race, I will never forsake you. You are the best thing on TV). But I do love the gym because it forces me to get away from the kids, which I need. Until coffee shops open up complimentary playrooms I am stuck with the gym. It keeps me from wasting my alone time (which is my pitfall) and it isn’t a social suck (I don’t know anyone there so I don’t have to socialize at all which is important for maintaining “me time.”) So I am three months into my gym experiment and I am willing to call it a success.

Most people turn to gyms this time of year to improve their bodies. I go there for fix my soul, and for me it seems to be working. My waist might be shrinking, but my sense of self is finally growing back.

PS City Mama how are you filling your cup these days? I know you were listening to podcasts when you were commuting, but now that you don’t have a commute what do you do for you?