“Finding yourself is not really how it works. You aren’t a 10-dollar bill in last winter’s coat pocket.” I remember scrolling through social media and coming across this quote as if it were yesterday. While I thought it was clever, I also strongly disagreed with it. As a mom to small kids, I did experience loss of myself and that means where there is losing there can also be found. Maybe the word “finding” doesn’t quite describe this process, but it’s a start.

When you learn you’re pregnant you realize your life is about to be changed forever, but nothing can really prepare you for the massive transformation that incurs. No matter how many books you read, how many classes or courses you take, or how many people you talk to, motherhood is one’s own journey to experience. And just like other big transitions in life, such as starting a new job, moving away or even getting married, it takes some time to adjust to the different emotions that arise.

What’s interesting is that for most women starting a family is the one step that will help them make sense out of life. It’s the natural progression and sequence of events. But in today’s world of infinite possibilities and global connections, having a child can mean more constraint and confusion, a loss of direction or putting your life on hold until the nest is empty again.

For me, realizing my sense of purpose wasn’t necessarily in just having children was as disappointing as it was eye-opening. Disappointing because I felt guilty and afraid of admitting it out loud, eye-opening because it made me start taking steps to “find myself” while my kids are still young, instead of waiting 18 some odd years.

Sometimes I feel like this message of finding your purpose post-partum can seem like encouragement for moms to feel dissatisfied with motherhood, but that’s not it at all. Understanding that you have purpose outside of motherhood is about realizing you’re as much of an individual as your kids are. Wouldn’t you want them to grow up to know their purpose too?

Instead of looking at motherhood as “the end of the road” for the woman you are or used to be, I like to think of it as a blank slate, an opportunity to start from scratch or create a new and improved version of yourself. At this point you may be thinking “Sounds great, but how do I go about doing that?”

While I can’t tell you exactly how or what that will look like for you, I can share some steps that have been very helpful for me in figuring out what I wanted to do with my life beyond my mommy role.

Revisit your little girl: when we become moms it’s like the “mama bear” or “mama hawk” switch turns on inside. We do anything for our little ones, but also tend to forget the little one within. What did she use to like? What lit her up in her early years? One thing I’ve learned from one of my mentors is to look at old pictures of you as a girl to bring back some memories and put yourself in her shoes now as an adult. Have you been honoring her dreams and desires? If not, what can you do to change that?

Revisit your talents: if you had a well-established career before starting a family, this one might be easy for you – what are you really good at? If not, no worries, I’m sure you have quite the list of accomplishments. And if for some reason you can’t think of them, ask your close friends or family members to contribute. It’ll be quite the confidence boost and will give you some great insight on what you could be doing while you’re also a mom.

Revisit your dreams: looking back at your little girl and at your talents will start showing you what you still want out of life, what you’d still love to experience. Sit down and make a list of your wants. I bet by item five you’ll run out of things to say – and I suspect it’s because you’ve been spending a lot more time focusing on what everybody else wants instead.

Once you’re done with this process, you can start brainstorming goals for yourself and deadlines. Moms like to “joke around” and say no one knows how hard our full-time, around-the-clock, no-paid-time-off job is, but we hardly ever set goals and deadlines for our own lives and what we want to do. So, I challenge you to do just that. Put yourself on your own schedule; that’s the very starting point to finding, discovering, creating – whatever you wanna call it – your calling and purpose post-partum!