Sometimes changing your to-do list can change your perspective.

Let’s be serious. When it comes to motherhood, there are only two ways of defining things: “before kids” and “after kids.” I’m here to talk about those “A.K.” years.

There’s a whole lot of chatter about preparing your body — and your surroundings — to welcome a baby. But what about your identity? You know… the decades of stuff that make up who you are? Without a doubt, when you take on the role of motherhood, life will never be the same again. (There, I said it.) But does that have to mean losing parts of yourself that you really liked?

Not necessarily. Hear me out.

In those early days, you can prepare to be consumed. Where you once visited your best friends in New York City three times a year (at least), you now change your kid’s onesie three times a day (at least). You’re rocking a little one to sleep in your arms instead of rockin’ out to your favorite band. And the only dancing you do is in small circles around the nursery, trying to lull your babe to sleep.

It doesn’t stop there. Google becomes your new bestie as you research baby product safety reviews and whether they’re on target for milestone moments… until they’re suddenly crawling. Then walking. Then running in a full sprint, while you’re just over here trying to catch up. I feel you!

And while new momhood is the ultimate gift, it’s also extraordinarily isolating. You go from the hospital to home, where often interaction with other adults is limited at best. As other peoples’ lives go on unchanged, yours is all about learning to nurture this little life that directly depends on yours (no pressure).

There are doctors’ appointments. Lactation consultants. Vaccination schedules. Scheduled (and unannounced) visits from loved ones. Your sleep stops, but your obligations only grow. You’ve got good intentions, but no time or energy for much else — and who could blame you?

It’s easy to resign yourself to the idea that, “Well, that’s just how it is now.” But it doesn’t have to be.

Take it from a mom who had kids before most of her friends — one with postpartum challenges who toiled over breastfeeding and went back to work after 8 weeks because her family needed the money.

In my experience, nobody seemed to care — nor did I seem to recall — that I was anything other than “mom,” no matter the years or energy spent in my roles of “friend,” “sister,” “daughter,” “spouse,” or “employee.” But that came with the territory, I reasoned, since I willingly handed my life over to my little ones when I decided to get pregnant. That was how becoming a mother worked… right?

Spoiler alert: For me? It was. And in many ways, it still is.

My “parent” hat is still and always the primary one I wear, and there are others that come along with it, from “chef” to “chauffeur.” But as I got the hang of momming, I began to miss my former self. It was as if she were an old friend who moved away — one I’d been meaning to call for the longest time.

I didn’t know if she was still around, or if she’d even want to hear from me. Would we have anything in common? I was so different now. But I wanted to tell her I remembered and respected her. I still wanted her around.

I started thinking about what had made me her before. What hobbies or activities made me feel alive? What relaxed me the most? What were some of my favorite non-mom things to stop everything and do? I slowly started making a list of favorites — then I made it my “to-do” list.

Yes, I still needed to fold the sixth load of laundry this week, but I could listen to an audiobook my friend recommended while I did it. Yes, my little guy needed a nap, but I could put him in a backpack carrier for a mind-clearing walk in the woods with my dad. I could leave my baby in capable hands so that I could attend a barre class I’d been eager to try downtown.

With every check of the new “to-do,” I realized I could be “Mom” and still “Kate,” and DANG, did that feel good. I was in control, and I could do both. I was both.

So spend time remembering — then make your list. Accept the feelings of solitude as a natural part of motherhood, knowing that they will be overwhelming at times. But don’t accept them as a permanent fixture in your life.

Know that making time for more of whatever makes you who you are is good for everyone. Schedule brunch. Yoga. A FaceTime date. Whatever. Alternate between bringing your family in on your favorites and carving out time to enjoy them on your own.

The pre-mom you is still in there. And she wants to be found.

Kate Brierley is a senior writer, freelancer, and resident boy mom of Henry and Ollie. A Rhode Island Press Association Editorial Award winner, she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s in library and information studies from the University of Rhode Island. She is a lover of rescue pets, family beach days, and handwritten notes.