Parenthood changes us irrevocably. We are warned before we have children “say goodbye to sleep!”, “good luck with the terrible twos” and a hundred other clichés. They are right, of course. Despite the profound and growing love felt for your little person, the early childhood years can be an exhausting roller coaster of sleep deprivation, nappies and meal preparation.
More recently, women are also advised about the loss of identity they may feel. There are a hundred online articles written by women about their struggle to feel like a person in their own right after they become a mother.
But the actual reality of losing your identity will only be realised when you either feel it happening, or one day wake up and think “where did I go?”. So often, women feel guilty for acknowledging this feeling of loss, that somehow we are ungrateful that we miss or pine for how life was before we had children.
But as with any major life transition, new motherhood is a time we can re-examine our goals, assumptions and beliefs. This does not mean we lose who we are, rather we undergo a redefining process.
If this resonates with you, here are some ways that may help you reconnect with yourself.
1. Time for you
It sounds clichéd and obvious, but that’s because it works. I know of a woman who hired a babysitter for one hour each fortnight so she could sit in the garden, drink a coffee (or wine, depending on what end of the day it was) and read a book.
Another went to a weekly Pilates class, but would take the long way there and back to allow extra thinking space and time to herself.
Someone else I spoke to would do the grocery shopping on a Thursday night (late night shopping) just so she could go to the shops without her kids. She would browse the international food aisles, plan the meals she wanted to cook that weekend and genuinely felt relaxed doing so.
Whatever “time to yourself” looks like , make time for it, do it.
2. Take the time to think about your goals
Some women dream all their lives of having children, but still struggle with feeling their identity is taken over by motherhood.
Some women spend years thriving on building a career, then fall madly in love with motherhood and struggle to reconcile their professional goals with their parenting goals.
And some women fall somewhere in between, where they have always felt comfortable with who they are, yet feel they become unrecognisable once they are parents.
Whether you fit vaguely into these groups or not at all, take time to think about your goals now you’re a parent, and consider whether they are still relevant, or need to be adapted to fit your new lifestyle.
3. Redefine your identity so it is meaningful to you
Let’s face it, women receive A LOT of pressure – from society’s expectations in general (thanks, social media), from family or friends, but mostly from ourselves.
Rather than giving in to that pressure, what about finding a way to incorporate all the aspects of your identity that matter to you. If you want to be a working mum, recreate an identity that fits. If you want to be a stay at home mum but not let it take over your life, find ways to make time for you and your passions. If you don’t want to be defined as a mum, come up with a new description!
Do not allow other people or society to define who you are now that you are a parent. Write your own story.
4. Ask for help
Sometimes we find ourselves completely lost with no idea where to start. Talk to your partner or friends, anyone that you trust and can open up to. It could be the starting point you need.
Counselling can also be an effective way of exploring your thoughts and feelings and finding a way forward that you are comfortable with.
If you would like some support to explore feelings of lost identity, I am here to help. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org