Motherhood can seem all-consuming. How is it possible to be the best mom you can be, and still hold onto who you were before baby? Better yet, instead of ‘holding onto’ your past self, how can you evolve as a woman and mother and grow into this new role with grace and confidence?
Read how the following mommas navigated their transition into motherhood:
Looking back to when I felt most adrift, after my first child was born, I wish I had given myself more grace for ‘not feeling like myself’. The feeling of losing myself to the care of another person, of not knowing who this strange exhausted zombie was, scared me. I didn’t know if I’d ever feel ‘normal’ again. When I think about it now, I realize just how normal that feeling is. My body, hormones, schedules, sleep patterns – every normal thing in my life changed, so of course I wasn’t going to feel like myself! I think every mom, stay at home or not, feels like they are a different person for a time, and that’s okay. You will find yourself again, and you’ll like who you’re becoming again.
One thing that helps me maintain a sense of identity is reconnecting with things that have always been a part of me. The things I loved as a child, or the things I discovered as a teenager, all remind me of who I am and where I come from. I have always loved nature, and so I try to spend time outside both alone and with my kids. I love watching and listening to the things I enjoyed in high school. Those things help me stay grounded, and keep me from fixating on how I imagined myself at this stage of life. I don’t have to look or act like any other mom than the one that I’m specifically designed and called to be. I’m a mom, and I’m also a mom who loves nature, watches cringey dramas, and listens to emo music. Reconnecting with those interests helps me feel like me, and also guides me as I find new interests and introduce my kids to things they can love too.
Being a mother and maintaining oneself apart from motherhood is one of the greatest challenges I have faced. It took me a couple of years into it to even feel brave enough to leave my child behind to make a grocery run without her. One child turned into two, and finally I slowly stopped putting myself dead last. I realized that prioritizing my mental health was not just an act of love for myself, but for my children too. Getting there however, was anything but easy.
I’m a younger mother still in my mid-twenties, so having an authentic sense of self aside from motherhood has been somewhat of a foreign concept for me. Battling existing mental health issues, tacking on postpartum depression, and having two children within two years was a whirlwind of survival mode. But through therapy, time apart from my kids spent with friends, and alone time to just really exist as someone other than “mom” for a bit – I’ve found pieces of myself along the way.
At times that alone time looked like taking my first vacation alone with some friends, and not feeling guilty at all that I left my children behind for a few days with my husband. At times it looks like hiding out in my room watching TV and eating snacks on a bad mental health day while my husband takes over. And a lot of times, it looks like me kissing the kids goodbye to run some errands in peace. I have learned that I need to have time alone to stay “me,” and I’ve learned to not feel ashamed because of it. Now I know that I’m a loving mother, AND a billion other things. We are all happier for it, too.
I grew up watching love stories unfold through the TV — the tale of torn hearts, the trials to get back to one another and many others in-between. The tugging and pulling of relationships that I watched then was actually mirroring how my heart felt as a working mom, especially in those first few months. A torn heart trying to get back to familiarity, fulfillment and peace.
In one light, I was a new mom and in the other I was a career person — not to mention the many other hats worn as a person in general. It was a race between worlds and one where I couldn’t see the finish line — identity crisis might be the more formal term. It’s wasn’t easy and it wasn’t always clear; I asked myself many times if I was making the right choice in returning to work at 12 weeks postpartum.
But peace came.
Around 6 months of age with both of my babies, I finally hit that place of solitude I was begging for — that place where you know you’re where you’re meant to be. Being a mother with a career outside of the home is the place for me. Yes, it has come with hardship, but it also comes with empowerment, trust and some of the best relationships.
I have learned how to live a life not trying to “balance” it all but instead flow with the ever changing patterns. I have learned that help is a good thing and support is essential. I have learned who I am as a person and not by just one defined role.
Erica- New Jersey
Becoming a mother added real complexity to my career and personal life but it didn’t in anyway take away from my passion, drive or ability. In fact, motherhood has made me the leader I am today in more ways than one and for that I am eternally grateful.
I think losing ourselves, to an extent, is a requirement to be a good mother. Adding an entire new human being without changing who we are would be impossible. Becoming a completely different person doesn’t seem healthy, but letting your child’s existence affect yours? Normal. In my experience, continuing to try to do everything while being a mom was more of my natural tendency than giving up all of myself for the kids. I had to think and work hard to embrace the mom role. Here are two ways that I have tried to conquer my natural selfishness while maintaining The Essence of Erica:
Learning how to improve my parenting by reading books, listening to podcasts and taking courses-understanding what they heck these kids are doing and why makes me feel more capable. I like to work hard, be capable and see improvement, so my unofficial Continuing Education feels true to myself and good for my kids. Repeatedly hearing that other mothers experienced similar difficulties was an added bonus.
I found ways to pursue my interests, but sometimes altering them to include or fit kids. I enjoy the occasional craft. Sewing tiny outfits for beloved stuffed animals or opening the craft drawer and producing necklace making supplies delight my children and let me exercise that creative muscle. Hosting Cold Treat Tuesday every week this summer is giving me a chance to try new dessert recipes and everybody is glad to be a taste tester.
If you are also a mother who doesn’t want to let all of her pre-kids life fall away and wants to invite her kids into her world, perhaps a suggestion of mine can help.
And lastly, you’ll hear from me:
I always wanted to be a mom, but several years before I became a mother I had a moment of panic. Choosing motherhood seemed so permanent. I liked change. I like reinventing myself and trying and learning new things, new relationships, new hobbies, options. I didn’t want to trade that in for a permanent role as “mom” for the rest of my life… did I? It seemed boring. My cousin, a mother of multiple children, reassured me that there is nothing “boring” about motherhood and that now you get to grow as a woman AND watch your kids grow and change and constantly get interested in new things.
After having children, I quickly learned how right she was. This motherhood business isn’t boring, and there’s nothing but constant change, challenge, and growth. I can pursue my career(s), my hobbies, and relationships with friends and family that evolve along with me. I can watch my kids grow and become unique humans with their own personalities and interests, somehow both because of, and despite, my own influences on them.
I don’t want to stay who I was before I became a mother. I worked hard to be the woman I am right now, and I’m still working on myself. I like who I am becoming, more and more every day. I don’t want to be defined by my role as a mother, but I want that role to be a beautiful facet of who I am, along with all of other beautiful facets of my life.