Loss of identity after becoming a mother is more common than we think.
If we look at a fairly typical situation, like a woman who has spent maybe 5-10 years in the workplace and then transitioned to staying at home for the first year(ish) with her new baby, it can probably be easily understood that that's a massive change.
However, we're all coming from different backgrounds and not necessarily climbing the career ladder beforehand, and not necessarily having a break in work of more than a few months when baby has arrived.
Basically, regardless of the situation beforehand and during - becoming a mother is a transformative process. You're never quite the same as you were before it. This is true on a physical and mental level.
We don't always talk about what a transformative process it is. Even if you're prepared for it, planned for it...it can still be such a shock and surprise afterwards in the blur of the early newborn days that somehow along the way, who you are as a person gets lost.
You become '(insert baby's name here)'s Mum'. You rarely, if ever go out on the town anymore. Leaving the house is exhausting and anxiety-inducing. You find a fierceness and a rage you either didn't know existed or had forgotten was there.
So it's fairly commonplace that at the beginning, mums are just in survival mode, tending to their baby and almost forgetting about their own existence (hence why we forget to eat, and do other basic stuff like grabbing a shower). This part of the transition to motherhood can last a while if we have children close together in age, or you might sorta yo-yo in and out of it over the years of having babies.
But there comes a point when the brain fog starts to clear, baby is becoming a toddler and we might even be going back to work. And suddenly we realise our priorities have MASSIVELY shifted.
Crap we used to take off people that we'll no longer tolerate. No interest in doing certain things we used to enjoy when we were younger (hello going out on the razz).
We might have gone through a particularly difficult or traumatic pregnancy/birth/postpartum that has forever changed us.
And honestly, we're not quite sure who we are now...
The birth of a baby can be the trigger for the rebirth of the mother.
Mothers lose their identity because...
They lose themselves in motherhood. For many of us, a slow and maybe messy process ensues where we slowly rediscover ourselves and find the new 'us'. However for some mothers, this doesn't seem to happen and they spend many years (or even the rest of their lives) walking in a shadow of themselves.
How then, as a mother can we connect with our 'new' identity?
There are a few different things we can do to discover our new selves - but as with many journeys of personal growth and change it's just that - a journey. My girls are 1 and 2 now and although I feel I've started to connect with my altered identity, it's still an ongoing process.
Make space for our emerging selves
In the newborn days, this might look as simple as having some time alone to rest, bathe, meditate etc. As our babies grow older, it could be more finding space to indulge passions or enjoy hobbies. Talking of which...
Find out what you enjoy
Once you've made that space for yourself, it's time to rediscover what it is that actually makes you tick. This can be a time to try a new hobby or interest, or start a new class and meet a new group of people.
Pursuing your dreams
This is tough to do with young children, we're just wired to put them first. But there are two reasons why you should keep on moving towards your goals in life that don't relate to mothering children - even if that movement is slow and sometimes erratic.
One is that putting aspects of your own life on hold for a few years can easily end up becoming a lifetime, and potentially end with you stewing in your own regret and resentment. Another reason is that you're setting that example for your children to observe.
Yes they'll see the messy bits and the unbalanced bits, but the mindset of pursuing your dreams is better to model than that of giving everything up for your children and inevitably trying to live life through them.
Again this relates to creating that space for yourself to find out who you are, what your priorities are now and how you fit into your changing family unit and wider world.
Stop doing things you don't want to do anymore and that don't bring you pleasure (hello going down the pub). Set boundaries around people who drain your battery (because looking after kids is exhausting enough, you don't need grown adults too). Get rid of material stuff that you don't use, like or fit into anymore.
Figure out what matters.
Motherhood and identity is something I'll be looking more at in further posts/videos/podcasts, so join the Network to be updated when new content is released.