Originally published by Rachel Norman at www.amotherfarfromhome.com
I was riding along in the car the other day listening to the radio when a song came on from high school. A song I knew every word to. I didn’t particularly love this song, but it got me thinking. You know… I used to like music. I used to know the names of up-and-coming bands. I bought CDs (remember those) before they were cool and I loved listening to music.
In that moment it became clear to me that, along with music, I’ve let go of many other habits and things I used to enjoy. I eat out less. I travel less. I see my friends less. I’ve seen two movies in the theatre in the past year, and both have been cartoons.
It isn’t that I don’t love being a mother. I really do. But I’m still living in the transition from who I used to be, to who I am now. So many parts about my life have changed, and I’m struggling to catch up with myself.
Do you ever feel the same?
Though you’re still in control of your own life, things are definitely different as a parent. Your desires, motivations, and spontaneous urges don’t factor into your decision-making as much as they used to. Now, you consider your children’s needs equal to or above your own in the day to day and this can make us feel like we’re losing our identities as individuals.
We can feel we have lost our identities because:
- Our lives come to completely revolve around our kids. There’s a difference in your daily routine revolving around the kids and the entire meaning of your life revolving around them. You can still be on duty 24/7 and be involved in other things. Girls’ nights, charity work, or service projects with your kids will take you from your four-walls home bubble to a more well-rounded perspective. If we don’t seek out things, we can get tunnel vision – and then wonder why the outlook is so unexciting.
- We can’t spend as much time focusing on ourselves. I used to take pleasure in choosing an outfit, doing my hair, and accessorising each morning. Now I’m lucky if I bother to cover my hair in a cap and find matching exercise tops and bottoms. Some days I do, some days I don’t. I know it’ll change with time and I’m not crying on my pillow about it, but sometimes I do look at a mum with one or two children, or all in school, and think: Wow her nails match her outfit.
- We have to slow down (even though we feel even busier). Sometimes it can be hard because we used to be so involved in many things but can’t make time for them. Often the #1 challenge for at-home parents is loneliness. Some people have reported feeling isolated, alone, and bored at home when their babies were small. Having children can be a big change for your personality and temperament. This life change can make you feel like a different person. Perhaps you aren’t the life of the party or don’t see your friends very often. While this in itself might not bother you, it will still affect how you see yourself.
- Our identity used to revolve around our job. Some of us have dreamed of becoming a parent since childhood – it’s perfect. And some may have given up a fulfilling career and are experiencing symptoms akin to shock. Even if it’s your choice to stay at home (and you don’t regret it), it’s a big change to lose the validation and satisfaction of a job well done. Especially a job with measurable results. The new ‘job’ may not feel as important, and it definitely doesn’t pay as well.
- We’ve lost freedom we once had. This was a big one for me. As an only child who had travelled extensively, not being able to do ‘whatever I wanted when I wanted’ has been an ongoing struggle. I have been happy to make choices that benefit my entire family, but it has changed the way my life looks in every way. Very little going out, staying up late, or socialising. Of course, I can still do these things with kids, but life has shifted and it’s been a challenge.
- We don’t get enough sleep. Prioritising sleep is a must. When we are sleep-deprived and overtired, moods become erratic. Emotions remain just under the surface. While the newborn era is especially tough to survive… after that things should get easier. Power naps are great – even if you have to ask for help from a friend or trade babysitting shifts. Because the number one thing that decreases stress is rest. Yes, we’ll probably all sleep with one ear open forever now that we have others to watch over, but prioritising sleep or rest for yourself is important.
How we can find our identities again
Here are some tips you can try to stay connected to who you are, not just your role as mum.
- Find new ways to connect with friends who can meet in kid-friendly spaces. Instead of regular nights out or coffee dates, have playdates or monthly book clubs. Instead of restaurants and movies try the park or a local playground.
- Have a hobby. Find something you used to love and make time for it. Even if it’s something more active like hiking, try to fit it in even once a quarter. You may think it’s impossible, but if you work hard to make it happen, it will.
- Stop comparing. This Is the secret to being content in every season of life. Even so, it’s hard not to look back and forward when times are tough. By focusing on the things that are just a fleeting moment now – such as your baby’s cute chubby thighs – you’ll be less likely to be jealous of old times.
- Get help. Whether you need to hire someone, trade babysitting, beg family members, or just go to playgroups with helpers… do what you need to do. If you are a weary and overwhelmed mum the effects will build up.
- Take care of yourself. Put the baby or toddler in the cot and take a shower. If you loved clothes, get dressed up. If you liked having nice hair, do your hair. Don’t neglect the things that used to bring you pride and pleasure, even if no one sees them but the baby. You’ll feel better.
You will never have a life like you did pre-motherhood, and that’s okay. But you can slowly start to find yourself again. Your identity isn’t lost, it’s just buried under nappies and onesies.