Ever look at your child and think: “Shit. When did I become such a mom?”
I do it all the time. I still look at my daughter and wonder how my life managed to change so much.
If you’re like me, then part of you is trying to hold on to who you were before you become a mother – and this is a good thing! So many mamas get lost in that role that they forget who they are and what their passions truly are.
Have no doubt, I am passionate about raising my daughter. But I am also passionate about blogging, being creative and binge-ing crime shows on Netflix.
These are all activities that (for the most part) have nothing to do with being a mom. Yes, I blog about mom things, but it’s the writing part that truly fuels my fire.
When I engage in these activities, I feel like me. Not a mom or a freelance writer or a human services worker – I feel like an individual with individual preferences, passions, and values.
Why does this matter? Because our self-esteem depends entirely upon how we define ourselves. When we base our self-worth on the roles we play, we risk diminishing it when we fail or feel guilt, or are shamed by others.
Yet, when we base our worth on who we are, no one can touch that.
Why Do Moms Lose Their Identities?
1. Our Lives Revolve Around Our Children
It’s true. We focus almost entirely on our children’s needs instead of our own. I mean, that’s the point of parenthood, isn’t it? To take care of our little ones?
While doing so, we pour all the energy we have into our children to make sure they are fed, clothed, educated, socialized, entertained, and loved.
While we’re so busy tending to our kiddos, we sacrifice the activities and hobbies we used to engage in and lose touch with our interests. Therefore, we begin to lose touch with our true selves.
2. We Define Ourselves by What We Do
We are Human Beings, not Human Doings.
Yet, as mothers, we completely define ourselves by the role. It’s almost as if we land at the hospital to push out our babies wearing our tailored jeans and perfectly curled hair and leave wearing yoga pants and a messy bun.
And we stay that way because we are moms now.
Try this quick exercise – Read the following question and say out loud the first thing that pops into your head:
What can you tell me about yourself?
I bet your answer had nothing to do with your love of reading or your excellent culinary skills. It probably didn’t include self-adjectives such as “caring” “sensitive” or “open-minded”.
Instead, you probably respond with something like, “I’m a mother of two boys and work as a nurse part-time.”
When we define ourselves by what we DO, rather than who we ARE, we begin to lose a sense of self.
3. Society Applauds the Role of “Mother”
Being a mom is like a prestigious accolade bestowed only upon those who have grown life within themselves and delivered it into the world.
When you’re a “mother”, you become someone special. The world holds you in higher esteem than other women.
Don’t believe me? Think of the societal pressure on women to have kids. If you don’t plan on having children, something is “wrong” and you “don’t know what you’re missing out on”. You’re not “fulfilling your role” as a woman.
(Other peoples’ words, not mine.)
And the pressure isn’t always just from society. Mothers are just as guilty of shaming non-moms for not having kids.
We are so reinforced for identifying as a mother that we so easily leave our true identities behind.
4. We Feel Pressured to Over-Parent
Somewhere along the line, we got it into our crazy mom-heads that good parenting meant spending every possible waking hour with our children. Otherwise, we are failing.
We equate spending time with our kiddos to the quality of our parenting.
I have nary a memory of either of my parents spending the entire day with me. My brother and I were perfectly happy to go off and play together or on our own.
The payoff? When we did spend time with our parents, usually after supper, the experience was more meaningful.
Being a good parent involves a balance between quality and quantity and, if you had to choose between the two, it would mean more to your child to choose quality.
But because we focus on quantity, we have no time to nurture ourselves and keep in touch with our true identities.
5. We Feel Guilty
ALL. THE. DAMN. TIME.
Along with the prestige of motherhood comes the unwavering guilt you get to feel on a regular basis.
One the biggest things we feel guilty about is taking care of ourselves. How dare we do something we enjoy at the sake of spending time with our child?
We instantly feel bad for putting ourselves before our children, even in the smallest ways.
We absolutely shouldn’t (and I’ll talk about that more later) but we allow guilt to prevent us from choosing ourselves and therefore keeping in touch with our true selves.
How to Find Yourself When You’re Lost in Motherhood
Reconnect With Your Old Friends
Remember those friends you had before you had kids? They know the real you and even just being around them can make you feel like your old self.
You don’t have to keep these friends separate from your mom life. While it would be nice to hang out with them sans enfants, you can still include your children in these social interactions.
Invite your old friends to join you at the playground or, if they have kids as well, arrange a play date.
(P.S. If these old friends are moms as well, they could probably use some reminding of who they really are, too!)
Find a Hobby
Find a hobby that is in no way related to your kids or reignite an old hobby you enjoyed before motherhood.
On her site, Erica Layne offers these great hobby suggestions you can try:
- Start a blog.
- Start a reading list.
- Join a gym.
- Make homemade greeting cards.
- Teach yourself to sew, crochet or knit.
- Practice a new instrument.
Whatever you choose to do as a new hobby, make sure it’s something that speaks to your interests and passions.
Write in a Journal
You can use a journal to explore your feelings or dump your thoughts – as long as you focus on yourself and your inner thoughts and feelings.
Write about what makes you happy, angry, and sad. This is a great way to explore your values and get back in touch with your true self.
Here are some journal prompts to help you out:
- What is the best recent show or movie that you’ve seen and why did you like it so much?
- What is a quality you value in yourself?
- What is a recent loving thing you did for yourself and why was it needed?
- What is something you wish you had more time for?
- What was your most recent troubling dream and why did it bother you so much?
These are some examples of the questions you can ask yourself and write about.
Take Care of Yourself
Don’t forget that you are also a human being in the equation of motherhood. It’s important that you do things that bring you pleasure.
Prioritize your self-care and make the time to engage in it.
For example, one activity that brings me pleasure is taking a bath. Either I put on some music and daydream or I watch funny videos on Facebook. And I have no problem plunking my kid in front of the TV for 20 minutes in order to do so.
It’s enough to make me feel refreshed and it’s time I have to myself to think only of myself.
Find the activities that fulfill you and make them happen on a regular basis.
Can a Mother Be Selfish?
Yes and no.
If you are putting your needs ahead of those of your children (like love, shelter, food, clothing, etc.) then, yes, you are selfish.
Otherwise, you are not.
Mothers are expected to be completely selfless, endlessly giving, and always nurturing. Unfortunately, mothers feel “selfish” if they take any time to focus on themselves.
It’s not selfish to make yourself a priority. In fact, it’s a necessity, not a luxury.
Self-care is monumentally important for two reasons:
- You can’t take care of your children and family if you have nothing to give. Self-care ensures that you are fulfilled and able to nurture your family.
- Taking care of yourself puts you in touch with who you really are by allowing yourself time and space away from being a mother.
So, taking an appropriate amount of time to look after yourself is not at all selfish.
Do You Know Who You Are?
A mom identity crisis is not a situation you need to panic over. It’s simply important to be aware of who you are as opposed to the role you play.
Why is it important? Because the more you depend on your role as a mother to quantify your self-worth, the easier it is for guilt, shame, and judgment to shatter your self-esteem.
When you stay focused on who you are deep down, there’s nothing that can waver your values and passions. When you base your self-worth on these, nothing can knock them down.
And all of these wonderful traits you have that make you you also make you a wonderful mama!
How do you keep in touch with your true self? Share your tips and ideas in the comments below!