Often times, as moms, we gather around the slide or the sandbox while our kids play to discuss issues that are on our minds. Since LiveMom is primarily an online community of local Austin moms, we thought we would start a monthly discussion about issues that are important to us and that we think may also be important to you. Instead of meeting at the park, we can have a little chat here online at our virtual playground.
This month we are discussing losing our identity when becoming a mom. Have you had struggles with keeping your pre-child identity in tact after having kids? What are some things you’ve done to stay connected with who you are?
Shannon: When our baby was born, my husband was in college finishing a degree he’d started earlier in life, so he stayed home with her while I returned to work. That, coupled with a very difficult birth and recovery, made me feel like two people: a new mom and myself. It took much longer for me (plus a little therapy) to assimilate the parts of my life.
During that time, I remember missing all the things I felt I couldn’t do anymore. In some ways, I even felt “cheated” although I had a beautiful, healthy baby and a willing, loving partner. I think a lot of new moms feel this way, but can’t say it out loud because it sounds so bratty and ungrateful. It can just be part of mourning our previous life, which is okay and doesn’t mean we’d trade the current one for it; it can also be a sign of post-partum anxiety, which I had, or even post-partum depression. I urge new moms who feel ashamed of such thoughts to seek out a therapist.
Once I got past those issues and my life began to feel integrated, finding a new balance took awhile. Losing the time to connect with friends, most of whom didn’t have kids at the time, was hard because I had been a very social person. Making new friends with people who had kids the same age as mine became very important, but was hard to do since I was working. Finding a local moms online forum helped me feel less isolated and more connected.
My daughter’s 5 now, and there are days when I still feel like I’m stumbling my way along blindly. My husband and I switched roles when she was 3.5, and staying home while doing freelance work was another huge adjustment for me. Finding that balance between what I have to do, what I want to do, and what my family needs from me is something I struggle with every day, but that juggling act has become more familiar now.
Nicole: Yes, I certainly feel as if I had an identity crisis when I became a mother. I’m sure a lot of this stems from how work-centered I was before my son was born, and my expectation to immediately go back to work full time (now, almost four years after his birth, I have yet to work over 20 hours a week). When I began to stay at home, my identity faded even more into the background as I saw my decision to set my career aside as license to solely focus on my son. It has just been in the last few months that I have begun to reconnect with me. I started with buying makeup for the first time in years, committing to a more regular exercise schedule, doing a major closet purge and buying some new clothes. I am also realizing that this new “me” isn’t quite the same person as my pre-mother self, so I’m trying to be honest with myself about what really makes me happy. It’s still a work in progress, but progress nonetheless…..
Lori: The old me is a distant memory. That person who was obsessed with exercise, scrapbooking, shopping, eating out, and on a less frivolous note…trying to become pregnant – that person is a very small part of who I am now. I must admit that I sometimes long to be the old me…not the trying to become pregnant part because that journey was painful, but the other part of me….the wholly self-centered person. These days, I am doing a pretty lousy job of trying to incorporate my old self into my new self…usually, I just sit around and mope and cry about what I used to have and how hard i find my life now (hard as in never having a moment’s peace). When I’m feeling less self-pitying, I come up with great plans on how to get back some of the old me : join a family-friendly gym, do more work in my former profession (writing), and forcibly take more time for myself. Some
days are diamonds, and some days are stone.
Katie: If you asked me 3 years ago to tell you about who I was and what I liked to do I would have been able to compile a pretty good list for you in a short amount of time. Now that is not such an easy task. Most of my time is spent being a stay at home mom and all that encompasses. I became so wrapped up in my new little baby that I left behind most my hobbies and interests and focused solely on her. Some times it is hard to remember that my identity is not tied up in dish washing, laundry, diaper duty, sweeping, mopping, etc, etc, etc. Any nights that I get out of the house are usually spent discussing children, husbands, dinners or trying to recover from them. I have felt lost in my mom role some days, okay more than some. But once I started being aware of this sense of missing myself I began slowly to rectify it. I found a therapist, which is not for everyone, but she is wonderful and for once someone wants to hear all about me (stop snickering I know I pay her for that privilege but it still feels nice!) I also, and this one is huge, enrolled my little one in a MDO program which she starts this week. It will be hard but I am sure it will do wonders for us both. Last I am going back to school, which I am really excited about.
Catherine: I have been a mom for so long- since the age of twenty-two- that I think the mom identity has just always been a part of my adult self. I’ve always had to weave in between the non-mom Catherine and the mom side of me to creat some type of balance between the two. My son was eight when my second child was born and so I was already somewhat in that mom identity mode, although it wasn’t as pronounced since I had an older, more independent child. When I became pregnant with my daughter, I quit my well-paying job at four months of pregnancy and was thrown into the world of staying at home with no income, no way of rewarding myself with a raise or even a positive review when I did something good. I think that caused much more of an identity crisis than actually adding another baby to the mix.
I have always known, even with young babies to take care of, what I like to do and what I like about myself. I just haven’t always had enough time to pursue those interests. It’s tough to maintain the self when you are so caught up in taking care of someone else. Now that my son is eleven and my daughter is three, I have more time for myself because I am physically not as in demand as I was when they were babies and toddlers; that certainly makes it easier to identify myself as a woman, a person, instead of just a mom. Having an older child certainly helps to put into perspective how quickly time goes by. I am always reminding myself that I will have many, many years of time to myself once my kids are grown and out of the house.