When I was ten years old, I was caught in an undertow at Virginia Beach. The wave tumbled and tossed me, dragged me along the gritty ocean floor and then swirled me up again in a wet, relentless swirl. I lost myself for a moment, and when I recovered I felt disoriented and scraped up. The transition to motherhood can feel like being rolled in an undertow. Many women find that their identities swept are away in the torrent of their attempts to give the best to their child, and they are left with a big question: “Who am I now?”
Any monumental life change such as becoming a mother will change who you are. Change is inevitable and part of maturing.
I have changed much since becoming a mother. I’m still me—I still love apples and blasting country music on a hot summer day like I did in high school. I still look like me, although my body is very different and bears the tell-tale signs of carrying four babies. Yet some days when my children demand every ounce of personal space, inner strength and mental capacity available, I feel like a shell, void of personality.
The transition can be even rougher for women who have careers and yet chose to step back and become a stay-at-home mom. You love your children more than anything, but going from holding an important, respected job out of the house to Chief Nap Enforcer can be jolting.
If you feel like you don’t know who you are since becoming a mother, don’t panic. You will be different, but you are still beautiful You. Motherhood will change you, but it doesn’t have to hijack your identity.
Here are some tips to make sure you don’t lose yourself in motherhood:
Give it time
If you’re a new mother and your baby or adopted child arrived less than six months ago, just hang on.
The transition to motherhood is, for some, as smooth as your baby’s you-know-what. For others of us, the road in early motherhood was rocky and grey. Just concentrate on the tasks in front of you, get to know your new child, and wait for survival mode to pass. Figure out what your own flavor of motherhood looks like. You will get your feet back under you and reconnect with yourself in time.
Welcome the You
Welcome the new version of yourself with love.
You might look different from before you had children. Your body will be different, your heart will be bigger, and your likes/dislikes may have even changed. (Motherhood can turn non-coffee drinkers into “three-cups-a-dayers.”) Look yourself in the mirror, and accept the you which is now a mother. It’s great to get back in shape, but be kind to yourself.
Accept the changes that can’t be reversed as part of you, and embrace the differences with grace. Maybe take a minute to write down three things about yourself that you are grateful for.
Set personal goals or dreams
Make separate goals and dreams that don’t involve your offspring.
It’s natural to want to make your child’s life wonderful, but all too often that means that mothers lose their personal direction. Reserve some time, energy, and motivation to nurture your own wellbeing. Set a goal that you can work towards for you. Dream a little bit, and then set steps to make that dream attainable. By the way, these don’t have to be world-changing goals. If hiking the incline once a month would contribute to a healthy sense of self, then that is a wonderful goal!
Having your own personal purpose can make a world of difference in knowing who you are apart from “Mom.”
Learn something new
You are still you, but post-motherhood you will be different from the high school or college you.
Sometimes—like your old favorite pair of jeans—the old activities you used to enjoy don’t “fit” anymore. Do you want to learn something new? Keep up with your career’s industry so you can integrate back into the workforce in a few years? Take up an instrument? Partner with your husband in this endeavor if you can. Find something that you are passionate about now to pursue. Take a class, learn to knit, volunteer for an organization you love, sell a product you believe in. Learning something new will add a sense of freshness to your identity.
Find your Mama tribe
Your friends who don’t have children yet will still be every bit as precious to you, and they will love your little person, but they won’t fully understand the driving force behind changes that might take place in you.
Mamas are stronger together, and honestly motherhood is more fun when you can laugh with a friend over lukewarm coffee about that latest blowout. Find your Mom Tribe and dig in deep. Search for a local mom group on Facebook, join a Bible study, Google a mom group that combines interests you might have, like Hike It Baby. Or get really bold and approach a mom who looks like your type of person in public. One of my best friends approached me at a swimming pool and basically asked if we could get together for a playdate.
Motherhood is a powerful, all-consuming force that can sweep you off your feet and leave you scratched up and wondering who you are. On the other hand, motherhood is also the wave that can shape you into a beautiful, more confident version of yourself. Find that fresh you, and rock her. Your family will be stronger for it.
Evelyn joyfully mothers and home educates her four children. When all is quiet she blogs about encouraging women to uncover their best with less at Smallish.