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Over these last couple of years, I have come to realize that once you become pregnant, your identity almost automatically shifts. You find introductions switching from “I’m Megan” or “I’m Jessica” to “I’m pregnant” or “I’m so-and-so’s Mom.” These new “titles” are not negative by any means, but they are transitions nonetheless.
We know that once you join the beautiful, chaotic world of motherhood that priorities change and your needs no longer come first. However, it also seems like we step into a whole new realm when joining this wondrous world and our skin sheds into a brand-new shell we aren’t quite familiar with.
So, how do we maintain our identity while also embracing the new title we have been gifted with?
“I Wasn’t Prepared for the Complete Identity Change.”
Before my girls were born, I remember saying I wouldn’t let motherhood change the person I had always been. I would remain quirky and bubbly and confident and still find time for aerial, writing, and the occasional night out. While some of this remained true, a lot of it changed – dramatically. I knew motherhood changed a person - in very unique ways – but I wasn’t prepared for the complete identity change I felt once the girls were born.
My mental state shattered during pregnancy and postpartum depression hit me in a way I didn’t expect. Well, to be honest, I prepared myself for the possibility of PPD because of my past struggles with mental illness (and the depression I faced during pregnancy). However, I didn’t plan for it to hit me with the force it did. I lost the quirky, bubbly personality I once had and it was replaced with a monotone, weepy person I didn’t know. I hated this. I hated this more than the fact I still was able to fit in time for aerial and writing and occasional nights out. I would rather have had my personality back than time away.
I felt as if I had completely lost the person I once was and I wasn’t sure how I felt about this new identity.
This made me feel absolutely horrible and mom-guilt smacked me across the face. I felt guilty for not being genuinely happy and joyful all the time when with my girls. I felt guilty for not being able to be the positive role-model I had always dreamed of being. I felt guilty for not loving myself the way I deserve to be loved.
Over time, I have come to find some of my pre-pregnancy identity and mesh it with this new person I am learning to love. I am learning that though I personally have faced some negative changes, I have also jumped into a whole new pool of beautiful, new changes.
I am also learning that negative changes often overpower the positive ones, but once you take the time to see the positive ones, you can bring more of yourself into the role of “Mom.”
Staying True to You
My experience is not the same experience every mom faces. However, many moms will agree that once they step into motherhood, their personal wants and needs take a step back and the needs and wants of their little one are put at the forefront. When this happens, a person has to switch around their way of thinking and this transition can be tough. Life changes and with those changes, personality and mental states also are altered – for some more than others. While the changes of motherhood are incredibly beautiful and beneficial in the long run, they can initially be tough to accept.
This is completely normal and you are not alone in feeling this way.
By finding ways to mesh motherhood with your unique quirks, style and personality, you can feel as if you haven’t completely stepped into a world, body, and mindset you don’t know. Again, some people may not feel as if motherhood is a transition that takes time to adjust to. However, there are people out there who agree that motherhood sometimes can feel incredibly foreign to them.
Along with the oddities of motherhood come the beauties: bringing a new life into the world; the bond between you and your baby – even if it doesn’t happen right away; the start of a lifelong relationship; watching a small human learn and grow. It is critical to remember these moments and embrace them. Taking the time to focus on these positive changes, absorb them, and create memories with them will allow your comfort level to expand.
Ways to Stay True to You in Motherhood:
- Scatter Yourself Around the Home. This may sound a little unusual, but the idea is this: Put pieces of your passions, personality, and interests in picture frames, on cork-boards, on post-its and on playlists. For example, if you are an artist and you haven’t had much time to focus on your craft, put your paintings in frames around the home and keep your sketchbook out in visible places. If you are a musician, make playlists on Pandora or iTunes that have inspired you in the past and play that playlist every single day. If you are a runner, make sure your running shoes are on top of the shoe pile and put any medals or memories from past races on cork-boards or on visible walls. Keeping yourself visible is key.
- Schedule Time Away. This can be very hard for many new moms. Many new moms cannot separate themselves from their baby or they feel guilty doing so. Sometimes, this can cause more anxiety than anything. By scheduling a couple hours every week or so to do something that you are passionate about, you will remember what is important to you and bring those feelings back home with you. It is ideal to make this a weekly thing, however, not everyone can realistically do this on the regular. Even if the time away is reading in the bathtub, walking for the dog, or working on some sketches on the front porch during naptime – make it happen.
- Talk to Someone. No really – talk to someone. Whether you talk need to vent to a friend, family member, or a professional – do it. Spilling your feelings and putting your emotions out there helps get you closer to the self you want to find again. Motherhood can bring forward many different emotions and sometimes those feelings can be terrifying if they’ve never been felt before. By scheduling an appointment with a professional or finding a support group that allows you to comfortably open up, you will be able to see yourself in a fresh, new light.
Jennifer Aline is a coffee addict, mama of twins, and a passionate freelance writer and author. She writes for Moms.com on a regular basis and has had articles in publications such as the NY Daily News, NY Post, and In Good Health Newspaper. Aline received her Bachelor’s Degree in Child and Family Studies from Keuka College and worked in the Human Services field before her two little girls entered her life. Aline now focuses primarily on writing, teaching aerial arts classes in the evenings, and caring for her twin daughters – all while continuously chugging coffee, of course.
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