What You'll Learn
- Your Identity
- The Loss of Identity As A Mom
- The Importance Of Self-Care
- Finding Your Identity Again As A Mother
Did you always daydream about the day you would hopefully become a Mom? Or envision yourself holding a new baby with all the magical feels? Then the day arrives and you have to shift into the reality of motherhood, an all-consuming role we’ve had no training for. How do we make the shift into motherhood without losing who we are? How do we retain our pre-Mom identity?
Motherhood has a way of shaping each of us. Every Mom evolves over time. We are challenged to explore depths of ourselves we’ve often avoided and learn the true meaning of unconditional love. Therapist Chasity Holcomb joins about how we can maintain our identity in motherhood through exploration, rediscovery, and prioritizing that time spent on ourselves.
Chasity encouraged us to go back to the basics of our priorities and values to rediscover our identities. Your priorities are going to change because you have this whole new person in your life, and they’re completely dependent on you.
“How do I prioritize where I’m still in this picture?” Chastity asks. It’s important to value yourself in this new dynamic. This may mean still going out with friends or making sure you get your exercise in. If you’re a working mom, it may mean still being able to work.
We often forget to bring the pieces of ourselves with us into that new normal.
As our priorities shift and change, we often forget to bring the pieces of ourselves with us into that new normal. Our identity in motherhood is shaped by what it means to be a good mother.
And everybody’s idea of what it means to be a good mother is subjective, shaped by their family of origin, culture, and religion. If you subscribe to the idea in your mind that a good mother puts aside all of her needs for her children, then your dreams, hobbies, and maybe even fundamental self-care can become neglected.
The Loss of Identity As A Mom
Identity is the ability for you to be individual and unique. “Sometimes we see a shift in that individuality and uniqueness,” Chasity said. As soon as you bring the baby home from the hospital everyone wants to see the baby. Everyone wants to know how the baby is doing.
“You have this mom who wants to be seen as an individual but has been merged into this identity of their baby,” she explained. “So, it’s no longer Chasity. It’s Chasity as the mom.”
“Moms can feel lost in motherhood because there is no sense of that individuality anymore. They feel like their identity has been robbed from them,” Chasity said. Our society perpetuates the idea of shelving parts of ourselves, because our children are supposed to come first.
The Importance Of Self-Care
“I remember in those postpartum months I would forget to eat,” Chasity said.
But you can’t function if you don’t eat. Or even taking a five or ten-minute break can be so important. But if you feel like you have to constantly be showing up, then you might not take those small breaks.
If you want to re-explore and rediscover parts of your identity, you have to let go of the idea that a good mom is totally sacrificial for her kids.
A more well-rounded belief would be that a good mother shows up and takes care of both herself and her children. You’ll be better able to parent your children in a meaningful way if you take care of yourself. It’s like putting on your oxygen mask before you put one on your child. Asking for help—even from your partner—can be hard because it requires vulnerability. In asking for help there is an admission of “I can’t do everything.” But moms are supposed to do everything.
Another belief we need to let go of is the idea that moms have to do it all.
Rediscovering yourself requires the same kind of vulnerability. Another belief we need to let go of is the idea that moms have to do it all. No one can do it all. If they appear to be doing it all on Instagram, it’s a lie! They're an influencer and looking in control is their job.
“We always think self-care is something external that we’re doing,” Chasity said. “But self-talk can be the silent killer or the silent giver.” That’s a reminder to let go of all of the expectations people may have for you, and your role as a mother, and to tell yourself you’re doing okay. Or at least not be overly critical of yourself.
“Whatever I did today was enough,” Chastity said.
Our worth as moms isn’t defined by external factors. It’s defined by living our values. Self-care in motherhood can also be protecting your hobbies and interests and then set boundaries. That might look like putting earplugs in to write or paint, wearing earbuds to listen to your favorite audiobook, or hiring a babysitter so you can go to the gym. And none of these are things to feel guilty about.
Finding Your Identity Again As A Mother
What are your hobbies? Is there a new skill you’d like to learn? On my third maternity leave, I explored a creative part of myself I had never connected to before–I learned photography. Part of it was I had three children, and it was a good way to capture moments with them. But part of it was a new skill I could learn just for me.
There seems to be guilt that comes with needing or wanting something for ourselves. Chastity reminds us the word guilt implies we’ve done something wrong. “But is it wrong to take care of yourself?” she asked. “That goes back to these expectations that a mom should be all sacrificial.”
There seems to be guilt that comes with needing or wanting something for ourselves.
Chastity went traveling alone once and her friends were shocked that she left her kids with her husband. But that’s their dad! “There is this expectation that if a mom’s not always with her children or sacrificing for her children, she’s doing something wrong,” Chasity said. But she’s quick to point out that you’re not doing anything wrong by taking time for yourself. “Actually, it’s the opposite. You’re doing so much right when you’re able to nurture yourself,” she explained.
For me, it feels like part of my self-care is to nurture these other parts of myself.
This goes back to the mother wound. Generations of moms before us have sacrificed and kind of laid out the groundwork, “This is what you do, and this is how you do it.”
And “mom-guilt” has become almost a badge of honor. Like we have to have it or we’re doing something wrong.
When I had Nedra Tawwab on, she talked about going on this retreat without her kids, and people would ask, “Don’t you feel guilty?” She’d respond, “I’m here in the moment enjoying myself. Do you want me to feel guilty?”
“The old me was great,” Chastity said. “But I don’t think she exists anymore.” “Parts of my goals and aspirations changed when I became a mom,” she explained. But she had a new motivation in her life—a baby— and if she hadn’t explored those new interests she couldn’t have grown into who she is now.
It’s okay to grieve for the past you. It’s part of the process, but you can’t expect the old you to magically return one day. Your whole life has changed. It’s okay to change with it.
Motherhood is hard. It’s an experience that teaches you patience. It shapes and forms you. You can’t discredit that. Grieve for the past version of you, but you have to accept and value the new you too.
Grieve for the past version of you, but you have to accept and value the new you too.
Your relationships change with motherhood too. It can change your relationship with your partner, your in-laws, and your friends. That can be hard to navigate too. That evolution can be hard. We’ve said asking for help requires vulnerability. But your relationship can get stronger too if you focus on communication and then support and nurture each other.
Your interests, passions, and values are allowed to change. You can pivot at any moment. You’re allowed to try whatever is pulling you in.
If you still feel like you need more support rediscovering yourself, the motherhood roadmap might help you out.