Erica's New Book Releasing the Mother Load is officially out! Order your copy today!
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Erica's New Book Releasing the Mother Load is officially out! Order your copy today!
LEARN MORE

February 20, 2024

August 9, 2023

Rediscovering Yourself After Motherhood: How to Reclaim Your Identity and Embrace Your Passions

E:
185
with
Eve Rodsky
NYT bestselling author

What You'll Learn

  • How Intensive Mothering Has Created a Crisis for Moms
  • How the Invisible Load Keeps Us from Rediscovering Ourselves After Motherhood
  • Why Mothers Often Feel Like They’ve Lost Their Identities
  • How Toxic Positivity Prevents Us from Rediscovering Ourselves After Motherhood 
  • Challenges We Face on Our Journey to Rediscovering Ourselves After Motherhood
  • How Workplace Pressure Plays Into Identity Loss
  • How to Discover Your “Unicorn Space”

After having a baby, many moms experience a sense of identity loss. Free time becomes filled with responsibilities, and household labor never seems to end. But we deserve more—creativity, time for ourselves, and permission to be who we want to be. Rediscovering yourself after motherhood isn’t easy—but it is worth it. 

Today, I’m joined by Eve Rodsky, author of Fair Play, to discuss why it’s important to rediscover ourselves and how we can get started. 

Discovering a New Passion After Motherhood

I remember feeling like motherhood completely changed my identity. Overnight, I became a different person—a person who wasn’t able to pursue my old interests or values, a person whose professional and personal life were on hold. 

It was a major transition time for me, as it is for many mothers. I felt like everything shifted and nothing felt familiar or comfortable. And while I loved being a mom, I just felt like something was missing. This feeling can make mothers feel incredibly guilty—as if we aren't supposed to desire more beyond our role as parents. 

It wasn’t until several years later, when I experienced my postpartum depression breakdown-turned-breakthrough and realized that the perfect mother myth was holding me back, that I started returning to myself. 

Part of that involved starting this podcast and focusing on building a business. But another part of it was embracing something creative that I never even knew I enjoyed—photography. 

I stumbled across it by accident as I was working on Instagram pictures. And I ended up falling in love. I’d never considered myself a creative before—but it awoke something in me that I really needed and ignited a new passion that I still hold dear. 

That’s why when I heard about Eve’s work on her new book, Find Your Unicorn Space, I connected with it right away. Eve’s previously appeared on the podcast to discuss the division of labor

Through interviews and research, she discovered that moms everywhere were going through the same experience—feeling constrained by motherhood, but unable to give themselves permission to be more. 

I was so excited to speak with Eve about how important it is for moms to have time and space to pursue creativity, passion, and discover something for themselves. 

How Intensive Mothering Has Created a Crisis for Moms

Eve has known for years that moms were on the verge of a crisis. As she interviewed high-position working moms around the world in preparation for writing Fair Play, she continuously heard them express the feeling that they were only allowed to be parents, partners, and professionals—they didn’t have permission to be anything else. 

And this identity crisis came to a head for many moms when the pandemic hit—we’re carrying more labor than ever, and it’s resulted in a mental health struggle for moms, burnout, and for many of us, a realization that things need to change. 

Eve said that women in 17 different countries consistently told her that they did not believe they had permission to be unavailable from their roles. The idea of discovering new passions or interests felt like a fantasy to them. One mom even told her that she felt like she was losing her permission to be interesting or interested in new things. 

It’s easy to see how moms have slipped into this mindset. Intensive mothering ideology tells us that we must dedicate every spare moment of our time, effort, money, and attention to our children. 

So it’s no wonder that we feel guilty for taking time to ourselves, let alone truly committing to our passions or interests. 

We feel guilty for taking time to ourselves, let alone truly committing to our passions or interests.

In fact, many of us are so consumed by the invisible load that we don’t even know what our interests or passions might be. If we want to successfully rediscover ourselves as mothers, we have to first understand the role that the invisible load plays. 

How the Invisible Load Keeps Us from Rediscovering Ourselves After Motherhood

Even as we’ve started working more outside the home than ever, we’ve continued to shoulder the load of parenting. We often do more work inside the home when we earn more money or work longer hours out of guilt for spending time away from the home for our careers. 

This likely stems from gender norms, intensive mothering ideology, and unrealistic expectations of motherhood. We want to have “it all” but we’ve never really considered that perhaps “all” of it is more than work and being a mom. 

As long as we (even subconsciously) think that we should be the default for childcare and household labor, it’s going to be very difficult to prioritize our time and rediscover ourselves after motherhood. 

That’s why I am such a big advocate for changing the way we view household labor. Moms shouldn’t have to be the default carriers of the load. We didn’t ask for it, and neither did our partners—we’ve all fallen into these patterns without realizing it. 

But we can all shift the mindset from assuming that moms are responsible for labor to viewing labor as something we collectively need to figure out how to share. 

Eve created the Fair Play method to show families how to do that—through boundaries, systems and communication.

We need to believe everyone’s time is as valuable as diamonds.

She said that we need to believe everyone’s time is as valuable as diamonds,and that we deserve time choice over how to spend our day—and then we have to communicate openly about household labor so that we don’t slip into default roles. When we do that, then we can free our time and space to welcome creative pursuits. 

Why Mothers Often Feel Like They’ve Lost Their Identities

Eve said that when she had a child, everyone told her that things would be hard at first, but that once her kids went to grade school she would suddenly have all the time in the world. 

But once her son went to preschool, she noticed that the world didn’t see mothers as individuals. When she attended a school event and was given a name badge that said, “Zach’s Mom,” she knew that something had to be done. 

Eve pointed out that if we don’t take time and space to understand what matters to us as individuals, we’re left with an empty chamber. Without some passion or something meaningful to pour ourselves into, freeing up our time by sharing household labor isn’t enough. 

In fact, when we approach it that way, moms are often left with a very uncomfortable feeling, not even knowing themselves by the time their children go to school. 

In many ways, society is making moms invisible.

Eve said that in many ways, society is making moms invisible. But we can push back and reclaim our identities. 

How Toxic Positivity Prevents Us from Rediscovering Ourselves After Motherhood 

Eve said that embracing our full range of emotions is an important part of the journey. As moms, we often fall into patterns of toxic positivity

We might think we can just change our mindsets from feeling overwhelmed or lost to feeling grateful. Eve pointed out that many moms have told her we can just reframe our labor by switching from saying, “I have to pick up my kids from school” to saying, “I get to pick up my kids from school.” 

But when we do that, we’re just sugarcoating the problem—not giving ourselves real choices. 

Eve said that while joy is very valuable, the answer isn’t to try to force happiness on ourselves. It’s okay to have a wide range of emotions about motherhood. We might feel joyful about our role at times, and still feel frustrated, bored, lost, or yearning for more. 

It’s okay to have a wide range of emotions about motherhood.

Instead of silencing those feelings, we can embrace them, and use them on our journey of rediscovering ourselves after motherhood. 

Eve did point out that joy and happiness are important clues—they can help point us to our “unicorn space,” the things that we want to pursue. She said that we can find our unicorn space through our curiosities, connection with others, and a sense of completion. When we find what brings us those three things, we can rediscover who we are. 

Challenges We Face on Our Journey to Rediscovering Ourselves After Motherhood

As we try to rediscover ourselves after motherhood, however, we are likely to hit some challenges.

Even when we try to set a boundary to take time for ourselves, it’s often intruded upon. Eve shared that when she was writing her book she would shut herself in a room, only to be interrupted by her family periodically. 

It can be very hard for us to hold boundaries with our time, especially when it comes to our children. We often feel guilt and shame when we take time away from our kids for ourselves. But it’s important to think of our unicorn space not as a privilege, but as a vital piece of our mental health. We can hold firm to our boundaries and preserve our availability to pursue our passions. 

Eve also pointed out that in many cases, the guilt and shame we feel when we take that time are short-term emotions. But in the long-term, we often feel regret if we sacrifice all of our time and mental space. 

If we let the guilt and shame dictate our actions, and we lose ourselves in the process, we are likely to regret it in the long run. That’s why it’s important to view our passions and interests as an essential part of motherhood. 

It’s important to view our passions and interests as an essential part of motherhood.

Eve said that finding our unicorn space can bring us more joy in our motherhood role, because we’ve been able to maintain who we are as human beings. 

How Workplace Pressure Plays Into Identity Loss

As working parents, we often face another big challenge in pursuing our unicorn space—workplace pressure. 

Eve shared a story of a dad who discovered that finding old castles was his unicorn space. He had planned a trip to Scotland with his kids to do this—but he canceled at the last minute due to a request from his boss. 

He was in line for a promotion, and felt that if he didn’t show up he would be past over. He experienced so much shame and guilt for canceling the trip with his kids, but he was dealing with pressure to adhere to a specific role at work. 

Eve said that working parents often don’t feel like they know how to ask for what they need from the workplace. We might feel as if we can’t ask for flexibility—that we have to work as if we don’t have kids and mother as if we don’t have jobs. This leaves us no time, mental space, and energy to welcome something outside of thosee two roles. 

Working parents often don’t feel like they know how to ask for what they need from the workplace.

Eve said that the key to overcoming these challenges is permission. Only when we give ourselves permission to burn down guilt and shame, permission to be unavailable from our roles, and permission to ask for support, can we free ourselves. 

How to Discover Your “Unicorn Space”

Once we give ourselves permission to truly pursue our unicorn space, we have to discover what it is. It can be hard to know where our passions lie—especially after we’ve endured matrescence and become new people. 

Eve walked me through an exercise that can help us start to uncover what we want to pursue. 

The first step is to choose one thing that strikes a chord with you. Eve has identified a list of 50 areas of common unicorn spaces in her book. They include topics such as:

  • Baking
  • Arrows and axes
  • Florals
  • Speech and debate
  • Travel and culture
  • Memories
  • Martial arts
  • Performing
  • Design
  • Antiques
  • Beauty
  • Photography
  • Woodworking
  • Gardening
  • Renovation

She encourages everyone to spend some time reflecting on which one they are drawn to and why. 

This often comes down to our personal core values. For example, my interest in photography stems from a value for creativity (a value that I discovered in my 30s.) 

When we know our values and we understand why our interests and passions are an outlet for them, it becomes easier to stand strong in our commitment to pursuing our unicorn space and rediscovering ourselves after motherhood. 

Eve said that it’s easy to fall back into old patterns and let our unicorn space slip through the cracks. She recommends setting up an accountability check-in—ensuring that each week we have spent some time in our unicorn space. 

It isn’t easy to break away from old mindsets, from intensive mothering ideology, gender norms, or the burden of the invisible load. But when we understand that we matter—that we deserve to take up space and be who we want to be—we can find freedom, embrace more in our lives, and allow motherhood to work for us on a deeper, more fulfilling level. 

Feeling like you’ve lost your identity in motherhood? Our mom therapists can help! Book a FREE 15 minute virtual consult today.

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Tags:

Values, Matrescence, Intensive mothering

Stage:

Postpartum, Motherhood

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OUR GUEST

Eve Rodsky
NYT bestselling author

Eve Rodsky transformed a “blueberries breakdown” into a catalyst for social change when she applied her Harvard-trained background in organizational management to ask the simple yet profound question: What would happen if we treated our homes as our most important organizations? Her New York Times bestselling book and Reese’s Book Club Pick, Fair Play, a gamified life-management system that helps partners rebalance their domestic workload and reimagine their relationship, has elevated the cultural conversation about the value of unpaid labor and care. In her highly anticipated follow-up, Find Your Unicorn Space: Reclaim Your Creative Life in a Too-Busy World, Rodsky explores the cross-section between the science of creativity, productivity, and resilience. Described as the ‘antidote to physical, mental, and emotional burnout,’ Rodsky aims to inspire a new narrative around the equality of time and the individual right to personal time choice that influences sustainable and lasting change on a policy level. Rodsky’s work is backed by Hello Sunshine—Reese Witherspoon’s media company whose mission is to change the narrative for women through storytelling. Rodsky was born and raised by a single mom in New York City and now lives in Los Angeles with her husband Seth and their three children.

Erica Djossa
Erica Djossa
PMH-C | Founder of Momwell
Erica is the founder of Momwell, providing educational resources and virtual therapy for moms. She is a mom of three boys and a registered psychotherapist. Erica’s work has been featured in the Toronto Star, Breakfast Television, Scary Mommy, Medium, Pop Sugar, and Romper. how they want it.
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