When we enter into motherhood (or indeed fatherhood) we concentrate on what will be best for our child. We invest greatly in them, so much so we often loose our self in the process. Losing your identity after motherhood doesn’t need to happen though, if we are mindful of the reasons why we lose it and how we can avoid this happening.
As a parent you are expected to be selfless, give your all to a child and put yourself last. This can seem like a good idea. Until that is, you realise that just like your child, you need looking after too. The saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ is so very true. Sadly in our fractured culture we have been brainwashed to believe we should be all things to everyone. Which is just madness.
We all have our specialities, some people are great doctors others are great artists, rarely do we find someone who is a master at everything. So why do we assume that we can be everything to a child?
Mothers who go out to work and leave their children in childcare are sneered at. Mothers who stay at home and do not work are sneered at. Mothers who formula feed are sneered at, mothers who breastfeed are sneered at…See the theme here? Its tough to get balance, nearly impossible. So we do what we feel we can and hope we are not judged.
Regardless of your choices, one thing is true. We do what we think is best for our child. Our expectations are set in the belief we need to be all things to our children and if we are not, we are failing. You only have to go onto social media and look up #mumfail to see mothers degrading themselves on a daily basis. 20k+ mums on Instagram have used the hashtag today and its only 8.26am!
Its no wonder mothers are losing their identity, if its forged on the expectation that we are failing if we cannot be everything to one person.
What Happens When We Lose Our Identity?
When we build our identity on external factors, such as being a parent we are doing ourselves a great disservice. You are more than your gender, age, marital status, job, what house you have, who your friends are, how many holidays you have, whether you breastfeed or are a working mum.
We lose our identity when we build it on ‘things’ rather than ‘truths’. Things (external factors) can be taken away and when they are, we are plunged into a deep chasm of crisis. At best we find our self questioning our purpose at worst we become angry or depressed. Relationships can suffer, we feel we have no direction and we can often look at our kids and question if we made the right decision when having them.
Most of us were never taught how to build an identity in the first place. Or if we were, it was based on the acquirement of things and not truths.
How To Find Your Identity?
If i was to take away you describing yourself using your gender, job, age, sexual orientation, skin colour, weight, hobbies, likes or dislikes, beliefs, where you lived, things that happened in your past, what you want for your future would you still be able to say who you are?
If you do not have a grounded idea of who you are prior to having children the chances are, when you find yourself lost its because of this. You realise that there is more to your identity than being someones mother or wife.
Then you struggle to find a balance between being ‘you’ and being a mother. Guilt often ensues. You have spent so long investing in your family, you forgot to invest in yourself. Some thing to consider when investing in yourself to regain your identity are:
Balancing your life and family life
Getting a hobby/interest
Managing your expectations
Drafting in others to help
Identifying your needs
Setting an example
Firstly identifying your own personal needs. It maybe you need some more alone time as you are feeling touched out. Self care is a thing, its taking small breaks to look after yourself. There is no shame in needing to replenish your own mental space. When flying, the safety advice is in the event of an emergency and the oxygen masks fall from overhead, you must put your mask on before attending to children. This makes so much sense. How can you possibly look after a child to the best of your ability if you cannot breathe?
Identify your needs
What is it you need to feel better? A goal? Some alone time? Some more friends? Fun? Write down what it is you need to feel more like yourself.
Figure out ways to fill your own cup. It may be as simple as having a bath without kids interrupting, or once a week going out with your friends for a coffee. Whatever you choose, you must not feel guilt. You cannot pour from an empty cup.
Find a hobby or interest outside the home.
It could be going back to school, going to the gym or learning about something that interests you. Make sure it reflects you, who you are and what you want to achieve in some aspect of your life. Ideally the interest needs to be something that separate from being a parent and you can complete outside of the home. However we know this is not always possible, so as a minimum it needs to be something just for you.
Manage your and others expectations
There is nothing worse than unrealistic expectations. Its important to look at expectations objectively especially when you are changing what you have always done. No one likes change and within a family people are used to you being there doing everything. If this changes that’s when conflict will start. So a great idea is to set new expectations. Listen to everyone’s’ expectations and chat through how these will change and how you can accommodate those within your new regime.
Look at what you expect to gain or lose also. Do you expect everyone to be on board straight away? Or do you expect a period of adjustment? Do you expect to feel great straight away or for it to take a few months? Setting expectations will help identify pitfalls and stop conflict from arising. To read more on expectations click here.
Draft in others to help
It could be an Au Pair, a babysitter, your spouse or a grandparent. You may decide to get a cleaner or set up a family rota for chores. Whatever it is, you may need to draft in people to help. Think of it as ‘your village’. The people who help you raise your family. An uncle who can teach your child about history can double up as a babysitter for an hour while you take a bath. Or perhaps your sister can teach your teen how to apply makeup. Look at those around you and see what wisdom they can impart to your child. You can free up not only time for yourself but also give the person a self esteem boost for seeing them as someone who can be an integral part of raising your child.
Balance your life and family life
As with a ‘work – life’ balance. You need a ‘family -life’ balance too. Making sure everyone’s needs are equally met. Everyone feels listened to and everyone has a say. A challenge, yes. So keep communication lines open at all times. Nothing is set in stone and things can always be changed as life evolves.
Set an example
The benefit to having an identity and to filling your own cup up, is that you are setting a positive example to those around you. Including your children. You are teaching them they are no more and no less important than someone else. A lesson in humility and equality. You are showing them to value themselves, how to look after themselves and above all else, helping them to gain an identity so that when they become a parent, they do not feel like they have lost theirs.
Whilst you may feel like you have lost your identity now, its never really lost. Its just buried under some of life’s superfluous layers and it takes a bit of digging to uncover. Like polishing silver, life can seem dull with no meaning, but with a little bit of rubbing, you can soon see your reflection, all it takes is deciding to start rubbing.
Can you relate to some of the things we have covered? Let us know your story in the comments below.