HOW NOT TO LOSE YOUR IDENTITY AS A MOTHER
HELEN DERBYSHIRE - 5 MINUTE READ
If you’re a new mom, soon to be mom, or your children might be older. You’ve landed on this blog for a reason, perhaps you’re worried about losing your identity, or you’re wanting to regain it.
When we have a child, our bodies undergo so many mental and physical changes, our roles as mothers become an all consuming one, especially in those early days. Regardless of whether you have a support system in place, it can still feel like an overwhelming time, especially whilst your hormones are going hay-wire.
Maybe one day, you’ve found yourself covered in vomit stains, with hair on top of your head, on the 9th melt down of the day (yours, not the childs) and quite frankly asking yourself “how the f*ck did this happen”.
The problem I find with social media is it portrays motherhood to be either, a fairytale dream where we’re skipping through the fields of gold with our breastfeeding child hanging off our nipple with flowers in our hair, or the complete opposite, when you become the last priority, you’re constantly overstimulated, your children drain everything from you, and that’s just your life for the foreseeable future.
But what if I told you that it doesn’t have to be any of those things? What if I told you that you can be both a loving calm mother, as well as having your own hobbies, personality and identity.
I find what happens in most instances, is new mums (myself included in the early days) look externally for support, tips and tricks on how to do this thing called ‘parenting’ because it’s the first time we’ve ever done it. But what happens is we also find ourselves open to comparison, and then we adopt a ‘should’ mentality.
What is a ‘should’ mentality you might be thinking - you all know the one
“I should be with my child every second of every day”
“I should have all this figured out”
“I should put everyone needs above my own because that’s what good people do”
Should, guilt and resentment are all very close friends. When you use the word ‘should’ to curate the decisions and actions in your life, you put yourself in a box, a box of society's definition of a ‘good mother’ (or anything for that matter). This is when guilt and resentment are living their best lives inside your mind which feels like emotional torment.
How can you possibly have your own identity when you feel guilty for doing anything for yourself?
How can you possibly have your own identity when you do not respect your own boundaries?
Having your own identity as a mother, I feel, contributes to a happier healthier motherhood journey and in turn, a happier calmer child. Think about it, those times when you feel overwhelmed, stressed (and definitely resentful if you never take time for yourself), we have less patience and mental capacity to hold space for all 8375 emotions that our child may have that day, let alone space for our own. It makes your ability to be the parent you want to be, and that your child needs you to be, that much harder.
I’m not for one moment suggesting that you go and find hours on end for yourself, I’m suggesting shifting your perspective from “I’m my child's mother” to “ I am also (your name)” - you can also list all the other roles that you are, but the primary focus is you.
Then, you’re going to want to establish what are the things that make you you;
Your hobbies and interests
Dressing in a way that makes you feel really good about yourself (but doesn’t feel like a chore to do it) - what are some non-negotiable things you can do, is it making sure your hair is always done, maybe it’s your makeup, maybe it’s something as simple as making sure you got your shower that morning and a cup of tea that was warm. (For me, it used to be a solo morning walk, and if I couldn’t do that, it would be my reading - even 20 minutes in the morning before my daughter woke up).
Your eating habits - so many of us, when we have other mouths to feed, prioritise our own last - is there something you can carve out in your day where you make time to eat something nourishing (It can be a simple meal - it’s not about the contents of the meal but it’s about reminding yourself that “I’m important too”
Hobbies and interests are a great one for developing your own identity, as it allows you to explore them more and know what to carve time out for within your day or week.
For me, it was reading, so I always make sure that I find time to read, usually in the morning before my daughter wakes, but before she woke up at a consistent time, it was more of a ‘when I can’ type of mentality, but I knew if I did that, it would help me feel like I took that time out for me.
So think about what it is for you and start small, you don’t need to have all of the above identified on day one, but you might see something that stands out to you and feels really manageable to make time for, as I said, it could be a hot cup of tea or coffee and 5 minutes to yourself.
The lesson here is found in how you feel in that moment, when you remind yourself that “I have needs to” and the more we fulfil them, the better we are for those around us.
Slowly but surely, and depending on your child's age, you will start to notice you see more opportunities and pockets of time for yourself. For example, if you found 5 minutes for your hot drink and moment of peace, you’ll realise how good that feels, and start looking for extra moments for yourself once you realise that all hell doesn’t break loose when you take time for YOU.
I am exceptionally passionate about mothers prioritising self-care and self love, it really is such an overwhelming journey at times, but I want to remind you that it doesn’t make you any better of a parent to neglect yourself. I appreciate some days, your children may take every ounce of your energy and you may simply have none left for anything else, but those are the days when you need self-care the most. (Remember - self-care can look like going to bed early, it could be sitting in a quiet room for 5-10 minutes and catching a break, it can be going for a walk, it can be cancelling plans if they’re overwhelming you amongst all your other duties).
It may require for you to communicate with your partner or family about getting their support especially if you are a mother of multiple children who all have a variety of needs. But the task starts with you getting in touch with yourself more so you know what to ask for, so that your needs can be met too.
Slowly but surely and overtime, you will start to carve out more time and space for yourself, that alone will help you define or find your identity, you will appreciate your own company more, you will see the value it has on your overall well-being and you'll be able to set boundaries more and more around your personal time because it will become important to you.
To conclude, it's important that everything is realistic for you. Some of my tips and comments may not resonate with your current dynamic, but they may in the future. I first started carving out intentional time for myself when my daughter was 4-5 months old and because it helped me so much, I maintained it and make it a priority, but until that point I physically did not have the mental capacity to factor in any hobbies of my own and was merely in survival mode! So if you're a new mom, don't be too hard on yourself, ride the wave, and know that it will pass and you will again have time for yourself.
Remember: YOU ARE IMPORTANT TOO.
I hope you enjoyed this motherhood blog, and if you’d love to hear more on motherhood, you can head over to the