What is your identity? Are you a mother, wife, aunt, cousin, best friend? Do you feel that all you are is a mother? Have you forgotten who you are? Do you feel you are losing your identity? And the last time you felt like yourself is a distant memory. Motherhood changes perceptions, feelings, and the general outlook on life.
Laney, Hall, Anderson & Willington (2015) examined how women’s identities changed once they became mothers. A theme in this study was “Fractured Identities”. Women’s identities become broken in order to add the new role of “mother” to their identity. Women must also add children into their new identity. The fracturing of identity is an alarming process that can lead to sadness and anxiety. Mothers battle with their internal feelings while caring for a new baby.
Mothers rebuild their identity day by day, but it is a process. It can be particularly challenging when a woman does not instantly feel she is a mother. In the study by Laney et al. (2015), one woman stated, “I would say when he first came out I didn’t have this 100 percent overwhelming feeling of “I love you, I will do anything for you.” Many mothers feel this way, but feel guilty when they hear other mothers state, “It was love at first sight.”
Identity loss also happens due to the time it takes to care for a new baby. The needs of a mother are pushed to the side as they seek to nurture a new human. It can be frustrating and tiring.
As a new mother, your identity can be tied to your perceived competence in your new role. It can be frustrating when you have dreams about how you will handle a newborn, and the newborn does not match those dreams. I was hoping for a beautiful picture of a sleepy newborn that wakes, eats, coos a little, and goes back to sleep. My reality was a colicky baby who fussed and never seemed to sleep. I was tired on every level. I questioned my desire and skills to be a mother. A research study by Lazarus and Rossouw (2015) found that mothers’ expectations versus actual experiences have a significant effect on self-esteem.
Self-esteem is a critical factor in identity and how one transitions to motherhood. When a mother feels good emotionally, it trickles down into how she cares for her child. Likewise, a poor emotional state for the mother leads to greater stress in caring for a newborn. Negative feelings can stem from the mix of emotions in a new mother. Lazarus and Rossouw (2015) state, “pervasive messages of motherhood being the prototypical happy time in a woman’s life, appears to make it difficult for women to feel that they are allowed to acknowledge what they have lost, along with what they have gained.”
The transition to motherhood can be difficult, but there is good news for all mothers who may struggle. Laney et al. (2015) found that women who struggle with losing themselves when a baby is an infant have greater satisfaction and confidence in their role as a mother long-term when compared to mothers who expressed no identity loss.
So what do you do to get back to you?
Getting Back to You
- Pick a day for just you. Let someone else watch the children while you relax.
- Go outside. Sunlight increases the hormone serotonin, which boosts moods.
- Accomplish a goal or set a new one. Goals give you a feeling of purpose and satisfaction.
- Bond with your partner. A new baby changes relationship dynamics. Re-connect through conversation and simple outings. You can limit the time spent discussing the children.
- Meet up with friends. You can connect with old friends or make new mommy friends.
Remember, motherhood is a journey filled with ups and downs. When you are feeling down remember it wont be for long. There is sunshine coming soon to uplift you.
You can also read ‘50 Brilliant Quotes for Parents When You Feel Tired‘ to help on your journey.
Lazarus, K. & Rossouw, P. (2015). Mothers’ expectations of parenthood: The impact of prenatal expectations on self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and stress post birth. International Journal of Neuropsychotherapy, 3(2), 102-123.
Laney, E. K., Hall, M. E. L., Anderson, T. L., & Willingham, M. M. (2015). Becoming a mother: The influence of motherhood on women’s identity development. Identity, 15(2), 126-145.
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