Me Beyond Mom: Postpartum Identity
The Title of “Mom”
“Mom” is an incredible title. It brings us new experiences, new love, new ways to see the world and life. It brings out parts of ourselves we didn’t know existed. It connects us to a bigger picture.
Mom is a title we don’t take lightly because it is a privilege.
But as women, there is more than mom.
I’m a Mom, but Who Else Am I?
Women can easily feel lost in this identity shift and wonder where the “woman” behind mom has gone.
An informal survey on my Instagram page showed that 92% of respondents said they struggle with the identity shift.
Here’s what women responded when asked about their struggle of identity after becoming a mom:
I felt completely lost
I felt like I didn’t have a personal identity (as a new mom)
It felt like my sole purpose was to keep the tiny human alive
I have no clue who I am or what I like
I’m so isolated
I’m torn inside- it’s a tug of war
I feel grief over what was lost
It seemed like I didn’t matter anymore
I have shame and curiosity about the difference in me
I am a mom…and not even a good enough one
There are different ways women can deal with this identity shift, I believe you can use this time of transition to be empowered, inspired, and become truer to yourself than ever.
You don’t have to bottle up resentment.
You don’t have to fully lose all aspects of yourself to be absorbed in the role of “mom.”
You don’t have to live in the pressure of what a “good” mom is and looks like. (Spoiler alert: A good mom looks like a mom being true to HERSELF in serving and loving herself and her family.)
Reasons Why Your Identity Can Slip Away After Baby:
There are numerous factors that contribute to the identity transition after baby. These are things many women face, so don’t feel alone. The goal is not to AVOID these factors, but to acknowledge them, understand them and when the time is right… move past them.
Brain Neuroplasticity: Your brain is literally rewiring itself. During pregnancy and postpartum, the brain’s neuroplasticity is in a great transition- very similar to adolescence. Dr Alexandra Sacks calls this time “Matrescence”
Body: Loss of autonomy of your body mixed with a changed physical body that may feel foreign to you
Time: Being constantly needed by another person and lacking time for yourself, hobbies, friends, etc.
Finances: Budget changes, lack of maternity/paternity leave pay. Less money perhaps means less opportunities for “YOU” things
Emotions: Emotions are highly impacted by hormones and new and changing circumstances. In postpartum, hormones are fluctuating greatly and you are experiencing both new and changing circumstances. This flux of emotions can be exhausting and confusing.
Thoughts/Mental space: You may find your thoughts are taken up by mundane daily tasks mixed with how to do all of the new things to provide for a baby.
Relationships - Partner: The connection, communication and relationship roles you knew pre-baby have shifted. Pair this with body image, lack of time, lack of sleep and compounding stress and a changed relationship can impact the identity of the new mom.
Relationships- Friends: Friends want to see/hold the baby, conversations are usually about kids, social experiences and expectations change, some friendships fade and new ones emerge leaving you wondering where you fit.
Purpose: Perhaps you have changes in your work situation leaving you feeling a lack of purpose outside of the home. You may have less time for hobbies/volunteering. While you may thrive on the purpose of taking care of a child, this isn’t the case for all women. You may also have a difficult time with it.
Outside Pressure: Our culture has an unspoken “Supermom” pressure you can feel from all sides. You may feel a loss of your own identity as you feel wrapped up in being the “right” kind of mom.
Tension Between the “New” Me and the “Old” Me
There are few times when so much of your identity and self transitions overnight like it does in the transition to motherhood. You know other women are facing it. You know there are a number of factors that contribute to this. There are also a number of ways it can manifest. You’re frustrated that you don’t feel “at home” with yourself. You’re confused because you’re not even sure what you like anymore. You’re lost in the day to day shuffle.
Ways this frustration may manifest:
Bitterness/resentment towards a partner who seems to have less limitations and changes.
Do you ever feel yourself welling up with bitterness? Are you playing out conversations in your head about how much your life has changed but your partner’s hasn’t? Are you possibly feeling resentment towards the baby who has turned your whole world upside down? (I know, it feels unspeakable and so we are ashamed to admit this feeling, but honestly many women feel this way sometimes.)
Increased comparison to others
Have you found yourself thinking “If I’m mom, why aren’t I THIS kind/good of mom”? Do you find yourself scrolling social media comparing yourself- your body, your daily habits, your house, etc.? Are you experiencing negative thoughts towards yourself and other women as a defense
Are you wondering why you can’t get excited about anything? Are you trying to figure out if it’s just the pure exhaustion of being a new mom or something else? Are you afraid to take a step because you’re not sure it’s the right one or if it’s really “you”?
Obsession with talking about/caring the child(ren)
Have you found yourself starting every conversation with talk of the baby? Do you quickly change the topic from you to the baby instead? Do you do extra things to busy yourself with caring for the child(ren) so that you aren’t leaving space and time for yourself? Are in in full immersion of “mom” becuase that’s the identity you know how to be right now?
Chance are you’ve answered “YES” to some of these questions.
It’s nothing to be ashamed of.
It’s nothing to avoid.
It’s something to notice. Consider. Think through. Peel back the layers.
It’s a chance to recognize and then commit some space to reclaim time and energy for YOU again.
It’s an opportunity to not harness frustration and resentment, but to see it and then “bless and release” to free yourself up from the heavy weight.
It’s a chance to be intentional about your postpartum space and transition and connect with other women in a similar space.
Ways to Find Your Identity After Baby
Reconnecting with and reclaiming a personal identity after a baby looks different for everyone. Two worlds collide as you bring the YOU that you have been and introduce the role of mother. Every dynamic shifts. While you might feel alone in this, remember most women transitioning into motherhood feel it too. You aren’t alone.
If you’ve read my blog before or follow me on social media, you know that I don’t believe in “How-To” articles. I don’t believe in telling you that X, Y, or Z is going to fix what you’re facing. I don’t believe there are ANY one-size-fits-all methods to motherhood, marriage after baby or postpartum identity shifts. However, there are suggestions that you can try on for size. You may try one and it’s a good fit. You may try 3 or 4 before you find something that really feels right for you.
Here are ways you can try reconnecting with yourself after baby to find the “Me Beyond Baby.”
Daily self check in: This could be mentally, a white board, a check box on the fridge, a journal, etc. Think of a system that works for you to remind yourself to stop and do a mental and emotional check in through the chaos of the day.
Alarm for time just for yourself: Set an alarm on your phone for 2-4 times throughout the day. When it goes off, take a few moments to reconnect with yourself. Do something you enjoy (listen to a favorite song and dance, do some yoga stretches, read a page of a book)
Notes/talk to text/voice memos to yourself when driving or walking: Use your phone for good. “Write” yourself a letter via talk to text or voice memos. Make it a letter telling yourself about who you are, things you enjoy, goals you have
Take purposeful time off of social media: Social media can be a bitch who whispers lies into your ear. Don’t let it overtake you. Take purposeful time away and replace it with something more life giving for yourself
GET OUT (And figure out where there’s childcare if needed!): Maybe this is work, maybe it’s a pottery group, maybe it’s a running group or workout class, maybe it’s another way to get out by yourself but JUST GET OUT and be part of the bigger world. Motherhood can be a bubble sometimes. (Note: I fully believe that for a few weeks after baby, you shouldn’t push yourself to get out. Recover and rest.)
Visualize yourself as a new “birthed” person and giving her space: With every baby born, so is a mother. Visualize your birth into motherhood with space to grieve what is gone and welcome what is new.
Tell your story: Your birth story. Your “this is how today is going” story. Whatever. Talk about it- don’t feel pressure to always be 100% supermom.
Leave “mommy” groups that make you feel like shit: Honestly, leave any space (online or in person) that makes you feel like shit.
Listen, sister. You might have to practice thinking. Yes, you’ve thought for your entire life, but with so much new, you need to give yourself space to practice thinking, feeling, experiencing. Try different approaches. Be graceful about imperfections.
The transition to motherhood can be lonely, but momma you’re not alone. The feelings you’re feeling- other women feel it too, even if it’s not talked about much.
If you’re a new(ish) mom or expecting, check out the Postpartum Together groups. These quarterly small groups provide a place for you to go into the raw, authentic and often taboo aspects of postpartum with the safety of a small group of women going through the same things.