Motherhood and Identity: Where did I go?
Updated: Oct 26
I spoke to Yahoo News about our sense of identity, and how it changes when we become parents.
Our sense of identity is shaped by our upbringing, our family, our friends, our experiences, our jobs, our education, our adventures, our successes and our failures. Once we enter motherhood, it’s as if much of this is wiped out in one fell swoop. Everyone shouts ‘Congratulations’ but we rarely take a moment to acknowledge what we have lost. There’s an expectation that we should feel overwhelmed by joy and gratitude. It might seem silly or selfish to feel sadness or grief, or to look behind us with a sense of longing for our past self. But that’s what it can feel like when we lose part of our identity. It can feel like grief or loss. Or like something just isn’t right, but we don’t know what it is.
When we reflect on motherhood and identity, we notice that this shift begins way before the baby arrives. During pregnancy, our bodies become public property. We become the ‘plus one’ to the foetus that is growing inside us. We are poked, prodded and measured by healthcare professionals. The experience of birth can be full of joy and awe, but it can also leave us feeling vulnerable, exposed and frightened.
Returning to work can feel scary or tiring, juggling the demands of the workplace with our new responsibilities at home. But it can also help us to reconnect with our sense of who we are, or who we used to be. For some women, becoming a stay-at-home mother can be the fulfilment of a lifelong dream. But when we think about motherhood and identity, we can recognise that this change can also be accompanied with loneliness, frustration, boredom and worry. Pregnancy and childbirth can leave physical scars as well as emotional ones. The image of the glowing pregnant woman falls away, and we are left with a body that might not seem as if it belongs to us any more.
Motherhood and Identity - Top tips for coping with identity loss?
Acknowledging our feelings – all of them.
We can feel all sorts of feelings at the same time, and none of them are bad. We might feel joy and excitement, but we might also feel frustration, sadness and boredom. And then guilt and shame about these feelings – particularly if we have struggled to conceive, or have friends or family who are trying to get pregnant.
Accepting the reality of motherhood and identity.
It doesn’t always look like the glamourous airbrushed images that we see online.
If we’re feeling isolated, trying to find the courage to reach out and build local networks for support and friendship. This might mean being vulnerable and sharing our true feelings with others.
Remember to think about your own needs.
Your baby needs you. But they also need you to nurture yourself so that you have the emotional strength to be the mother that you want to be.
Don’t struggle in silence.
If you’re feeling lost, reach out to your friends and family. And if you feel you need further support, or an independent listening ear, then contact a healthcare professional or trained counsellor.
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