Motherhood-and-identity-woman looking in mirror appears to be thinking

Motherhood and Identity

Balancing Motherhood and Self

Life changing. That’s the only way to describe what happens when you become a mom. There’s nothing in the world that can compare. The road to motherhood differs from woman to woman, but in the end, the title holds the same weight. For some women, there’s a crisis of self between Motherhood and Identity.

Do something for me. Look in the mirror. Go ahead. Just stand there and look at yourself for a few minutes. What do you see? Who do you see? Do you recognize that woman looking back at you?

You might look different since you became a mom. Maybe a little tired, but I hope the person in the mirror isn’t a stranger. I hope that you see the amazing woman and mother you are.

Why Do Moms Lose Their Identity?

Simply put, because in an instant, you go from being an independent person, to having a delicate, little creature fully dependent upon you, for… everything. This loss of identity can happen whether you work outside the home or are a stay-at-home mom. Nothing in your life is the same.

Physically, you’ve changed. Your emotions and hormones are running rampant. Sleep has been disrupted. You go from sleeping consecutive hours to sleeping in intervals. Every 2-3 hours you attend to the baby’s biological needs and in the interim, you are bonding with the little sweetheart.

Suddenly, it’s not about you anymore. Every decision now takes this new life into consideration. Where you go. When you go. If you go. The people in your life might change. You may go from working outside the home to being a stay-at-home parent.

All financial decisions are made with your family in mind. Any luxuries are set aside for necessities needed for the infant. You get the picture.

Is Being a Mother an Identity?

Certainly, it can be said that being a mother is an identity. But is it the identity? Is it the sum of all your parts?

Of course not! True, there’s nothing wrong with wearing your mom label with pride. I sure do. But, is that it? I think the problem arises when being a mom is the only thing that defines you.

There are many women for whom becoming a mom was their purpose and they are happy to devote their lives to their children. As long as that is their choice, I applaud them for living in their purpose.

However, for some, fulfillment may include ventures outside of the family, like work, socializing and hobbies. All of who we are and what we love and believe is imprinted on our identities.

Dealing with Mom Guilt

Unfortunately, society has limited a woman’s worth to that of child rearer. We are expected to sacrifice our own aspirations for the enrichment of our families. But let me tell you something, woman are world-class multitaskers!

It is reductive to assume that we cannot manage any and all roles we desire. And, we certainly do not have to feel bad about it. You may run into friends and/or family that do not share your views and that’s fine. You are a mother, not a martyr.

“Don’t set yourself on fire trying to keep others warm.”

~ Penny Reid

It is foolish to believe that motherhood and identity cannot be separate but equal parts of your life. Avoid the desire to strive for perfection in motherhood or anything else. There is absolutely no reason to feel guilty for caring for yourself. To care for yourself does not preclude or exclude caring for your family.

Motherhood-and-identity-mother working on laptop holding child at a cafe speaking with a female coworker
It might take a little creative thinking, but you can be a mom and explore other parts of your life as well. Motherhood does not have to be a loss of identity. | Photo by: Martine Doucet from Getty Images Signature

Creating a Balance Between Motherhood and Self

So, how do you reconcile the two sides of motherhood and self? Can they coexist?

It’s funny that this is not a question asked of fathers. Men have other societal pressures, but responsibility for parenting in lieu of identity is not one of them. Mothers are expected to self-sacrifice to care for their families.

To answer the question, yes, they can coexist. Before motherhood, we are women. After our littles leave the nest, we are women. We will never lose our connection to our children; they will always be a part of us.

“Remember to take care of yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup.”

~ Unknown

In order to merge your ‘self’ with being a mom, you first need to acknowledge that a relationship exists between the two. We owe it to ourselves and our kids to be complete people. Remember, we are a living example to our children. Simply by way of being in our presence, they pick up on our actions and energy.

Our children are more likely to thrive in an environment where their parents are open to sharing their knowledge, talents and experiences. There are so many facets of our lives that we should be excited to share with our kids. Naturally, adjustments may be needed to accommodate them safely, but allowing yourself to be connected to who you are will only serve them better.

Motherhood-and-identity-woman refreshed after exercising, smiling and happy
A great first step in regaining your identity after pregnancy is taking care of yourself. Exercise is an excellent way to help balance your mind and body. | Photo by: Jacob Lund

How to Retain or Regain Identity

Thankfully, the road back to ‘self’ is not a treacherous one. One of the first things to consider is your physical well-being. Once immersed in motherhood, it is easy to let basic human needs fall away. As outlined in “What it Means to Know Your Why,” in order to feel more like yourself, it’s important to regain a sense of humanity.

Where to begin? The list below is a good place to start:

  • Take a Shower
    • Enjoy self-care in whatever that looks like for you (manicure/pedicure, massage, etc.)
  • Get some Rest
    • In the early days, overnight help may be appreciated
    • Nap with baby when you can
  • Exercise
    • Take the little one for a walk each day
    • Get a running stroller, bicycle
    • Take a class (dance, aerobic, martial arts, etc.)
  • Make time for hobbies
    • Include your kid(s) if you wish
    • If not, take some time away each week/ month to enjoy some time on your own
  • Take some time for yourself (a few hours a week)
    • Even going out for lunch or coffee can be a nice break
    • You’d be surprised how exciting a solo trip grocery shopping can be
  • Maintain friendships
    • Dynamics can shift after baby, keep those most important to you in your life
    • Call, text, Zoom
    • Joint playdates with other moms
  • Work/ School
    • Plan a return to the office (inside or outside of the home)
    • Embark on new professional ventures
    • Learn something new

In Summary

Great news moms! You don’t have to decide between being a mom and being yourself. It isn’t one or the other. Imagine the parts of your identity as petals on a flower. Loss of petals may signify death. A lone petal, fallen from the bulb does not have the same impact as the flower as a whole.

Invest your time in the areas that you think are important. Be sure to water your garden and feed your soul. Consider the values you wish to impart on your children. What will you teach them? What will they learn from watching you?

Rid yourself of any guilt or doubt you may feel in wanting to be a well-rounded person. Your kid(s) do not want to bear the weight of feeling like you are unhappy because of them. They want happy, fulfilled moms.

Still having a hard time? Try this. Think about your kid(s) as adults. What kind of life do you envision for them? I imagine that you want them to be happy. Hate to break it to you mom, they want the same for you.

Disclaimer: If you have long-lasting or worsening feelings of depression, please seek help from a mental health professional. Do it for you, do it for your family.

How do you feel since becoming a mom? Any issues with maintaining your identity? Share your story in the comments below.

14 thoughts on “Motherhood and Identity”

  1. My favorite on this list is a shower! I LOVE getting in the shower (or Jacuzzi tub depending on the mood) and just thinking. I love to get back to me, back to my thoughts and its the most quiet time I have to plan out my business goals for the week and come up with some of my most motivational thoughts!

    1. Same, Lisamarie. I do my thinking in the shower too. There’s something about being in there that just helps the thoughts flow. My new process is that when I get a little block writing, I take a shower to work out next steps. So far, it’s working.

      Thanks for reading,
      Cassie

  2. Excellent advice here Cassie. For me, my discomfort has arisen from putting the ego more and more to the side to give and expect nothing in return….to the point of feeling in bliss with giving. Friends, fam, readers, customers, clients….giving freely feels amazing in many ways but as the ego dissolves so does my identify, which feels a bit strange.

    Ryan

    1. Hi Ryan,
      Thanks for reading. Nobody wants to feel lost or invisible. And I do think we can all fall prey to our egos. If fed too much, they can get too big to control. I agree though that there is so much power in giving of yourself. It can be hard to do though when done with the expectation of getting something in return.

      I appreciate you stopping by,
      Cassie

    1. Yes, they do. Becoming a mom can be an overwhelming experience so I can understand how any of us might get a little lost. I think that sometimes, whether we realize it or not, women are waiting for permission to be/ want/ do more that what is expected of us. That can be a heavy weight to carry, so many just sacrifice themselves. It’s a shame.

      Thanks for reading!
      Cassie

  3. I’m not a mom but I like reading parenting content because I want to gain perspective. I’m not sure if I want to be a mom. Having kids is a scary thing to me so I try to learn more about motherhood.

    1. Good for you for taking an interest even though you don’t have kids. You definitely do not have to be a mom if you don’t want to. You’ll know whether or not it’s right for you. But, you may have friends/ family with young kids so just learning what you can may be a benefit in your life anyway.

      Thank you,
      Cassie

  4. Mom guilt and finding a balance between mother and self are the two things I battled with for a long time. Society will lead you to believe that you can ONLY be ‘mom’ and have to sacrifice everything else but it is more than possible to be both, more women need to know this!

    It’s impossible to be the best mother when we are not our best self, thank you for this post!

    1. Hi Lyn,
      You said it beautifully. That pressure that society puts on women convinces too many of us that we are only here to be moms. Women who defy that notion have done amazing things in this world. It falls to us to embrace all of who we are and to teach our kids, boys or girls, that women are capable of so much. I’m happy that you found your way and gave yourself permission to be yourself.

      Thank you for reading and commenting,
      Cassie

  5. The Healthcare Hustle

    Love these recs. Keeping your identity while still being a great mom seems tough to balance for sure but it’s definitely possible!

    1. Yes, it is definitely possible. But, it requires being aware of what is happening in your life. Some people have kids and don’t miss a beat. They easily, or not so easily, integrate baby into their life. The challenge is for the people on the other side who mold their lives around the baby. That’s when loss of identity happens and it can be hard to come back from.

      Thank you for reading and commenting. I really appreciate the support.

    1. Hi Michelle,

      Don’t let that worry you. While it can happen, it definitely doesn’t have to. Make sure that you make the baby a part of your life. Don’t give up everything that makes you, you when you become a mom. Your future kid wants to see you shine so do it for both of you.

      ~ Cassie

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