“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.” -Osho
I recently discovered this quote and it couldn’t be more true. Becoming a mother transformed me like nothing ever has before. After giving birth for the first time almost five years ago, I just knew I would never be the same. Motherhood forced me to evolve in ways I didn’t anticipate and I’m better for it.
There is nothing in the world like looking into your new baby’s eyes the very first time and discovering a love you’ve never known before. It’s the most beautiful feeling that I’ll always cherish from each of my sons’ births. Along with this new wash of pure love is the feeling that you’re a completely different woman and you’ll never go back. It’s exhilarating and frightening at once.
When you become a mother, you might receive generous gifts of diapers and other essentials for the baby, some free supplies from the hospital that you didn’t finish during your postpartum stay (TAKE ALL OF THE MESH PANTIES AND THANK ME LATER), tons of sometimes unsolicited advice and brochures you won’t have time to read. What you probably won’t get is the absolute truth: You will lose part of yourself now that you’ve become a mother. You might even have an entire identity crisis if you aren’t prepared. If you’re reading this because you googled, “I’ve lost myself after having children” then you know exactly what I mean. If you’re wondering “Will I ever have a life again after having a baby?” or “Am I just a mom now?” The answers are Yes and No. Keep reading to learn how to slay this new identity that’s emerging.
This new mother identity is beautiful but it isn’t always pretty. You are so sleep-deprived at times you feel you could pass out and die. You probably won’t be traveling much if that’s something you used to enjoy, it will be a while before you’re trying all of the latest restaurants opened by chef so and so, you’ll be lucky if you see 2-3 movies in the theatre over the next year and say goodbye to spontaneously hanging out with your friends for a bit. You won’t even have time to bathe some days, your stomach ain’t cute anymore and you still look pregnant. You might have swollen feet and ankles from the IV fluid if you had an epidural, everything from your abdomen to your hoo-ha hurts, your breasts probably ache and might even leak, your hair might look a hot mess (unless you find a very low-maintenance style before delivering like I did) and you’re bleeding like crazy. Your precious baby wants you ALL of the time and doesn’t know enough to care about your pain, your to-do list, messy house, or your need for time to feed yourself. In fact, did you know that it is not until around 6 or 7 months that your baby even realizes that they are a separate being from you??? Like they don’t even realize they EXIST outside of you! Pressure much?!
I know I painted a pretty scary picture but it’s totally real and it’s only a phase called the fourth trimester that we all moms endure. And for those who haven’t had babies yet and plan to, I PROMISE it’s worth it! You’ll have a bond with your son or daughter that is likely the most pure love you’ve ever experienced. They don’t and literally can’t give you anything in return, except for the most primal kind of love there is. They want and need their mother more than anything in their new and unfamiliar world. Their instincts kick in to make your child search for your breasts with their rooting reflex, they cry for your comfort and nearly purr with enjoyment when you feed, cuddle and soothe them. What other relationship have you ever experienced like this??? You will love so hard that you’d literally do anything for your baby. Ahhh I love the way I love my babies!! On top of all that, I can honestly say that having children has improved my life and my confidence. My vision and priorities are more clear. I feel joyful when I hear my kids laugh like only a child can or watch them squeal and horseplay with their dad. I feel extremely full. I’ll never have the freedom or carefree lightness I sometimes felt before children and I’m perfectly content and have peace with that.
My desire is for all mothers to feel this way. You can take control over who you’re becoming! Although it seems like you don’t have control over much during this time—i.e- pregnancy symptoms, childbirth, pre and postpartum moods, your baby’s temperament, colic, to name a few—you do have a say in how you respond to these changes. So why not take control of your new identity as a mother by intentionally putting some new habits in place that you can be proud of? Notice I didn’t mention getting yourself back, bouncing back or anything that even hints that you can be yourself again. That ain’t happening any time soon! The great news is that this is a wonderful time to make some changes that will make you forever grateful for your new self. Here are five ways to forge your new identity with style, grace and pride in who you’re becoming:
- GET HELP! This is number one because it’s the main area most new moms experience lack. Long before baby is born, start putting together your village. Find other moms to swap childcare with if you don’t have family around. If you don’t know any moms, download the app Peanut, which is like Tinder for moms to connect with each other. You can make new friends for mommy time or playdates and make motherhood less lonely. They even let you distinguish yourself by your individual lifestyle. For example, if you’re a single mom, it helps you connect to others, post questions, form subgroups and plan events.
- JOIN ACTIVITY GROUPS FOR MOMS centered around your interests. There are so many mommy and me classes to choose from including exercise classes that incorporate your stroller which was a favorite activity of mine after my boys were born. Fit4Mom is one in DC where you can workout with your baby and make new mommy friends for play dates and social events. Search Google in your city for stroller exercise or mommy and me exercise classes. It’s a great way to for a new and healthy identity as a mom and will give you a reason to get out of the house and get those endorphins pumping. It’s a win-win!
- TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF If you enjoyed being active, eating fresh healthy food, dressing cute or stylish, doing your hair or wearing makeup before, make it a point to continue doing these things as often as you can. If these weren’t your things before, why not start now! Apps like Seven Minute Workout were my saving grace when I wanted to workout and feel like me but didn’t have time. It will be harder to dress up and you’ll have more days when you wear leggings and no makeup than ever before, but don’t give up the effort. As your baby gets older you’ll find more time but you don’t want to just let these things go waiting for baby to grow up. If it makes you feel good, do it! Put baby in his or her swing or crib (they might cry but it’s no different from when you need to get other things done) and spend 15 or 30 minutes taking care of you! The best part is that you’ll get really fast and efficient now that you don’t have as much time as you used to.
- REDEFINE YOUR VISION It’s ok if you realize that motherhood doesn’t fit well into the vision/life/career you had before and everything you’re trying to do feels messy and hard. I definitely went through this feeling. My children even inspired me to switch my career to one that better allowed me to spend time with them and have the flexibility I need to be the mom I aspire to be. Don’t be so married to your vision before motherhood that you don’t recognize when it’s time to pivot in ways large or small. You have been reborn as a mother and with that comes fresh vision. It won’t be easy but make the changes necessary to prioritize the things that are most important to you now. That may mean negotiating your schedule to work from home a couple of days each week, starting a side hustle or hobby you can enjoy with your child or just dreaming up what you want your career and lifestyle to be as your children get older and making small daily efforts toward those new goals.
- EMBRACE THE CHANGES Sometimes we get so used to things being a certain way that we have a hard time letting go of the past. Becoming a mother taught me that sometimes the best way to deal with change is to just accept it. My body looks different naked, there will always be toys in the living room, in our bedroom and sometimes in the middle of the stairs. I won’t have peace and quiet at home but I now have joy, chaos and tons more laughter! I prioritize my time better when I’m away from home because I have to. I don’t have as many acquaintances but I have damn good friends who love my children and me despite the fact that I can rarely go to brunch anymore or do the things I used to. They understand that this is just a season. I’m learning to embrace the messiness and use it to teach me to relax and not seek perfection. I’m a work in progress and I’m learning to enjoy the ups and downs of motherhood and life without getting stressed out about every little thing. I have become much less concerned with what people think. I’m loving the new me and pray that all moms reading this will embrace your new identities with grace and courage.
How has motherhood changed you and your vision for your life? Let us know in the comments!