Since I was young I always knew I wanted to be a mom, but I never thought I would have an identity crisis as a new mom. I just couldn’t imagine not being completely happy after having a baby. But I missed her. I missed the woman I was before having a baby. Which made me feel guilty! I felt so alone, confused, frustrated, and lost. I couldn’t do anything I used to, at least not in the same way, and this took a toll mentally.
If you’re a new mom experiencing an identity crisis I want you to know you’re not alone.
I thought I was abnormal and maybe something was wrong with me for feeling the way I did. But it’s a normal feeling and you’re not alone. I’ll preface this post with the disclaimer, I’m not a doctor or a psychologist. I’m just a mom who lost herself in motherhood and I”ve been able to find myself again, I hope this post can give you some helpful tips, or at least give you the reassurance that you are not alone and things will get better.
My situation wasn’t ideal.
I didn’t have a supportive spouse, and I didn’t have my family anywhere nearby. We did have my (now ex) husband’s ex-family within 30 minutes of where we lived. They are wonderful people and I loved having them over. But they weren’t my family and I’m an introvert so I don’t get close to people very easily so I loved the 2-3 times they came over to see the baby. But those were really the only interactions we had with them in my 12-week maternity leave.
So I was alone. My ex-husband was very abusive (I ended up leaving him and filing for divorce when my daughter was 5 months old), I was sleep-deprived and starving 24/7. Not only was I sleep deprived because I had a newborn, but if I fell asleep and my ex-husband was around he would wake me up, then play the victim when I’d get upset.
Becoming a mom is an emotional rollercoaster.
And I’ll tell ya, I wasn’t over the moon happy like I thought I’d be. I love my daughter, don’t get me wrong. But I couldn’t do anything like I used to. I couldn’t wake up and scroll on social media if I wanted to, I didn’t have time to take care of myself. I went days without wearing makeup or getting dressed. I went days with my hair in a bun, and I just felt so misplaced in my own life.
I wanted to eat without feeling immense guilt that my baby is crying, but I’m choosing to take care of myself instead of her (which is essential for your well-being, but when you’re in the moment and you’re sleep-deprived and struggling it makes those moments of mom guilt extremely difficult).
So now that you have a little bit of background on my situation when I became a new mom, here are some tips that helped me and other new moms find their identity again.
1. Read uplifting material and connect with other moms
This was incredibly helpful because even though my situation wasn’t ideal after having my baby I found connection and community on Instagram, Facebook groups, and Pinterest. I didn’t have a village in fact, I saw a meme that said, “It takes a village to raise a baby….so where do I get this village at?” That made me do one of those confusing and ugly laugh-cries because it was the painful truth.
I also ran across this quote and it resonated with me:
I mean read that again!
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.– Rajneesh
I loved that quote because it’s true. It’s not easy being a mom. I went from being a young 20 something year old that didn’t have any huge responsibilities (besides working, paying bills, and being a wife). To having a tiny human who I was solely 100% responsible for. Every waking moment I was attending to her, my whole day was centered around her needs and mine were put on the back burner. She was getting a flat spot and so I refused to set her down if I could help it. She’d fall asleep in my arms and I’d be stuck on the couch. I was exclusively breastfeeding because she couldn’t tolerate formula. My entire life before her was gone, I was essentially someone new.
Finding quotes and others who are feeling the same thing will help you feel like you will get through this, and you’re not alone. There is strength in connecting with others, even if it’s a quote that resonates with you. Because it can give you that peace of mind that others have been where you are, and you’re not losing your mind. Having an identity crisis after having a baby is something that many other women go through too.
2. Talk to someone you trust
Talk to your partner or to anyone who you feel close to. I hope that you have a good support system or someone you can lean on. I tried and it opened my eyes.
I tried explaining my identity crisis to my ex-husband and he told me ‘no duh our lives have changed!’ He wanted me to just get over it. Long story short mid-conversation he left me crying in the hallway because I missed who I was before and that I didn’t even have time to do simple things to take care of myself. Because his reasoning was his life changed too. But in the way that he went out to the bar more, he started dating, and wouldn’t come home from work until any time from 8 pm to 1 am (and he got off of work at 5 pm).
So obviously that conversation wasn’t helpful. But since leaving him and being able to repair relationships with my family I was able to open up to my mom and it was a completely different conversation where she was validating my feelings, and comforting me, and letting me know she knows how it feels, and it’s a normal feeling.
From those helpful conversations, my biggest takeaway was it’s a normal feeling – there’s nothing wrong with feeling grief over losing who you were. In a way, you end up going through the grief cycle (and from my own experience I can say, after going through this cycle I love who I am now.
If you don’t have someone you are close to who you can open up to there are resources, you are not alone. You can talk to a counselor or even your OBGYN. Yes. You can talk to your OB, it’s important to be honest with your doctor. I wish I had been, I always said I was okay when I’d go to my checkups. But I was scared, alone, and lost. It’s important to talk, doctors and counselors are professionals who can give you insights and additional resources to help you out.
3. Ask for help
Ask for help whether it’s with some housework, or for someone to watch your baby while you take care of yourself, or anything else you may need help with. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help.
My ex would make me feel guilty for asking for help, so being in a safe and positive environment where people are happy to help with no strings or anger attached has been tricky. Because I feel like a burden, but people who truly care about you are happy to help.
Again, people who truly care about you are happy to help.
It does take a village to raise a baby. If your village is just one person who loves and supports you that can be enough because it’s too hard to try to do everything on your own. Even superheroes have sidekicks.
4. Self-care isn’t selfish
It’s important to take care of yourself because when you take care of your needs you are able to take care of your child’s needs better. This being said it can take time and practice as a new mom. I’d struggle with not holding my baby if she was crying so I felt like I couldn’t even do simple things like brushing my hair in the morning. But your baby will be okay if you take a moment to wash your face and brush your hair.
It’s okay to ask for help so you can take care of yourself. Your basic needs and human rights aren’t things you should feel guilt for. It’s okay to have someone watch your baby so you can take a shower, or put on some makeup. It’s important to have time to yourself.
5. Set boundaries
It’s important to have boundaries. If your partner is doing something that you don’t like you need to communicate what your boundaries are.
Mine was I didn’t want my name to just be “mom.” I understand that calling each other mom and dad in front of your kids helps to eliminate confusion so they learn to call you by mom and dad. But my ex-husband would call me mom when she wasn’t around… and MOM became my only name and my sole identity and that took a mental toll.
I tried to set a boundary that if she isn’t around I want to be called by name. But no, he couldn’t respect that boundary. When your partner is willing to listen to you and respect your boundaries it makes a difference.
6. Do things that make you happy
You’re still you. I promise. Your routines may be different, your home may be covered in diapers, toys, and spit-up, but you are still allowed to have an identity other than just “mom.”
What hobbies do you like doing? Is there even one day a week that instead of worrying about cleaning the house you can work on your hobby? Or if you have a supportive spouse can they take a turn watching the baby while you give yourself an hour or so to do something you love?
You may not have all the free time and the bandwidth that you used to have but it’s still possible to do the things you love doing. It may take some practice learning how to do your hobbies with a baby, but it is possible. When I’d lay my baby down for a nap it was like a race of how many things can I do before she wakes up?!
During her nap, I’d run to the bathroom, grab a bite to eat, do some cleaning, and then I’d sit down to blog and guess what she’d wake up the second I got to what I really wanted to do. It was that way for the first few months, as she’s gotten older it’s gotten a lot easier. But in those early months, your partner needs to understand that you’ve been with the baby all day and you need time to do what makes you happy.
You still have needs, and your needs are important.
What do these tips have in common?
As you may have noticed many of these tips include asking for help.
Having a baby is hard and it’s life-changing. It can make you feel like a stranger in your own life, and if that’s happening you need help, love, and support. By having time to take care of yourself and do the things you want it’s going to improve your mental health and make you feel more like you.
It gets easier
My daughter just turned 2, and I can tell you it really does get easier with time. It gets easier as your little one sleeps longer through the night, and you’re able to get more sleep. It gets easier as they learn to crawl and walk and aren’t 100% dependent on you. You will have more time for yourself, it’s not selfish to feel this way. You’re a mom, and you’re still a person. Your feelings are valid, and even though your life has changed, it hasn’t ended.