Losing your Identity in Motherhood: The Symptoms
“What made you want to start this podcast?”
I get asked this question quite often. The answer to this is not binary for me; many reasons have led me to create the Mom Like That platform and finding myself again after having kids is one of them. But before we discuss what finding yourself again looks like, its important to examine what losing yourself looks like as well.
As mothers, we’ve all gone through this experience of losing our own sense of identity after our children are born. It happens consciously and subconsciously on so many levels, and before we know it, we find ourselves years later wondering – what have I done for myself that’s just for me over the last many years? It took me almost 2 years to understand how I had lost myself, why I had lost myself and how to find who I was again. Being lost and feeling lost was never a clearly recognized experience for me. The truth is, I didn’t feel “lost”. I felt a lot of other emotions instead.
I felt resentment. I resented my husband at times, because the lack of movement in my life outside of motherhood was confusing to me. When I wasn’t making magic happen for me, it felt like it was his fault. That he wasn’t doing enough to bring excitement in my life.
I felt discouraged professionally. I felt that I didn’t deserve success as a professional in my career because I had kids. That my duties for the kids would be the reason I wouldn’t climb the ladder – because through these prime child caring years, I would never be able to give the attention and time to work like I wanted to. And then I felt resentment and bitterness towards my peers without kids that were reaching new heights.
I felt isolation. I didn’t know why I felt so lonely even when I had such a good support system. Friends and family who had my back, my kids who absolutely loved me and a husband who was supporting me unconditionally the best way he knew how. I didn’t talk about this feeling since it felt made up. As if it was in my head and I had to shake it off. I felt as if the world was moving ahead and everyone had it together except for me. I was trying to play catch up with people who had kids and those without, but I was so far behind, so insecure and unsure of myself that I didn’t know how to catch up. I was living with never ending fear of missing out on everything the world was doing.
I felt so many mixed emotions and confusion that ultimately took over my sanity and affected not just me, but my family and my life with my husband.
No one knew I was going through these things. I kept it together on the surface and battled the confusions internally. It took me a great deal of self-evaluation and self-destruction to understand that all these feelings were symptoms of losing myself as an individual after becoming a mom.
For over 4 years I stopped prioritizing myself. I put the needs of my family above and ahead of any of my individual needs. Anything that mattered to me alone was no longer a priority. What was important to my husband and what was valuable to the family unit came first. And often these things came at the cost of my suffering even when they didn’t need to. The guilt of doing something for myself, even when time and opportunities allowed me to do so, was bigger than taking the action or enjoying the act of taking care of myself.
Without feeling lost as a person, I was ultimately lost. The symptoms of losing myself were emerging for far too long before I realized what they meant.
So, what changed? I am not sure. It wasn’t one moment, but a build up of many moments, a lot of frustration, and all the feelings mentioned before that led me to a breakdown. A breakdown that happened in many doses over many years before I hit my rock bottom.
For me to find myself again, for anyone to go through a path of rediscovery, it is important to recognize the symptoms you feel when you are lost. You may be feeling (or have felt) some of the symptoms I felt or yours might look entirely different. But you can’t discover your identity without recognizing your pain points. You must pay close attention to the indicators and reflect on why you are having those feelings. It’s easy to project your feelings as a reaction onto others actions and doings, but true self discovery can only begin when you start realizing that your feelings are your own, they are not the responsibility of others and only you hold the power to free yourself from these symptoms before you can find yourself again.
So how will you reflect on this today to find yourself again?