Keeping your identity in motherhood

posted 1 year ago in Babies
Post # 16
Member
8099 posts
Bumble Beekeeper

pearlrose :  blue boobs! hahahaha. For real though – my daughter is almost 16 months and only nursing twice a day at this point, but if we’ve missed a session (for date night or whatever) and my boobs are extra full and I hear a baby cry my boobs tingle. Thankfully I don’t actually leak, but it’s the weirdest thing!!

Post # 17
Member
3536 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: June 2017

thosethreewords :  of course it doesn’t HAVE to be like that…but ime at least, that’s a pretty common experience for *most* new mothers. i’m sure there are some who managed not to lose themselves in babyland, and i’m sure there are many who are lost and in denial – as someone who doesn’t have kids, i can tell you that every single friend, family member, or acquaintance that i know of who has had a baby has become a Mombie.

you know, you don’t *have* to have children. you could just…not.

Post # 18
Member
3019 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: September 2008

I know this sounds cliche but every person on this planet is unique so everyone’s experience being a mother is unique. You can see patterns in normally-developing children and parents who choose similar parenting styles but there’s really no way of knowing how your genes and your husband’s genes are going to combine. 

Some things to keep in mind are how strong your support system is. Mine is pretty weak so motherhood is more consuming for me than for my friends who have loving families who are excited to babysit. 

How do you want to parent? Do you want to be a working mom, work part-time, or be a SAHM? Attachment parenting? RIE/Montessori? You get to decide what feels best for you and your family. What you envision yourself doing as a mom may change based on your child’s temperament, though. 

What makes you the most happy now? How will you carve out time for yourself to do those things once you have a child? My 2-year-old daughter learns best by imitation so I choose to do most physical self-care with her present and often copying me in adorable ways. I also try to share my hobbies with her like finding safe ways to have her help me cook, exposing her to developmentally appropriate arts and crafts, taking her on nature walks, and sharing my kid-friendly fandoms with her (like My Neighbor Totoro, Chi’s Sweet Adventure, etc.) but I make sure to carve out time for my husband, friends and family after she goes to sleep, while she watches a kid’s show that she loves but I don’t have the patience to sit through (seriously can’t stand Little Baby Bum; it fills me with existential horror) and on the weekends. We either visit or host loved ones every weekend. 

Best wishes figuring out what will work best for you and your husband. It’s a process! 

Post # 19
Member
712 posts
Busy bee

My identify has changed post motherhood, but I like the new me better. The first three months are the hardest, where the baby is literally attached to you the whole time, but it was smooth sailing after that. We are relatively easygoing parents, and we go out, travel domestically and internationally, and stay very social. 

If anything, our daughter has been great for our social lives because we’ve met so many like minded parents with similar (non kid related!) interests to our own. Our lives are richer for parenthood, it was absolutely the right choice for us. You’ll have to find your groove and do what’s best for you. I do know parents who have never had a date night in years, and haven’t ever traveled anywhere fun post baby. It’s a choice they make. 

Post # 20
Member
712 posts
Busy bee

catskillsinjune :  Now obviously I disagree with your overly negative assessment of motherhood, which is absolutely your prerogative to hold. 🙂

That said, you raise an excellent point. Parenthood is by no means necessary, and having a baby because everyone around you is, is not a terribly good reason. And, while it works out great for most of us, there’s no guarantee it will. But regardless, it’s a lifelong commitment that a parent doesn’t get to back out of. So it’s best to be very, very certain before rushing into it. 

Post # 21
Member
9504 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: August 2012

Every parent is different. Every baby is different.

Personally I’ve never felt like I “lost” myself. Yes, my daughter is my #1 priority now—and I’m okay with that. Yes life has changed—again, I’m good with that! It doesn’t bother me that we don’t travel quite as much or go out to eat every week. However if those things were super important to me, I would definitely make time to do them. 

Sounds to me like your friend is just in the trenches right now with a difficult baby. I’d try to give her some grace; this too shall pass. Motherhood can be tough. The first year was very rough for me because my kiddo didn’t sleep very well. I probably acted like a loon a few times too.

Post # 22
Member
2012 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: April 2018

I had this conversation with my best friend yesterday actually.  My sisters are obsessed with their kids. 

When we have kids, I don’t want to lose myself. I still matter and so do my hobbies. There has to be a balance. 

 

Post # 23
Member
1513 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: September 2015

In my view, your friend might be overdoing things to such a degree, because she feels like there’s no one else there for her baby but her, her husband being useless and all. It’s like someone at work who doesn’t have anyone competent/doesn’t trust anyone enough to delegate, and end up micromanaging e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

If you believe that won’t be your situation, that you will have more help than she does, then I think your chances of preserving your identity in motherhood is better.  That is how things worked out for me.  I have a lot of family close by for whom babysitting my little boy is a favor to THEM and helping me and my husband is just an afterthought, lol. My husband takes on fully half of the childcare-related tasks if not more, although it’s kinda hard to gauge. For example I might do more daycare pickup and drop off, but he goes to more dr appts.  As a result, I still feel largely like myself before I was pregnant.  

Of course being a parent changes things, but tbh, oftentimes I feel like maybe it did not change me as much as it “should have”?…if that makes sense.  I love my son and would die for him, so obviously he is a big part of my life, but he is not my entire life.  I went back to work after 8 weeks maternity leave from a c-section and oddly enough I felt ready to go back. I don’t want to be a Stay-At-Home Mom because I would much rather do work-work than housework.  If I take a mental health day off during the workweek, I still take my son to daycare so I can actually have some time to myself.  I’ve done my share of swapping breastfeeding tips and diaper-related concerns with my friends who are moms during my son’s first year, but nowadays I rarely bring up my kid in conversation unless I’m asked a direct question.  Cuz I mean, kids that little just aren’t THAT interesting to people who aren’t their parents.  

I’m currently pregnant with a second baby boy and one of my biggest worries is that having two children will upend my lifestyle for sure, even though having one did not. So I get your worry, bee, but you just wouldn’t know until you’re doing it. On the other hand there’s also no reason to assume that your identity would be completely subsumed by motherhood either, especially if you have help. 

Post # 24
Member
1744 posts
Bumble bee

I had a friend that sounds like your friend. She “lost” herself in motherhood, but she never really “found” herself before she had kids. Her whole life, all she wanted to do was get married and have kids. Her life goal was to be a stay at home mom. There’s nothing wrong with that if that’s what you want. But she never had any other type of goals. She had zero interest in traveling, she married the first guy she dated, she got pregnant on the honeymoon. Everything revolves around her kids because that’s all she’s wanted. She complained a lot about how hard it all was but in her instance it was like a martyr type thing like “woe is me the busy mom with no life. look what i’ve sacrificed for my kids. pity me”. It was annoying and we are no longer friends.

I think the fact that you are even thinking about this ahead of time means it probably won’t happen to you. 

Post # 25
Member
889 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: September 2016

kristin36890 :  I almost brought up being a martyr in my post earlier. A lot of women seem to have adopted this martyr mentality recently. Attachment parenting has made this even worse. Many women seem to think that motherhood equates with sacrifice, and that losing themselves makes them a better mother.

Even twenty years ago, this was not the case. Most hospitals had nurseries – they did not make mother’s who had just given birth immediately start tending to their children. That is what the nurses are there for. Most middle-class women had night nurses stay with them to help feed babies at night so women got to rest. Bottle feeding was also recommended back then. 

I think the older model of ‘it takes a village’ is a much better way to raise children. I am no more equipped to look after my son than my mother in law. Heck, she probably knows even more than me having raised three kids of her own! 

Post # 26
Member
1225 posts
Bumble bee

As everyone has said, your experience will be reasonably unique to you and your child.

That said, your co-parent has a significant impact on your motherhood experience and as you have noted, your friend’s husband is “useless” and it sounds like she is doing a lot of the work by herself. A supportive, hands-on spouse makes all the difference and contrary to popular opinion, there is no reason the dad is not an integral part of the process from day one.  It genuinely baffles me when people say there isn’t much the dad can do during the newborn phase: when my daughter wasn’t nursing, she needed to be changed, soothed/held, entertained, put down to sleep, burped, cleaned… There is also a TON of ancillary work: laundry, cleaning, cooking, watching the baby while your partner takes a shower/nap/solo walk etc.  All of this is essential work, it is time-consuming and it does not require lactating so there is no reason dad cannot do it. But many women choose to martyr themselves while dad drive-by parents and then we wonder why we are burned out from motherhood.

That said, I would caution you against investing too much in the idea of “having your shit together” because there are factors out of your control (e.g. the personality and needs of your future child) that can upend carefully laid out plans. You also should not underestimate how much you will change: its not just that doing certain activities will be trickier, but that you may not even want to do them. But it is entirely possible to maintain a semblance of your pre-baby life, as long as you make an effort and have support.

Post # 27
Member
335 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: August 2015

My love for my daughter is more overwhelming than I ever imagined before she came into my life. And yet, she is eight months old and back in the US and I am currently in China on an optional but hugely beneficial work trip. I’ve enjoyed focusing on my career for the week, even though it’s meant excusing myself to pump in some pretty interesting places. And my daughter is doing great at home with my husband. All of which is to say, yeah, you might lose yourself in motherhood. But that’s a choice.

Post # 28
Member
1212 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: September 2014

thosethreewords :  

 

I have an almost 10 month old. I absolutely lost my identity when she was born. The postpartum period was really hard for me. My daughter didn’t let me set her down at first, so my reality was not being able to pee/eat/shower when my husband wasn’t around. Something about her crying made me feel absolutely batshit, so I would drop anything the minute she let out a cry. For about 6 months she didn’t sleep well at night either, so I was literally a walking zombie. I have never known true exhaustion until then and I was absolutely blown away by how insane sleep-deprivation can make you.  I was a mess. And probably a lot like your friend. 

But then… things started to turn around. I got into a routine. She started sleeping better and napping. By the time she was 7/8 months, I started to feel like an actual human. I was able to find a balance of being a mom, a wife, an employee, a friend, etc.  I have an identity again but it is completely different. My priorities/values have shifted. I can’t quite put it into words. The first thing I think about is still her. But now I trust my parenting instincts so I’m not so anxious all the time. I have a good partner, so I’m able to partake in my hobbies and see my friends. I still talk incessantly about my baby, but I am able to step outside of that world and partake in normal adult conversation. 

I love my daughter, but I disliked the newborn stage. It was really tough for me and I struggled for a long time. But now I see that it was absolutely worth it and I’m so beyond happy. I would do it again for another kid, because she’s so flippin’ awesome. 

My point is… give your friend some grace. Becoming a parent is hard and for some of us, it’s especially challenging. It’s overwhelming and exhausting. You question every move because you have this huge responsibility of raising a tiny person. If someone has anxiety (which I do), it just blows it up. Your friend will find her way back. For some people that takes a few months and others, it’s longer. Some magical unicorns seem to have it the moment they give birth. 

Your journey as a parent will be unique. And there’s no way to know how that will play out. You have some control over certain things and no control over others. Even if parenting causes you to lose your identity, it’s likely a temporary state.

Post # 30
Member
4539 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: November 1999

kiram whoCompletely agree with all of this, she’s waaay overdoing things…if she was happy with doing things the way she does, that’s great for her…but it sounds like it’s taking a toll and it’s becoming unhealthy. 

To be fair, this post is written from the perspective of OP and probably has a lot judgement, embellishments, drawn conclusion and personal baggage as opposed to fact as to how the situation really feels from the perspective of the actual new mother. For all we know the mother is blissfully happy and she might actually have a genuinely needy baby that requires that level of hands on. I have lots of nieces and nephews and I can genuinely say that even amongst siblings they were all very different babies and children. How my siblings and in-laws parented was slightly different as a result of the needs of the individual child. 

OP, I’m no parent but its so obvious to see that for most people becoming a parent does change them somewhat. You are yourself but a little different as a result. I don’t think you become someone different but aspects of your personality become more pronounced or reveal themselves to others more. @slomotion gave a pretty good explanation as to how motherhood had changed her but it probably was always the way she was/is underneath it all  but it wasn’t a part of her that she’d really revealed to people in her life until she became a mother. What I’m trying to say is your friend was always  probably all those things you see now but it probably wasn’t what she projected so openly to others. I think parenthood changes you but not who you are at the core.

It has also only been seven months. Your friend is new at this and still discomother herself as a mother and working out her new version of herself. She also by your description doesn’t have a hands on or supportive partner so it makes the situation more nuanced for her. I can’t begin to imagine how it will feel to realize you might have had a baby with someone not quite suited to you or fatherhood. I think most peoples would double down and pish focus 100% on a baby so not to acknowledge the bigger situation and then they’d most likely try to make up for it by maybe trying to be everything to this child to make up for the situation with the other parent. 

OP, I’m sure parenthood will change us both but it won’t make new people out of either of us. We will still have our flaws and our strengths, as well as as our interests. People prioritize or make time for things they want to. Your friends priority at the moment is her baby. It could be temporary or permanent or something more in between but if you become a mother I’m sure you will prioritize your life according to how you prefer. If you don’t want motherhood to be your be all end all then I’m sure you will work.your life out to create balance in the long term of how you wish to live your life.

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