Becoming Mom: What Changes Does it Bring?
When You become a mom, so many things in your life change in the blink of an eye. From your body to your priorities, you experience a rush of changes. In this post we will discuss why you may have a mom identity crisis, what losing yourself in motherhood looks like, and how to feel like yourself while being a great mom.
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Why You Might Have a Mom Identity Crisis After Birth
There are many factors that contribute to the shift in identity after having your baby. And, with each baby you have, there are shifts that continue to require you to examine who you are, who you want to be, and what identifies you as a mom and as an individual. It is important that we honor these factors and the changes AND we make space and action towards being your FULLEST self and not being lost in the mom identity.
Internal Factors that Impact a Mom Identity Crisis
It’s very natural for you to think, feel, experience, and prioritize differently when you become a mom. Your body has a biological and physiological response to having a baby. You are expriencing hormone shifts and instincts to provide and care for your baby. You may also be feeling regret or grief as you mourn the things that have changed and are lost. (Can we normalize loving our kids AND missing the things in our lives that are no longer true? Seriously, we don’t need to feel shame about that.)
For many women, our bodies have been a huge part of our identity. We have had healthy and unhealthy messages fed to us all of our lives about what our bodies represent. For some women, seeing a changed body can be a struggle as you remember what it has represented for you and how it has changed. At Postpartum Together, we believe there needs to be a shift in conversation around postpartum bodies, but also recognize that we cannot deprogram ourselves overnight to have more appreciation in the midst of a culture that still glorifies a “bounce back” culture.
Perhaps the most fascinating and least-known contributor to our mom identity crisis is the process of matrescence.
In her anthropological studies of mothers across the world, postpartum advocate Dana Raphael coined the term “matrescence.” This term and study has been on the rise as others like reproductive psychiatrist Alexandra Sacks bring it into the light (watch her awesome Ted Talk). Sacks defines matrescence as “the developmental phase of new motherhood, (it) is like adolescence — a transition when hormones surge, bodies morph, and identity and relationships shift.”
Does that sound familiar? Hormones? Bodies? Motherhood Identity? Relationships? Matrescence makes so much sense, even if t it is still not a widely adopted and acknowledge a part of our society.
Adolescence and Matrescence
The word “Matrescence” sounds a lot like adolescence because there are parallels.
Your brain changes the most in adolescence, in the transition to motherhood it is nearly as much and with many similarities.
Adolescence is a “coming of age” where you change and grow and still bring pieces of yourself that have always been true, so is matrescence.
Our society has accepted this adolescence as a normal part of growth. Something to not only acknowledge but also, in the midst of all of its’ awkwardness, to celebrate. It’s important for us to take a minute to experience laughter and tears as we look back and see that, even when we thought that time would never end, it did. Even when we thought we were going to crumble away in a corner somewhere after our 7th-period class, we didn’t. You’re here and you aren’t the same woman you were before the hormones and mental shifts and expectations changed around you. That doesn’t mean your identity is lost and absorbed into motherhood, it just means that you get to merge who you were, who you are, and who you want to be to form a 2.0 version of yourself.
Here’s the truth, momma, just like taking care of new breasts, starting to date, having more responsibilities and handling your roller coaster emotions didn’t come without difficulties the first time, this second major transition isn’t without its’ own set of new and unique struggles. Just because society doesn’t give you as much grace doesn’t mean you don’t deserve it.
External Factors that Impact a Mom Identity Crisis
It’s no surprise that women feel tremendously impacted by the outside factors and pressures that impact who they are after giving birth. There is the story of who you have been and who you still are, and there is the pressure from so many directions on who you “Should” be as a mom.
We say, to hell with shoulds. Stop shoulding on yourself. Don’t let society should you to death.
You are allowed to be a woman with dreams, passions, and individuality AND be a damn good mom.
Research and Data
I got curious about what kind of pressures and supports women feel after becoming a mom. After all, the way our society responds to our transition has a huge impact on what we believe about and for ourselves. It impacts how we as moms see other moms and how those outside of motherhood may see us. We are all impacted by the structures and narratives around motherhood. And, it is important for us to identify what messaging and structure is impacting what we believe we deserve and are capable of.
Stats from Motherly’s 2020 State of the Mom
- 89% of women reported “No” when asked if society is sufficiently supporting them
- Women reported lack of adequate childcare as their biggest stressor
- Only 32% of women said they get an hour to themselves daily
- 24% say they are expected to pretend they are not a parent at work
- 71% reported they are “most strongly defined by motherhood” up from 59% in 2018
And, an additional stat from Pew Research that feels very important here:
- 77% of people polled said women face pressure to be an invovled parent while 49% say this about men
So when you take a look at this research, does it help you to see what may be impacting your belief that you do or do not deserve, have space for, or have support to have a strong identity? For me personally, many of these factors drove my belief that I was “supposed to” become absorbed in motherhood. I was “Supposed to be” putting aside my own fire and passion, and interests. What I realized, is that I wasn’t actually giving MY BEST to my family, I was just playing along with the expectations.
I’m speaking here from knowing motherhood only through the lens of America. I recognize that many things are different across cultures. But, also many of these things are more of a global message at this point.
Here are a few societal messages that may be impacting you feeling lost in motherhood:
- Once you have the baby, the candy is out of the wrapper.
- Snap-back culture
- Increased pressure to fill up calendars and activities for kids
- Lack of maternity leave is dismissive
- Self-care is marketed like a band-aid
- Self-care has also been used to drive women to outward purchases instead of inward reflection.
- Dismissal from health care
- More than ever, thanks to social media, we have others to continually compare ourselves to
When we look at these messages, we see a lot of messaging that tells us to become absorbed in motherhood, leaving little room for ourselves. We see a society that tells us we are only a “good mom” if we are depleted and exhausted. We see overwhelm as a badge of honor. There is a continual expectation that you will be a martyr and let go of the other things you love.
Sure, motherhood is full of sacrifices. But, that does not mean you can not have things that make you feel ALIVE and like YOURSELF. Again, it’s actually a huge gift to give your family a FULLER version of yourself instead of a watered-down, depleted human.
4 Reasons Moms Struggle with their Identity After Baby
While this is not a conclusive list, most women find one (or more) of these mindsets to be at the root of struggling to find and believe in their own, full identity after becoming a mom.
- Unworthy of the time, energy, finances, etc. that it takes to do things you enjoy and invest in your inner growth.
- Overwhelmed with motherhood and the idea of stepping into anything else feels too big.
- Disconnected from your inner thoughts and self, from your partner, from your community.
- Guilty having any interest, desires, goals outside of the motherhood realm.
Do any of these resonate with you? When you think about getting back into ceramics, going to that yoga class, prioritizing time with friends sans kids, etc., do any of these come up?
If so, you’re not alone and like many things, identifying the root can be a great part of taking the steps to heal and grow forward.
3 Steps to Take to Start Finding Yourself Again as a Mom
Now you understand a little more about the factors that impact our changing identity. The reality is, we DO very naturally change when we become moms and that is worth celebrating and honoring. What this does NOT mean is that we absorb everything we do and are into the label of “mom.” There gets to be more than the mom identity. You are still a passionate, gifted, fun woman and individual and we want to let her be part of things too.
Your kids NEED to see that mom has hobbies and friends and skills. They DESERVE to grow up in a space where mom isn’t a depleted martyr, but is living FULLY.
Step 1: Identify the messages and pressures that have impacted your mom identity crisis.
Take some time to sit with the internal and external factors that have impacted your transition into motherhood. Journal about them. Make a webbed chart. Talk about it with your partner. Work to understand what has influenced you and weed out the BS. If there is a societal message or expectation on you that doesn’t serve you and your family, let it go. It doesn’t deserve power over your previous and limited time and energy.
Step 2: Reconnet with the Truest and Purest Parts of Yourself
Growing up doesn’t have to be boring. There are still things that make you YOU and those parts of you get to live on. A question I like to use with clients is: “What did you do for fun/to destress/etc. as a teenager?” Some of those things won’t be applicable. But, things like music, art, dance, poetry, journaling, dancing, games…. these things are all good indicators of things we can bring back into our lives.
This is also a great thing to reflect on when it comes to awakening a passion. Did you love recycling? Caring for animals? Advocacy? Are there ways you can gradually welcome that back into your life and let your family be a part of it? (This does NOT mean add more to your plate and feel burnt out. This DOES mean get rid of BS things you’re doing but don’t love. It means you get to make space for things that really light your soul on fire.)
Step 3: Shift Your Mindset and Routines
Enter a little bit of woowoo, a little bit of rebellion, and a big mindset shift. In order to experience life differently, you have to shift the way you approach it. You do NOT have to follow the norms and societal expectations. No one has to follow the auto-pilot fed to you. Also, you do NOT have to listen to messages and pressures that do not feel aligned with your family goals and values.
Momma, you get to challenge your limiting mindsets (remember the above on unworthiness, overwhelm, disconnect, and guilt?) And, you get to design your life in a way that prioritizes everyone in your family having a space and an identity. It’s in your scope of control to build routines that allow your family to build in time for each of you to have a strong sense of identity.
How Coaching Can Help You Expand Your Mom Identity
At Postpartum Together, I (Chels here!) specialize in helping you find YOUR best motherhood. I’m sick of women playing the game of “shoulds” and trying to keep up with the latest expectations. I believe in a society led by women who know their FULL selves. I also know it’s hella hard to feel worthy of it. To make time for it. To live it out. And, to communicate this with your partner and support team.
This is where coaching comes in and if you’ve made it this far, chances are coaching would help you overcome and get to the next level. I offer both 1-on-1 and group coaching for women just like you. Book your free 15 min exploration call to see how I can help you get from WHO THE F AM I? to I AM EFFING OWNING THIS.