Becoming a mother changes who you are profoundly. But the mere act of becoming a mom isn’t the end of the changes. With each stage that changes a child, the mother changes too. Your role changes, maybe only slightly, but it can be enough to make you feel lost again.
From the day they’re placed in our arms to the day they move out and have a life all their own, there are many places along the motherhood path where you can end up veering off and losing who you are. This can be especially true if you tend to identify mostly, or even solely, as a mother.
There needs to be more to you than just being a mom. There needs to be a part of you that is just for you — not your kids, or a partner, or friends, or anyone but you. But when you’re caught up in parenting, it’s not always easy to take a step back and find that part.
That’s where these questions come in. Take some time to think about them, journal on them, and see what comes up.
What did you base your identity on pre-kids?
Being a mom is a huge part of any mother’s identity. But often, it is so big that it shrinks down other parts of our identity or replaces them entirely. How did you decide your identity before kids?
Was it based on being someone’s wife or girlfriend? A career? A passion? Did you base it on qualities or traits you had that you’re not as in touch with these days?
Did you even know who you were pre-kids? Some moms, upon trying to figure out what they based their identity on, realize that they actually feel like they never really knew who they were. For them, Mom was the first identity they ever really felt they had.
Whether Mom was your first identity or you come up with others, it’s all okay. The point isn’t to feel embarrassed, guilty, or frustrated. It’s just to see what you might have dropped along the way that you want to pick back up.
What changes, other than having kids, contributed to your loss of identity?
Obviously, the biggest change that contributed to your loss of identity was having the kids. But other things might have contributed too. Getting divorced, giving up or losing a job, the loss of a parent, friendships that fractured or disintegrated, and so many other things can also make you feel like you’ve lost who you are.
And if several of these things happened all at once, or even over a period of time, it can really shake your identity.
But figuring out what other changes caused you to feel you’d lost your identity can help you figure out how to get it back. When you realize that quitting your job to become a stay-at-home mom made you feel lost, you can acknowledge that you’d rather be a working mom.
What about the other changes that aren’t so easy to reverse? Understanding your divorce or the passing of a parent made you feel as though you’d lost your identity can give you a starting point from which to explore what you can do to reconnect with or create a new identity.
How much are you prioritizing everyone or everything else over yourself?
We moms have a tendency to want to put everything and everyone else ahead of ourselves. We want to make sure our children’s needs are met because they’re kids and need us to do that for them. We want to be the best employee or business owner possible because we rely on that income to support our kids. We want to be a good friend and that means helping out when they need us.
But if you’re spending all your time putting everyone and everything else ahead of yourself, it’s no wonder you don’t know who you are other than a mom! Your own needs and wants need to come first now and then.
Take some time to honestly assess your priority list, who and what is on it, and where you are on it.
More importantly, remember that priorities can and should be fluid. Be willing to adjust and adapt that priority list to suit the situation — including putting yourself at the top of it at least sometimes. Regardless of your children’s ages and what else is happening in your world, you deserve and need to come first at least occasionally.
What outlets (creative, physical, etc.) make you feel like yourself again?
I remember trying a new creative activity one day and feeling this flood of how I used to feel before I had kids. The same confidence, sense of humor, lightness of responsibility, it all just flooded back. I literally felt like I was 20 again.
We all have different outlets we can explore: creative ones like writing or painting, physical ones like yoga or running, emotional ones like journaling or therapy. And when we try these different outlets, we often find a few that make us feel like who we once were.
Those are the outlets you’ll want to keep using. Those outlets will help you reconnect with your former self and tap into those things you feel are missing right now.
But don’t limit yourself just to those outlets you’ve done in the past. Try new things too. Sometimes it’s the new things you’ll try that will give you the strongest connection to your old identity.
How can you connect with your inner and higher self?
As moms, we spend a lot of time focusing our energy and attention outward. We’re taking care of the kids, getting work done, paying bills, nurturing relationships with others. And all this energy and attention being sent out means we can feel disconnected from our inner and higher self.
So how can you connect with that inner and higher self? There are plenty of options including meditation, journaling, art practices, thought exercises and more.
Start by brainstorming all the things you could do to connect. Don’t rule anything out yet. Allow yourself as many options as you can think of so you have plenty to try and see what happens.
Then as you begin trying the options, you can rule out the ones that don’t work and keep the ones that do. But be fair to yourself and give each option at least two tries before you conclude that it didn’t work — preferably more than just two.
What new life goal or life purpose can you set for yourself?
I got pregnant at 21. Until that point, my entire life goal had been becoming a mom. I wanted to be a mom more than anything else in the world. This meant that my dating and relationships had been in pursuit of that goal. It meant that working was something I did because I had to, not because I wanted to.
And once I became a mom, I felt like I’d lost my identity because I had nothing to pursue anymore. I was a mom. Just a mom. And as much as I love my sons, that wasn’t enough.
Whether this is true for you as well or you simply realize that you don’t currently have another goal or purpose outside of motherhood, setting a new life goal or life purpose can help you reconnect with or create your identity.
Think about your hobbies, passions, and other goals you’ve set for yourself in the past. What else do you want to do with your life other than raise your children? Maybe there’s a charity you can get involved with, a business you want to create, or something else that sparks excitement in you.
In what ways are you evolving?
Sometimes the problem isn’t that we’ve lost our identity. Sometimes the problem is that we’re evolving and we’re trying too hard to hold on to an identity that no longer fits. We feel lost because we’re trying to remain someone we’re not anymore.
And sometimes our evolution is so subtle that we don’t always recognize it until we actively look for it. So take some time to look at your life — past, present, and future.
Are you evolving? In what ways? How does this evolution change who you are? How does it change who you want to be?
How does your evolution make you uncomfortable? And how can you become more comfortable with it?
Life and motherhood are both constantly full of change. If you’re not prepared for it, these changes can knock you off your feet and make you feel like you’ve lost who you are. But with a little introspection and time, you can get back on your feet and reconnect with who you are.
And if you’ve outgrown who you once were, that same introspection and time can help you get to know the new you.
Wendy Miller is a Single Mom Coach & meditation teacher. She wants to help other single moms find the love & happiness they seek, including and going beyond romantic love. She lives in Florida with her two sons, where she homeschools while solo parenting, while surrounded by what feels like a zooful of animals.
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