More than a mother: How to start feeling like yourself again
Becoming a mother is transformative in every sense of the word.
For nine months you see your body change in ways that feel alien and unfathomable, you adjust your diet ditching delicious sushi, soft cheese and, even more devastatingly, wine for protein and a host of supplements, you stop fitting into your jeans, heels are out of the question (you’ve not seen your feet in months…), nothing feels normal.
There’s a lot of pressure for mums to ‘snap back’. To fit into that old pair of jeans, to slide back into their old life as if nothing has changed but, the reality is, everything has changed. For the first time your idea of who you are hinges on who you are to someone else: you are somebody’s mother.
The pressure to snap back by a certain point is beyond unhelpful and is determined by so many different factors from birth experience, potential trauma, to ongoing health issues, the amount of support you’re able to draw from your community and importantly, ladies, how much sleep you’re able to get.
The problem with the rhetoric of getting ‘back’ to normal is that your life will never be as it was before your life is different now, you’ve got the joy and responsibility of a child – that changes you. Together it’s up to you to create a new normal which will hopefully help you to feel like yourself again.
Here are our top three tips to help you create a new normal and feel like yourself as a mother.
1) Have something That Makes You Feel Grown Up
As counterintuitive as it may seem, becoming a parent (an undoubtedly grown up thing to do) might make you feel like a child yourself. We play many roles in our lives: child, sibling, friend, partner but no shift is as significant as the shift to the role of parent.
It is completely life altering and it can be easy to lose yourself in your kids life and lose touch with the things that made you you before you were someone’s parent. You can lose yourself, lose your identity in your children.
It’s incredibly common to feel this way although for any parent with a newborn it can seem lonely, if you’re looking for some reassurance you can check out Me After You, an amazing podcast from Laura Byrne and the team at MamaMia. This great resource aims to help new parents struggling with the question: who am I now that I am somebody’s parent?
When you’re losing yourself in your child’s life you should cling to the things that make you feel like you, like you’re a grown up with your own interests. Invest in your hobbies, passion projects, making time to socialise with friends and family.
Remember you’ll never be exactly who you were before but you can try and keep as much as yourself and your interests as possible and find ways to incorporate them into your new life as a parent.
2) Find time for yourself
When your kids are young they will follow you everywhere – into the bathroom, into bed, anywhere and we do mean anywhere. They’re like an echo, peppering you with questions like do sheep and goats understand each other, which green is the greenest, where do all the balloons go when you let go of them.
It’s so important for your own sanity to get some time to yourself to breathe, have an adult conversation, read a book, do some yoga, eat a proper meal. Silence that mum guilt, remember we’ve all been there, and take some time to just be yourself – alone!
3) Make it “work”
There’s no denying that parenting is a full time job. You’re likely finding the entire thing more exhausting than you ever found your pre-baby 9-5 gig.
Kids are new to this planet which means they tend to be supernaturally inexhaustible. You can’t even turn your back for a minute without them getting into a box of toys, trying to pull a bag of flour off your counter or helpfully unpacking your kitchen cupboards by pulling everything out because, in your kids mind, surely you didn’t mean to waste this perfectly good cubby house by using it to store tupperware.
All in all, running around after a toddler can be crazy-making.
One thing that can help you to feel like a grown up again, rather than a slave to a crazed toddler is, taking some time to do something that will help you get excited about the career you’ll be returning to.
Whether or not you worked before you had kids – enrolling in online courses is a great way to flex a different part of your mind and to gain a qualification at your own pace and around your own schedule (or rather your child’s schedule).
Being a parent is the single greatest gig there is, however, it’s important to remember that you are your own person and that you make time for yourself, your interests and your passions. It will help you keep your head and ultimately if you’re calm and personally fulfilled you’ll be a better parent.
Best of luck. Remember, we’re all in this together.