How to Get Your Identity Back Post-Parenthood
As one of my favorite Taylor Swift lyrics says, “Have you heard? I can reclaim the land.” While motherhood is not the subject matter of her song, I hear that powerful call to arms as a nod to the slow and steady way that many of us sacrifice wholly, and in doing so, lose ourselves inside of motherhood.
I tell my own daughters frequently, “You are responsible for your own happiness. Don’t ever let that be up to someone else.” As is so often the case in parenthood, I find that I need to take my own advice.
And so, if you—like many of us—hit a season where you miss sparkling, I am sharing a few tips I’ve learned along the way on how to “still make the whole place, including your own heart, shimmer.”
Five Tips on Reclaiming your Identity
- Maintain non-kid hobbies, activities and your own sense of purpose. This is especially true for stay-at-home moms who do not have the luxury of getting away to an office. Nurture your passions regularly. It is important to achieve balance and nurture your whole self; physically, spiritually and emotionally.
- Be vulnerable and open up to friends about all aspects of your life. In doing so, your conversations will have so much more depth and meaning. These conversations need not always be about the kids. In fact, make sure they are not. Share about your marriage, your personal joys and struggles, your in-laws, your boss.
- Remember you do not have to lose yourself when you become a mom. You just become a deeper, richer, more diverse version of you. Children, partners and families bring us so much joy. It is true. But, remember that true contentment must come from within.
- Do not make it all about the kids all the time. Do not only go to the restaurants where THEY like to eat. Do not only listen to their music in the car. Do not let them interrupt your conversations or demand that you entertain them all day. It is not healthy for them to be entitled to everything they want at the snap of a finger anyway.
- Take care of other important relationships. Prioritize your spouse and regular date nights with them. Doing that consistently is not only a great investment in your marriage, it is also a great model for your children of the time, energy and dedication it takes to maintain a healthy partnership.
While no psychologist, parenting expert or partner can pinpoint exactly when it happens, almost every mother feels a loss of identity somewhere along the journey. One day she realizes that everything is different. She is different.
And while this may be an unavoidable, if painful, component of the transition, one critical thing to remember is exactly that: it is a transition between chapters. Yes, you will be their mother for the rest of your life. But that cannot and will not be your primary identity forever. One day they will spread their wings, and adjusting to an empty nest will be easier if you insist on holding on to a piece of yourself along the way.