I think a lot of parents will agree that at some point during parenthood, they have a period where they lose their sense of self. Where you feel you become “just” mom, dad, bubba, pare, or whatever your title is. You feel like the person you were, your job, your friends, and your identity all got put on the back burner and you don’t fully recognize who you have become.
Maybe this is more common for a parent who stays at home, or maybe parents who don’t have much outside support. But I found myself here. Due to the events of the last three years (and still ongoing), and the difficulty in finding and affording childcare, I found myself finally losing that last piece that felt like “me”. I had to significantly cut back on the hours I worked and become a stay-at-home mom.
Do not get me wrong, I love being a Mom! I love being home with my kids and not missing out on things, and watching them grow and learn.
Partially due to the isolation that most people felt in that time frame, and the fact that my own family lives in different states, I felt very alone. Every day, all day, I was with my kids. I never got a break until they went to bed. Even my husband seemed to only identify me as “Mom” and no longer his wife, or the woman he met years ago. It didn’t help that I had also been suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety since the birth of my youngest.
One day, I followed a parenting coach on Instagram, who had just started up his business. He messaged me, and we chatted for a bit, and he asked me if I had ever taken the time to grieve my former life, before kids. And then welcome the new life I have. That didn’t mean completely forgetting about my life before the kids, but that it was okay to be sad about losing friendships, or not being able to go do things I enjoyed as often as before.
At some point, you do need closure from that chapter of your life and you need to welcome the new chapter.
Writing a list of the 50 things I want to do in my life helped me, but I still didn’t feel “myself”. It took some more significant events, which will likely be topics for another day, to finally push me to make real-time for myself, take time to grieve, and make some goals.
Here are some things I have done in my parenthood journey to help rediscover who I am:
Finding my purpose outside of the family
Before kids, I was a super workaholic, but still would take a few weeks a year to either road trip somewhere fun, or go backpacking for a few days. So, after I grieved that life, I felt better, but I needed to find things that were just as fulfilling to me (being a mom is fulfilling, but in a different way). I still work as a paramedic part-time, but now I also work as a substitute teacher for our school district. These two jobs helped me find my purpose and allow for a flexible schedule to work around school and sports and whatever things the kids have going on.
Finding my hobbies
So, going backpacking isn’t really in the cards with a 3-year-old and 5-year-old. But I needed to find a hobby that could be done on a flexible schedule. I often go for walks when the weather allows, and I started to get into crafting. I haven’t found exactly what I love to do, but I’ve dusted off the old sewing machine and stitched up some fun things. It may take me 3 weeks to get one shirt done, but it has become my happy place.
Getting “me time” without the family
I used to (and sometimes still do) feel guilty doing anything without the kids. Even when it’s not a kid-friendly event, I would feel like I should be home with them… even if they were asleep. But then I started meeting up with a couple of mom friends after bedtime. I felt less guilty if the kids were sleeping, and Dad was home if they needed anything. Now there is still a little guilt, but we don’t always wait for bedtime to get together, and we make it a somewhat regular occurrence.
If you are truly struggling, get some help
There was finally a turning point for me where I realized I needed to care for myself and my mental health. I had been in a mom support group for a while. It helped, but it just wasn’t what I needed. I was struggling, and I wasn’t letting on that I was. I didn’t know how to ask others for help or advice. But in my pursuit to find myself, while still being the best mom I could be, I felt it was time to find a therapist. Parenthood can be hard, and this was a great decision for me. Since starting my sessions, I have noticed positive changes in my mood, and my relationship with my husband.
These may not be the only answers, and I may not be my old self, but I feel like a newer, better version of that person. I can still get very overwhelmed being Mom, but I have a much healthier balance of being myself, being a mom, and being a partner.