How to deal with the loss of identity that comes with motherhood

Motherhood is an incredible life-changing experience, yet many women are unprepared for the change to their identity that occurs during the postpartum period. Often, they can feel alone in their experience as they may feel shame around admitting that motherhood was not what they expected. Common phrases I hear are:

  • I miss my pre baby life
  • I don’t feel completely satisfied by motherhood
  • I have no idea who I am outside of being a Mum 
  • I feel like I’m drowning in motherhood and have no time for me
  • I expected motherhood to be different 

If a mother feels alone in her experience, she may be too afraid to reach out for help for fear of being judged. If this sounds like you, I want you to know you are not alone as this is a common experience for new mothers.

Let’s take a look at why this occurs and what you can do to regain your sense of self in motherhood.

Why it occurs

As you entered motherhood you began a developmental transition called matrescence. Matrescence involves the complete shift in your identity where every aspect of your life will begin to change. With change can come resistance and fear because we are unsure of what lies ahead. 

Our minds like to keep us safe by repeating patterns and cycles that feel familiar. Having a baby disrupts this, so you may experience an internal tug of war as you try to hold onto the woman you once were, but feel like you’re failing in the process because you can’t do things the way you did before.

This experience can be really confusing and overwhelming and it’s not uncommon for women to question whether they are experiencing postpartum depression as they can often feel sad, angry, resentful, and confused because they believe motherhood shouldn’t feel this way. 

If you have been experiencing difficult thoughts and feelings that are preventing you from going about your daily activities and they have lasted for 2 weeks or more, please speak to your GP and request a mental health assessment. Read more about understanding the difference here. 

Regaining your sense of self after baby

Now that we understand that experiencing a loss of your sense of self is a normal part of your motherhood transition, let’s look at how you can begin to start finding yourself in motherhood.

Get curious about your values 

Our values are what we want to stand for in life and the qualities we want to embody (they shouldn’t be confused with goals – something you obtain or achieve like buying a house or getting a promotion) and they make up a large portion of our sense of self. In my work as a motherhood coach, I focus a lot on helping my clients identify and live by their values in order to create a fulfilling life and motherhood experience. 

Here are three questions you can ask yourself to identify what’s most important to you in this new season of your life:

  • What are the most important things to me right now? (e.g. family, work, creativity, self-care, connection, community, human rights, security, education)
  • What qualities do I want to embody as a woman, mother, and partner? (e.g. self improvement, kindness, authenticity, honesty, assertiveness) 
  • How do I want my child to describe me when they’re older? (e.g. driven, warm, knowledgeable, fair, loving, inspiring

As you answer the above, ask yourself how you can incorporate these values into your daily life.

Here are some examples: 

  • If you value self-improvement, you could hire a coach to help you gain a deeper understanding of who you are. 
  • If you value being a loving partner, you could send an appreciation message to your partner during the day. 
  • If you value being knowledgeable, you could download a book to read while you nurse your baby instead of scrolling on social media. 

Finally, you’re not lost, you’re just evolving

Though it may not feel like it right now, you’re in the midst of a really beautiful, life-altering transition. YOU are still in there, you’re not lost, you’re not gone, you’re just evolving. It’s time to drop the struggle of fighting to get back to who you once were, embrace motherhood and get to know this incredible woman who is emerging.

Be kind to yourself during this transition and remember that just as you’re getting to know your new baby, you will need to get to know this version of you and I bet she’s pretty incredible. 

If you’re looking for support in your motherhood journey as you begin Finding You, please visit www.findingyoupdc.com.au to find out how I can help you navigate your journey through matrescence. 

Got questions? Connect with Courtney via the links below and don’t forget to follow along on Social Media too!!