When someone becomes a new parent, it is common for them to feel like they've lost their identity. It makes sense. We gain a whole knew identity of parent and in the process our entire lives are completely changed, and most of these changes dramatically affect the areas of our lives where we had always gained a sense of self. This can leave questioning who we even are anymore.
I feel very lucky that I haven’t had extended periods of time with this type of existential crisis, but that hasn’t come easily. It has been a team effort between my family and me. Before having my baby, I felt like I knew who Abby was and I liked her. After having my baby, if I felt like parts of myself that I thought were essential to my being were slipping away, I would recognize it and try to find a way to not lose it.
Essentially, to not completely lose yourself after having a baby you need to first recognize a few non-negotiables that make you you. Then prioritize them and ask for help in prioritizing them when needed. Here are a few examples from my life:
I LOVE to run. I know, I know, but I just genuinely love it. I love how I feel afterwards, but I also love the challenge during a run, and just being outside. I basically had to stop when I was pregnant because I would get so nauseous, and it was devastating. As soon as I was cleared to run, I made it a priority. My husband was made aware that this is a priority for me, and if I don’t mention going on a run, he does. It may be because I get grumpy if I don’t get my workout in, but it’s more likely that we value what makes each other happy (outside of our little family). He loves to work in the yard (specifically he is way into trees right now) and ride his bike. I’ll do the same thing for him and say, “Hey, baby girl and I are going to go do xyz. Why don’t you plant a tree or ride your bike?”
Making sure you have someone to partner with is key. Not only would it be impossible to do some hobbies with a little one trailing behind, but they are also there to make sure you are still doing what you love and not just vegging on the couch. Although, I do love to veg on the couch--another hobby of mine.
Some amazing women knew they wanted to be a mother from the time they were very little and that is where they pictured themselves when they were older. I can’t say I never wanted to be a mother, but I never daydreamed about it or talked about it. I knew I wanted to be a mother eventually, but my main goal was my education and finding a job I loved.
I was a different child and would literally make up out of my own volition research projects (I’m not kidding you) to do, book reports to read and write, essays to compose, or presentations to present. A love of learning has always been a deeply rooted trait that makes me who I am. So, although I majored in aviation and dance for a time, I quickly realized I wanted to teach. Every literature class and education class I took filled me with energy. I was stoked to wake up in the mornings and go to school. Ask my husband how sad I was to graduate because I was going to miss going to school (my high school friends are laughing because the exact opposite was the case for those three years). Even though I was sad, I was also ready to turn my passion into a career. I got my dream job teaching high school and advising cheer just before I graduated. When they called to hire me, I was at the gym and I may or may not have cried a little on the stair stepper because I could not contain how happy I was. I am pleased to say my love of learning and passion to teach English didn’t dwindle even with my classroom full of grumpy teenagers.
When I became pregnant I knew I couldn’t lose this part of me. I would have done whatever was necessary to make sure I could still work. I was nervous and worried how and who could watch my six week old daughter, but we figured it out. I’m lucky and have an amazing family and bosses that make it possible for me to work and be a mom. I know this isn’t the case for everyone, but if your career is something you are passionate about and find identity in don’t give it up without a fight.
This one is huge for most people, I would assume. When you have a baby it is very easy to stay inside your little bubble, not leave your house (because getting the diaper bag ready is such a pain and you’re exhausted), and not reach out to people (because once again you’re exhausted and just can’t today). Some days you need this. For real, have a jammie day and don’t feel bad about it. If one day turns into several days, though, there could be something else behind those symptoms/behaviors and should talk to a healthcare professional about postpartum depression.
Making sure you make and keep a support group is key to keeping your sanity, but also your identity. Even though you can no longer stay out all night with your friends, go on spontaneous couple date nights/trips, or even go to the movies doesn’t mean you have to cut off your friends or partner. I was really bad at this at first. My husband would want to go out with his friends and I would get so bugged because I wanted to spend time with him and felt overwhelmed with our new baby. On the flip-side, I still wanted to go out with my friends, but since I would get mad at him I would feel bad going out because how hypocritical. We went to counseling and learned how important our adult friendships are and that we need to support each other in those friendships. We also learned to be better communicators and planners. Of course I would get mad if he told me an hour before that he was going to a friend’s to watch a game--especially if I was expecting (expecting not communicating) us to hang out that night. After that we became much better planners/communicators. We now see our friends frequently throughout the month, make plans to do things as a couple, and I don’t have (as many) expectations without communicating with them first.
It’s inevitable. We are not going to be the same people after we have children. We can only hope that our babies make us more selfless, grateful, and just plain better human beings, but it would be a shame to lose ourselves completely. When prioritizing your beautiful family don’t forget that you too are a part of it.
For more parenting tips go to babycubby.com.