Anybody else out there spend your entire life dreaming of becoming a mom? For as far back as I can remember, I looked forward to having babies. I had very vivid dreams of my life as a mom, and longed for the fulfillment of that dream. Even still, I had equally vivid dreams of other things in the midst of parenthood. While I never wanted a “career” in the conventional sort of way, I knew I wanted to “do something” with my life beyond being a mom. And if you are reading this and thinking that being a mom is doing something with your life, you are right! My point today isn’t that being a mom isn’t enough, or that it cannot be your identity. My point is that too many women lose their identity in motherhood, and it doesn’t have to happen.
You see, when I was a child, I loved all the babies. I wanted them all. I imagined my life as a mom, and I loved everything I saw. I wanted nothing more than to raise children. But I also saw so much more than that. I didn’t see myself as a mom who just stayed at home and cleaned the house all day… and I certainly didn’t see myself folding piles of laundry and ironing my husband’s work shirts all day every day (because that wouldn’t be a dream, it would be a nightmare).
I saw myself continuing to dream even after my dream of becoming a mom was fulfilled.
I saw myself continuing to be my own person rather than living through my children. And I never dreamed I would lose my identity in motherhood.
And while I had no understanding of the significance of that as a child, I can now see quite clearly. Since becoming a mom, I am so well aware of just how easy it is to forget about yourself. And there’s honestly a great deal of joy in that. To make sacrifices for your children is pure joy. The moment you lock eyes with your child there’s a knowing in your soul that you would do absolutely anything for them. And that’s a beautiful thing.
But that beauty is tainted when the sacrifices come at the expense of our own identity. Because being a mom may be part of our identity, but for each of us, there is so much more to who we are than being a mom.
Yes, that’s right, even if being a mom is the greatest joy you have ever experienced, there is still more to you.
So many of us mamas are also wives. Some of us are small business owners. Some are creative entrepreneurs. Some are also career women, working 8-5, doing things you genuinely love. And that does not mean you love your babies any less.
The point is—as women, we are complex beings, and our entire life identity cannot be summed up into one thing.
But the problem is, many of us forget all the unique things that make us who we are. And we don’t do it with hesitation or bitterness. Most of us let go of parts of ourselves with great joy. Because we sincerely believe that making our entire lives revolve around our children is good and right.
And while there is some truth to that when our babies are newborns, that’s not a lifelong reality.
When we lose our identity in motherhood, we actually set ourselves up for a great deal of pain and heartache. We may also set ourselves up for a great deal of confusion.
Why? Because our children will eventually grow up and move out. They may get married and have children. They may move across the country. And they may grow up to have completely different beliefs than us. And even if they stay in our town and don’t get married or have kids, they may still have a career that consumes their time and energy. They will have their own friends and their own social life.
They will become their own person with their own unique identity apart from us.
And while most of us would like to think that we could breeze through that transition like it’s no big deal, that’s not reality. Have you ever broken up with someone after eighteen years? (I hope not). When you create a version of yourself that is built solely upon the needs of another person, losing that is not easy.
And while having a child move away and become their own person is not the same as breaking up with someone, it can still be quite painful. But I believe it will be all the more painful for us as mamas if we have no life or identity beyond parenting our children.
I was recently talking to one of my friends who shared with me about her own experience with her mom. She said that her mom’s single greatest regret in life is losing her identity in motherhood. For her, having her kids move away and get married wasn’t just difficult—it was tragic. She realized that she had spent eighteen years being a mom, but had forgotten her own dreams, passions, desires, and goals.
She was angry or bitter with her kids. It was her choice.
But it took her years to become her own person again after neglecting to sow into herself.
And that’s all too common.
Mamas, don’t let that be your story. Don’t lose your identity in motherhood. Take time to focus on who you are. Remind yourself of the things you love and then make time for those things. Set goals for yourself. Give yourself opportunities. While it brings us great joy to make sacrifices for our children, the truth is, it’s okay for our children to make sacrifices for us sometimes as well.
Being a mom is the greatest gift, but it is not the only gift.
Pursue the things you love alongside loving the ones you raise.
Nadene van der Linden says
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. For many women loss of identity contributes to the development of PND. When we learn to intergrate our old and new self, we do better
Jen Enoch says
It’s taken me a few years, but I’m getting back on the me train. Starting to take care of myself again and realizing as I get older it’s more and more important. When I feel good, everyone around me benefits from it too.
Danielle @ A Sprinkle of Joy says
Thank you so much for writing this! Sometimes I do feel I’ve lost myself in motherhood. I mean don’t get me wrong, I love being a mom, but I am so much more.
Kelsey Kosztowny says
This was a great read and I really needed it right now. I’ve been facing so many challenges with finding myself and being more than just a mom. I love this.
We’ve just recently stopped breastfeeding and I’m starting to feel like myself again. For over a year, my entire life was scheduled around my baby’s need to eat. I totally let my own self go in order to nourish this tiny human. Now that we are past that, it’s like I’m finding myself all over again.