Dear Is This Normal,
My husband says I’ve become a different person since becoming a mom, that he’s last on my priority list. I try to justify it by saying I have three boys, all of which are not old enough to take care of themselves, but he is so I shouldn’t have to worry about him too since I also work full time. I am a different person now though, I have to worry about how my kids will turn out, if I’m doing enough for them, or am I doing too much for them. I’m constantly feeling like an awesome mom and then next second I’m a failure. I know I’m not the same person I was before I became a mom, but is it normal to feel like I have no idea who I am as a person anymore?!? My identity is my kids’ mom, but outside of that I have no clue…does anyone else feel this way? How do I remain my kids mom, my husband’s wife, but then also have some left over for me?
A Changed Woman
Dear Changed Woman,
Yes, you are 100% a different woman now. There’s no other way to slice it! As humans we are constantly growing and changing—we’re not the same people we were at the age of 15, or 25, or 35. But the evolution that begins with motherhood is extraordinary. That change encompasses every aspect of your life and who you are/were as a person. And because it’s such a monumental change, the adjustment to motherhood and the rediscovery of your old self takes time. It’s so normal to not know who YOU are anymore, after completely changing yourself in order to be their mom. I think we all feel this way at one point or another, and some of us are still trying to get to know the person we’ve become.
As you navigate your ever-evolving identity, try to ditch the “out with the old, in with the new” mentality. There is room in your life, and yourself, for both versions of you. The experts at The Motherhood Center of New York, who provide supportive services for new and expecting moms, focus on the idea of integration. It’s not so much about leaving your old self behind and focusing on who you are now; rather, it’s important to honor your past self and understand the way that she informs your present self, after all, your collective experience has made you into the mom and person you are today. You are one in the same, just on very different trajectories.
We can’t go back in time, and we can’t ever go back to who we were before we became mothers. You can’t unring that bell, as they say. But, as The Motherhood Center says, what you’ve described is so very common, and we all (at one time or another and in one way or another) go through this same process. And it IS a process. It’s so important—maybe the MOST important—that you are patient with yourself, and that your loved ones give you space and patience to figure this out, too.
Talk to your husband about what you both feel is missing in your relationship, and take the time to reintroduce yourselves to one another (which sounds weird, since you’re married). Set aside some time for just the two of you, and get to know each other again. Think back to some of things YOU enjoyed pre-kids, and try to add them back into your new life where they fit. If you used to read a lot, join a small book club and give yourself that outlet. Miss going to the gym? Find an hour or two in your week, early in the morning or after the boys have gone to bed, and get back to what made you feel centered. There is room in your new life for the old you and the new you and your boys and your husband. Give yourself time to see how all those pieces fit, and don’t feel guilty about reclaiming some of the identity you lost in the last few years. You may be a mom and a wife, but you are still a woman and your own person, and all of those things will meld together.