Dear Is This Normal,
Is it normal to feel like I haven’t been myself since I had kids? I’ve breastfed for almost 4 years straight, with just a 6 month gap in between, my mind is always on my kids, and I just feel like my body hasn’t been my own since I got pregnant. My poor husband tries to help and understand, but he can compartmentalize and is definitely not always “on.”
Signed, A Familiar Stranger
There’s this pervasive myth (one we all fall prey to at one point or another) that pregnancy and motherhood will feel completely and immediately natural and right, and that you’ll just slide it on like a well-worn pair of jeans and transition into this next phase of your life without so much as a second glance back at the life you had before. And in my experience, that’s just…not always the case. Is it ever the case? I’m not entirely sure, but I’ve talked to A LOT of moms, and I can tell you that every single one of them felt the same way you do at some point. What you are feeling is 100% normal, and you are not alone in feeling this way! “I don’t feel like myself anymore” is such a poignant and raw confession. In so many ways, you aren’t yourself anymore. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t someone.
For the last four years, you’ve given up your physical body to growing and nourishing babies. And for the last four years, your mind and heart have been hyper-focused on making sure these babies are loved, safe, secure, happy, and cared for. Raising kids takes over every single aspect of your life: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. There’s not one element of your personality and identity that isn’t changed! And not to downplay or minimize how much fathers’ lives also change after becoming a parent, but in my experience, this identity crisis is experienced almost exclusively by mothers. So you can have the most supportive partner in the world (and I am SO glad you have someone who is supportive!) but they can not and will likely never understand what it feels like to give up your own agency in order to develop someone else’s.
The thing I want you to understand is that trying to feel like “yourself”, meaning the pre-kids you, is probably a fruitless endeavor. You are no longer that person. But that is OK! Because you are this new person. This strong, amazing badass woman who has done the most awesome thing…TWICE. There comes a point when it’s time to cut the ties and stop trying to get back to the person you were before you had kids, and fully embrace the person you are now. It’s not going to happen all at once! It’s so disorienting when you don’t feel like yourself, I absolutely get that. But in trying to feel like the old you, you’re doing this new you a big disservice. Because this new person, this new YOU, is so worthy of your love and admiration.
Now, I will be the first to admit that it is a process—Rome wasn’t built in a day, mama! You need some time with yourself, because right now your identity is in flux. And you need some time away from being “on” to be able to accomplish this. Take yourself on a date! Buy yourself coffee, or a new book, or go see a movie. Let your partner hold down the fort on his own for a couple of hours while you go spend some time getting to know and understand this new person. Really take the time to appreciate who you are now, in the physical, mental, and emotional sense.
I know this is a weird stage in your life. Growth and change always feel strange while they’re happening. It’s OK to not feel like yourself, and to still be transitioning to a place where you are ready to accept that you are different now. This is all part of the journey, all the twists and turns and weird back alleys of motherhood. Give yourself time, and most importantly, give yourself grace while you settle into this new skin. Pretty soon, you’ll have that old well-worn pair of jeans feeling back again.
A Fellow Familiar Stranger,
Is This Normal