Dear Fellow Mumma,
You might be reading this blog as a mumma, an expecting mumma, or someone you know is mumma. But regardless, this months blog is a hot topic and one I have personally experienced when I had Archer.
Motherhood is an incredible adventure, with a whirlwind of emotions, from overwhelming joy to sleepless nights and, sometimes, a sense of losing yourself in the process. It's entirely normal to grapple with an identity crisis as you transition into this new role, but remember, you're not alone.
Before I had Archer in 2017, I was climbing the corporate ladder, socialising most weekends and living life to the max with a #yolo attitude. Once he came along, I experienced new joys, but I was also very confused. The person I had known and become as an adult was no longer relevant or needed. I had a new set of responsibilities, and it didn’t involve polishing off a margarita or two on a Saturday afternoon.
In fact, many Australian mothers share similar feelings. Who am I now? What will my life look like? How can I have fun again? In this months blog, I’m here to explore this topic and offer practical tips to help you manage and embrace this transformative phase.
The Australian Perspective on Motherhood and Identity Crisis
Before we delve into the nitty-gritty of managing an identity crisis as a new mum, let's take a moment to understand the Australian context and the experiences of mothers across the nation.
- According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), in 2020, there were approximately 300,000 births in Australia1.
- A study conducted by PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) revealed that up to 1 in 7 new mothers and 1 in 10 new fathers in Australia experience postnatal depression2.
- Beyond Blue, a mental health organisation in Australia, reports that changes in identity and a sense of loss are common among new parents, affecting their mental well-being3.
These statistics underline the significance of the identity crisis phenomenon among new mothers in Australia. But fret not, because understanding is the first step towards coping and overcoming this challenging phase.
The Identity Crisis: What It Feels Like
Picture this: You've just given birth to your beautiful baby, and while you're thrilled to be a mum, you can't shake the feeling that you've somehow lost the essence of who you were before motherhood. Your life once revolved around your career, social outings, and personal interests, but now it seems like you're solely defined by the role of a mother.
This, my dear friend, is the identity crisis—a clash between your pre-motherhood self and the all-consuming responsibilities of being a parent. It's a rollercoaster of emotions and self-doubt that can be both mentally and emotionally draining.
Why It Happens
Understanding why identity crisis occurs can help you navigate it more effectively. Being truly aware of the changes around you can help you feel more at ease and when triggered, remind you that this is part of your motherhood journey. For me, I felt more empowered and was reminded that I always had a choice, that I was not alone. These factors may seem obvious, but it’s important to remind yourself of them:
- Transition into a New Role: Like anything new, there’s always an adjustment period. Becoming a mother is a profound life change, often accompanied by a shift in priorities and responsibilities. It's natural to feel a sense of loss as you adjust to your new normal and daily routine4.
- Societal Expectations: Society often places unrealistic expectations on mothers, projecting an image of the 'perfect' mum who effortlessly balances work, family, and personal life. These expectations can intensify feelings of inadequacy5.
- Changes in Routine: The disruptions to your daily routine—sleepless nights, feeding schedules, and constant caregiving—can make it challenging to engage in activities that once defined you6. Even the simple tasks like showering before you leave the house can feel like such an effort and something that is scheduled around naptime.
- Physical Changes: Your body undergoes significant changes during pregnancy and postpartum. These changes can impact your self-image and contribute to feelings of identity loss7.
- Lack of Me-Time: It's common for new mothers to neglect self-care and 'me-time' as they prioritize their baby's needs. And when we’re not tending to our tiny human, we’re usually using those precious 30 minutes to clean the house, prepare dinner or wash our hair! This can leave you feeling disconnected from your pre-motherhood self8.
Now that we've explored the 'why,' let's move on to the 'how'—how to manage and embrace this identity crisis.
Embracing Your New Identity: Tips for Managing the Crisis
- Self-Reflection: Take some time for gentle kindness towards yourself and really acknowledge what you’ve achieved, you birthed another human for crying out loud, that’s huge! Journaling can be a powerful tool for expressing your thoughts and emotions and make sure to put it all in there so it’s out of your head. Write down everything you feel and think, what defines you beyond motherhood and set personal goals. It doesn’t have to be shared and I know if you asked any parent, there would definitely be days when they regret their decision to come off birth control.
- Seek Support: Don't hesitate to lean on your support network. Reach out to friends, family, or join local mother's groups. Sharing experiences and advice can provide a sense of belonging. Having a friend over for a few hours or even overnight can also help to share the cuddles, giving your arms a much needed break.
- Me-Time Matters: Prioritize self-care. Allocate a small portion of your day to engage in activities you love. Even a short walk, a chapter of your favourite book, or a soothing bath can work wonders.
- Communicate with Your Partner: Open communication with your partner is essential. Share your feelings, expectations, and concerns. Encourage them to take an active role in parenting and for heavens sake, let them work out their style of parenting too. Partners can be our saving grace and allowing space for them too is just as important.
- Set Realistic Expectations: Understand that it's impossible to be a 'perfect' mother. Set realistic expectations for yourself and acknowledge that it's okay to ask for help when needed.
- Explore New Hobbies: Use this phase as an opportunity to discover new interests. Sign up for a class, pick up a hobby, or explore creative outlets that align with your passions. You don’t need to leave the house, there is so much on YouTube that you could pick up a new skill.
- Professional Help: If your feelings of identity crisis persist and become overwhelming, consider seeking professional help. Therapy or counselling can provide valuable support so speak with your doctor.
Dear amazing mum,
Remember, you are not defined by a single role. You are a mosaic of experiences, emotions, and talents that make you unique. Embracing your new identity as a mother doesn't mean giving up your old self—it means evolving and growing into a stronger, more multifaceted version of yourself.
In Australia, countless mothers have walked this path before you, and many are walking it alongside you right now. Together, we can share our experiences, lend a helping hand, and offer the support and understanding every mum deserves. Embrace the journey, treasure the moments, and rediscover the incredible woman you are, both inside and out.
With love and solidarity,
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), "Births, Australia, 2020," 2021. ↩
- PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia), "Facts & Stats," https://www.panda.org.au/about/postnatal-depression/facts-and-stats ↩
- Beyond Blue, "Becoming a Parent," https://www.beyondblue.org.au/personal-best/pregnancy-and-new-parents/becoming-a-parent ↩
- American Psychological Association, "Identity Crisis: Who Am I?" https://www.apa.org/topics/identity ↩
- Psychology Today, "The New Mom Identity Crisis," https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/living-single/201904/the-new-mom-identity-crisis ↩
- The Guardian, "Why Aren't New Mothers Being Told About the Horrors of Childbirth?" https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/14/childbirth-motherhood-identity-midwives ↩
- Healthline, "How Pregnancy Changes Your Body," https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/how-pregnancy-changes-your-body ↩
- Psychology Today, "Balancing Motherhood and Personal Identity," https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/balanced/201701/balancing-motherhood-and-personal-identity ↩