Motherhood and a person's identity

Motherhood and a person's identity

For many women who give birth, the word “mom” becomes part of their identity. But does it become their entire identity? Here are what some parents had to say about motherhood while balancing other responsibilities and trying to stay true to themselves.

A sudden shift.

Before I had kids, I had a host of identities: writer, runner, friend, yogi, self-proclaimed pop culturist. But when Maggie was born, my identity shifted overnight...Although I would never give up the life I have with my kids, as time has passed and they’ve grown up — and I’m not talking really grown up; I mean, like, grown up to be toddlers — I do find myself mourning the person I was before parenthood.” 

Rachel Bertsche for the New York Times

Appreciating little moments.

“I still have moments of missing the total freedom of movement I once had, but I can see the fruits of these cumulative daily tasks, each a minuscule gift I give my children, part of the much bigger gift of a good childhood. I wouldn’t say I love all of it, but I’ve found a perspective on it that gives me peace.”

Erin Zimmerman for The Cut

Feeling frustrated.

"I saw my friends and colleagues doing these amazing things that I felt I could do and do well — but instead, I was stuck, sitting with my butt losing muscle mass, covered in baby throw up. I had attributed motherhood to feelings of pure joy, but what I felt was a mix of anxiety, inequitable fear, and frustration."

Lex Brown-James in an interview with Shape.

Hold on to your hobbies.

“I was certainly causing my husband and our children to suffer, because I was miserable. I needed to add some happiness to our family ecosystem. And I needed to start with myself. I signed up for a drawing course at our community college. I started hiking several days a week. I made a commitment to meditate more and started a yoga class. I made myself a priority and reclaimed my relationship with myself. Deepening my interests outside the home was an act of inclusivity to all my different personas. All the versions of me were welcome and supported. My happiness brought joy to the whole family.”

Lesle J. Davis for the Washington Post

Talk about it more.

“What I’ve come to realise at a year postpartum is that this maternal ambivalence is almost impossible to talk about openly. As a society, we don’t have the language to describe the pain of becoming a mother. For somebody who uses words to give meaning and shape to things, I struggled to articulate why the transition into motherhood – matrescence – left me utterly cold...I love my son and I’m so pleased he’s part of our family, but I just can’t subscribe to the belief that my life is automatically better with him at the centre of it.”

Cathy Adams for The Independent.

The general consensus surrounding motherhood and identity is that it is extremely personal and ever-changing. The transition from “person” to “parent” happens suddenly, and oftentimes there is no time to self reflect. But as Cathy Adams explains, “Time is a healer.” It doesn’t heal all; however, it can lead to more perspective and understanding. The role of motherhood doesn’t have to become an entire identity, but rather a part of one.

For more resources, check out this list from Parents, as well as The Mothers Program and Women’s College Hospital

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