It's supposed to be the best time of our lives, but more than 50% of women suffer from an identity crisis after having a baby. In a recent Baby & Child story Louisa Kiernander explored this loss of self that seems to impact so many and why we don’t talk about it more.
But there’s also practical ways you can combat this feeling and strategies for rediscovering who you are now that your world has changed so profoundly. Dr Sarah Rasmi, psychologist, and Anna Yates, psychotherapist and hypnotherapist, share their tips:
1. Ditch the guilt
Dr Sarah says, "Mums often feel bad for taking time for themselves. But it's really important they do, for all the family. Studies show that when babies have a good bond with their fathers, they benefit hugely across all areas of their adult lives. Mothers suffering with identity loss can cling overzealously to their role as mother and, without meaning to, can leave the father on the outside. This impacts the father's self-esteem, the father-baby bond and the baby's future in terms of career, relationships and more." So ditch the guilt and go enjoy some time just being you. Go to the cinema, go get your nails done, go sit on the beach and do nothing, or anything else, knowing that your baby is benefiting from this time away from you as much as you are benefiting from your time away, too. Dr Sarah says, "Use the time to reflect on where you are in your life, where you want to be in the future and what you have to do to get there."
2. Be kind to yourself
Anna Yates says, "By neglecting your own needs and feelings, you leave yourself vulnerable to picking up negative, unhealthy coping mechanisms, in the form of overeating, smoking, drinking alcohol, obsessive social media updates and more. A large percentage of our clients are mums who, years down the line from their identity loss, come to us for help with losing weight, or quitting smoking... stopping their reliance on the unhealthy coping mechanism, which became a necessary crutch during the 'lost' moments of motherhood." If you recognise that you are self-medicating your identity loss with any of the above, think to yourself, what would be a better way to heal this pain?
3. Be realistic
Dr Sarah says, "If you decide that one of the ways to your new self is to rekindle an old hobby, or passion, or to start a new one, be realistic. You may have had an 'all or nothing' approach to life before, but maybe that doesn't work for you now. Maybe you don't need to be all-in to still get the benefits. Mothers will say that the reason they don't pursue their passions is because they don't have the time, but we make the time if we want to. Speak to your husband and make sure it is a family priority, while remaining realistic and flexible to your energy levels."
4. Speak up
Anna says, "By denying your real feelings, you are telling your subconscious mind that those feelings are shameful, or wrong. This causes much discomfort internally and a lot of negative self-talk. The fact that you feel them makes them valid and, therefore, worth voicing in a safe environment, meaning with someone you trust, or with a professional." Dr Sarah agrees, "Mums can feel embarrassed when they have spent the last nine months telling people they want to do it a certain way and they want to be a certain type of mother, and then they don't. Realise that there is no shame in this and recognise when you need support. If you can't get it from the people around you, seek out a professional. We are doing an injustice to ourselves if we don't get the support we need, because it means we can't be the version of ourselves that we want to be."
Photo by Jeremy Bishop for Unsplash