Photo by: Heather

Does Motherhood Equal Identity Loss?

Photo by: Heather

Who are you? Who am I? What collection of facts and figures makes up the upc code emblazoned on your soul that when scanned, reads: ‘likes to be read to, enjoys the color orange, keep away from harsh chemicals, may contain peanuts’? What are the things, the memories, the loves and hates that make up my “identity”? Is it my tendency to wonder and wander? Is it the stoner and artsy kids I hung out with in high school? Is it the fact that I prefer vinyl or that I’m a sucker for the holidays every year? Is it the way I love, or the memories of the way I’ve been loved? Is it the pain I’ve caused others or the pain I myself have endured?

I could make a list of “100 things about me” and it would say arbitrary things like “startles easily” or “believes that cream cheese icing makes everything better”. But I don’t know that those things have anything to do with me or me with them. They are liner notes. Indexed tips on how to manage me for long periods of time.

I am recently a mother for the second time. As I create the foundation for this little person to establish who and what she is in this life, I am faced daily with the question of my own personhood. For weeks I’ve been milk maker, soother, diaper changer and occasionally ‘lady who showers and smells nice’… I stress “occasionally” here.

I was already a mother when this one came along. So prior to a few weeks ago, part of my consumer friendly label read: lunch maker, wound kisser, soother, protector, clothes washer, and occasionally ‘lady who brings cupcakes to my class’. But as my new role emerges, all other things become cloudy and less integrated and I begin to wonder which of them still constitute ‘shades of Me’.

The thing about this that sucks so much is that it is a very lonely place. This happens to you and only you, while the people around you go about their usual lives without question as to how and if anything has changed for them. While I’m concreted to the couch or the rocking chair for 45 minutes at a time to feed a new baby, everyone else in my world cruises by. Off to play or live or reconnect with old friends or simply enjoy the Independence that comes with not being affected by a life altering event.

So I try to remember who and what the ingredients are for a well made ‘Me’. I scan the pages of things I’ve done, stuff I’ve written and people I’ve loved. Somewhere, is the combination of things that light the center of me. Somewhere is a complete list of nutritional value, warnings and tips for best consumption.

Misty is the Mama of two little girls, wishes she was better at gardening, fancies herself a writer and can be fairly innovative at times.

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Great post, Misty. I can totally relate as a mum of two. I think that's what you have to remember, as lonely as it can feel you are never truly alone in this. All mums go through an identity crisis and I'm not sure we ever truly recover, but making yourself up as you go along is part of being human, right?

I just wrote a post about the stuff I might have done before I became a mother...

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no offense, but I believe that you are thinking about yourself a bit too much- just do the best you can & when your children are older you will be you again... My husband is a Project Manager & provider before he thinks about himself- men/women- if you want to be good at what you do it becomes a part of you.....

First, congrats on the new baby...always a special time.

Next, let me assure you that I'm right there with you! My youngest (of 3) just turned 3, and I realized that they all need me less and less, so now I can start to think about me again, but who is this "me" now? Certainly not the carefree girl of 15-20 years ago; definately not the casual dater of 15 years ago; not the new mom hiding behind the adorable baby that I don't want to put down or let someone else hold (that was 8 years ago)...

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It finally came to me one day when I was wondering about who I was now after children. I was at the kids school and a student said "Hi Austin's mom!" and I replied "Hi dear!". I was known not only as MS. Merry but someone's mom as well. I ma part of their identity they are part of mine and that's what makes me who I am, my past experience's before my children and my experiences with them.....I am still one complicated, much to offer rally neat person, still...

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This really resonated with me, thanks for sharing. I think being a mom is only part of who we are, and if we continue to pursue our highest potential in all areas of life we will ultimately be better parents. I do not think that is self-centered, it is giving the gift of a whole and happy person to our children and partners.

My response for this is so long that I had to blog it to be able to respond completely.

I really appreciated this post. I am about to become a mother for the second time in a few weeks and am dreading that initial feeling that I have lost my place in the 'real world' only to find that I have found a new place in the very private world of a newborn and two year old - a world that doesn't include much more than the playroom and kitchen. This only helps to validate the feelings as normal and give hope, and reassurance, that the 'real world' will welcome ME back when ready.

hey parents and mommies,
just wanted to say i agree one hundred percent. I am a mother of only one however i have chosen to be a stay at home mom. I would not change this for anything but i feel along the way I have lost part of myself, not a huge issue just an identity crisis. I try to do something for myself daily even if it ijust picking up a book for ten minutes to have adult time. I say we do the best we can with what we have and hope that we succeed.

Thank you! I'm glad I'm not the only one that feels this way. I have an eleven year old, and just had another one a month ago.

Misty, you are alone. Although it feels like it right now, I believe all mothers go thru this, they just don't talk openly about it. I myself have struggled very deeply with this same question. My sons are 6 and 3 and it is only now starting to get a bit easier. Especially if you choose to stay at home full-time with your kids, they become your entire life, your "work" or "job" if you will.

I feel that our generation especially has struggled with this...

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exactly- thank you for describing the complicated emotions we feel as we dissolve as individuals and evolve into mothers. I am not a stay at home mom, although my new baby is with me as I run my own business and my 2 yr old goes to day care. There is still loneliness as my old identity fades, but also, the feeling that I'm not able to give my all to any single aspect of my life- work, love, children and definitely not my "self"...

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Being a mom doesn't take anything away from your identity. It adds some very beautiful facets to it. They might not seem beautiful at the time, but they are.

Let me tell you how much easier it will get when they are a little older. Its hard now because they are SO dependent on you. Pretty soon they will not need you as much and then afer that they will not WANT you as much. I remember being in your stage and it WAS difficult. My deepest regret is not appreciating it as much as I should have at the time. I wish now that I would have relaxed a little more and not dwelled on the difficulty of the job...

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I could have written this article. I have struggled to maintain some sort of "self" since having my daughter. She is amazing and wonderful. I adore watching her growth and how she looks at the world with new eyes. But sometimes, I just want to be alone, engrossed in a book or activity where I don't have to get up every 5 minutes to see what she has gotten into or smell the waft of an icky diaper!

Motherhood, what it gives to us and what we give to them.

Someone is right on when they made this post. All pre moms have some sort of an identity. Some aspects of who they are brings them peace and yet all of us have quirks or sorrows or weaknesses that we live with and that part of our identiy hovers around us at times and at other timess give us hope.

When you are a mother your identity is sucked out of you in those first months of nurturing. . It is inevitable...

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