Photo by: Herr Bert

Identity Crisis

Photo by: Herr Bert

We spend our lives reinventing ourselves. As a baby, you first learn your name. When you’re a child you identify yourself as “Daughter”, “Sister”, “Student” and “Friend”. As a young adult your beliefs and your occupations lead the way in helping you develop a sense of self – “Christian”, “Graphic Designer”, “Republican”, “Volunteer”. Getting married gives you the biggest identity change yet – “Wife”. It’s such a radical shift that most women change their name, the name you were born with that first defined you. With this new phase, come expectations from yourself and your spouse as to how you will develop into this role. It was a very difficult time for me. I struggled with how to incorporate the elements from my parents’ marriage that I wanted to emulate with the contrast of my reality as well as what I imagined my husband expected from me. I finally got a good grasp of that piece of my life when the next identity change happened – becoming a mother. And talk about a transformation!

I LOVE being a mom. It’s the most incredible blessing – full of joy, fear, wonder, frustration. It’s made me a better wife, a better worker (ok, except when I’ve been sleep deprived), a better person in general. It has truly changed my identity. My lifestyle changed quite a bit when I got married, but it is much different now. I used to go to happy hour, work late, sleep in on the weekends, take spontaneous trips out of town. When we had our first daughter, I initially felt a little nostalgic when friends would make last minute plans to go to dinner and I would have to decline, but as time went on, it bothered me less. It’s not like I wasn’t still doing fun things without my family (heaven knows I need to have some time away to regroup and replenish), I just had to plan for them, and I didn’t do them as often. And that was perfectly fine. I would reminisce with friends about our crazy single days and I thought of them with fond memories, but that was all.

Then last week, a friend who had been in Mexico two years with the Peace Corps returned home. Plans were made for a night out on the town to welcome him home. The plan was to go on newly available hop-on-hop-off trolley pub crawl around the city. My wonderful husband agreed to stay home with the girls so I could have a night of fun. I was excited to go, but also aware that I wouldn’t really be able to fully enjoy the benefits of this activity since the negatives of doing so far outweighed the positives. If I chose to stay out as late as the trolley ran, I would still have to get up at 6:30am since sleeping in is no longer possible. And while being hungover was never fun, doing so with small children would be torture. Also, I wanted to be home to put the babies to bed so I wouldn’t be able to meet up with everyone at the beginning. These alterations are typical for outings with my single friends, and I never think twice about it.

But Friday night, I was talking with some of the people who were going out on Saturday night, and the strangest thing happened. This group of friends has evolved over the years as people have moved or married or stopped hanging out for some reason and others have been absorbed into the fold. We were going over the details for Saturday, and I said, “Mama Jenn needs a night off. Party Jenn will be there!” One of the girls said, “Wow, I don’t think I’ve met Party Jenn!” I laughed and realized that was probably true. She’d only been a part of the group for a short time….probably around 2004-ish…wait a minute… that’s SIX YEARS. Has Party Jenn really been gone for six whole years?!?!? I was surprised how much this affected me. I was really upset. I started thinking of my single years with more than just a fond remembrance but as a deep loss, as if those were my glory days and the best years of my life had passed. I was determined to show her how fun I could be, consequences be damned.

Saturday night, I went out and truly intended to be home at a reasonable time after a reasonable amount of drinking, but one thing lead to another, and suddenly I realized I’d had too much to drink and would have to stay out longer to sober up so I could drive home. I had a great time seeing friends I hadn’t seen in a long time, catching up, and sharing crazy stories with the newer members of the group. I got home at 3:30am – yikes! Three hours later when my girls woke up, I was so excited to see them that I was not nearly as tired as I should have been. And I realized that those single days were fun, but snuggling with my babies early in the morning was just as much fun, and I didn’t miss going out nearly as much as I miss them when I’m away. Though Party Jenn still exists and will always be part of me, Mama Jenn is in the forefront now, and I’m so thankful to be at this point in my life.

Jennifer Barr is happily married and living in the ‘burbs with two daughters, 3 going on 13, and 8 months.

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29 Comments

It was certainly meant for me to read this article, right now, today, at this very moment! Wow! I have been down and out for a few weeks now...wondering if I had done the right thing by becoming a wife and mother. I've struggled with accepting my "new" life as something exciting and fun! This article has put some things into perspective for me and let me know that I am not alone...Thanks for making my Monday look a little brighter! I certainly needed this.

I am about to give birth to my first child in roughly 4 weeks. I am 29 and have had allot of fun so far. I find myself from time to time feeling nervous about the big change that my life is about to take! I am glad I read this post, it helps me realize that while yes, there will be changes, I can love and embrace my new role as Mommy! That "Party-me" can still make an appearance from time to time, but that Mommy will be so much more rewarding! Thanks for sharing!!

Thanks! Tomara, I'm so glad this resonated with you. Amie, I was 32 when our daughter was born, so I had had ample opportunity to have a party phase. I think because of that, I really realized what I was sacrificing by choosing to move to the next stage of life - motherhood. I think it makes the decision even more rewarding in the long run, but can be a bit daunting in the beginning! Congratulations on embarking on this journey!

I started to feel the same way after my second son was born 6 months ago. I was morning my loss of my "before children" life. For me it was the going to nice restaurants with my husband almost every weekend, trips to the Virgin Islands and sleeping in on the weekends. But I cann not and will not even try to imagine my life without my children now...

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Great article! I too suffered the identity crisis after becoming a mom. I had a great corporate job and received positive feedback on a daily basis, so when I became a stay at home mom, I looked forward to my daughter's check-ups at the Dr.'s office since that was my only "atta-girl" I received. It was an interesting transition, but of course one I would do all over again. But, that transition is normal, and can be difficult, even if you have a great support system...

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I love the way you write! SO funny cause Sat was hanging out with friends who all have kids and we knew we should shut it down early, 2:30am, cause we all had responsibilities related to our kids and everyone was ok with it! We had a good time, may not do it for another month or two but thats ok! Keep posting these blogs cause i love being able to relate to them and love love reading them!!!

Sheri, you're absolutely right. Though reminiscing about my "party" days is fun, it won't even compare to a few years from now when we talk about our kiddos when they were babies.

Sara, I never even thought about the dr's checkup being your moment for praise! So true! That book sounds wonderful - I'll have to check it out...

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Thankfully for me, a hermit who always had to "force myself out" even through my roaring single 20's, the mother role is SUPER fine with me. I have to force myself to go out and get a hangover and chat in person rather than just phones and email as much as I ever did, and it's not any harder than it used to be. When I didn't have kids, I wanted to paint or read or work late or watch movies and talk on the phone...It's a wonder I met a husband. Now I notice it often boils down to cash...

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Being married and having A family, you always must give up something of the life you lived when you were single, For me it was A mind set, and heart felt thing too do.I love being mrs...., I wear my married name with pride and honor, so when his name is spoken of , is allways in respect on my part.When my family is spoken of it's with honor. Your name will go places you will never go,Your name will be spoke of by people you may never meet, being A wife and mother, is An honor and joy...

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Wow, how ironic I read this today. As a single mother of a 4 year old, it is tough to get time to hang out with friends much less go out on a date. And this as I have been planning to go out to a concert this weekend with my best friends to celebrate my birthday. I know I'll be out late, and I don't miss that every weekend (my body is getting way too old for that anyway), but I do miss snuggling up with my little man...

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I loved reading that post :) Thanks for sharing! I am a mother of 2 boys, 10 and 2 ( I was 21 and single with my first). Now, I'm happily married and still adjusting to having 2 kiddos. I was a big "party Jen" before I had kids. I still enjoy a girls night out once in a while or "date night" with my hubby...but don't really miss the late drunken nights out.I sometimes miss just having a day to myself...

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I have been griving somewhat over the notion that my life is about to change forever once my son comes. I have 12 weeks left and I am excited and scared. I was just talking to my sister last night, who has two children of her own, and she was telling me that it was normal for me to be sad and that it will get to the point where you will not miss that part of your life...

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What a great story! Truly hits home as I have an almost 3 year old and one on the way! I remember those "just do what you want" kind of days and miss them...but wouldn't trade what I have for the world.

Thanks for the article! I can totally relate and have mourned my party self as well. My party self comes out about every 3 months these days and I am okay with that. Spending quality time with my 2 1/2 year old is really fun on a whole different level - and I don't have a headache in the morning! Motherhood is the best thing to ever happen in my life - my favorite role change

My husband doesn't understand this, but I'm glad my fellow Mama-sisters are there to nod in agreement -- Party Julie never had it as good as Mama Julie does!

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