How to Deal with the Identity Shift When Becoming a Mother

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Motherhood is a trip. You can get yourself prepared, so you think, but it’s inevitable that you’ll miss something. So how do you deal with the identity shift that happens when you become a mother?

If you are not a mother yet, I am glad I get to catch you up and fill you in on some things to expect before you enter motherhood. Already a mother?  You will probably be able to relate to a lot of what I talk about in this article. If you are still in the midst of the shift that inevitably happens, hopefully this helps you feel less alone and helps you on your journey. 

Yes, there is an inevitable identity shift that happens once you become a mother. It is hard to fully explain to someone who has not been through it yet, but I will try! I wish I had better insight into it to mentally prepare myself. But I am making progress and I will share some of what has been helping me!

What shifts when you become a mother?

The answer to that is everything! Physical, emotional, and mental shifts all happen. At least they did for me! For our sake though, we will be focusing on the emotional and mental shifts that happen, especially when you are working from home. 

Before I became a mother, I had worked at establishing my own income by working from home. I was intentionally doing this because I knew I wanted to be home with my kids when they were young. I planned ahead and started my own home-based work so that I could work remotely, still earning income for my family while raising my kids. And I still struggled with the identity shift of becoming a mother. I was constantly worrying if I was doing the right thing. 

Working from home is understandably not the case for all of us, but most parents go through that debate of “what next”. Should I stay home? Do I go back to work? What does childcare look like? Do I have enough money to pay for childcare? The list goes on and on. 

That is the initial battle that happens—figuring it all out. And as a new mom, you have no idea what the right answer is, because everyone’s situation is different. What worked for your neighbor might not be right for you. What your sister did might not apply to you and your family. 

Even when you plan ahead, the plan can change. When you become a mother, you change—your wants, your thoughts, your priorities.

The Mom Guilt

Then there is the “mom guilt.” You may have heard of it, and if you have not experienced it yet, you will. If you work outside of the house, you feel guilty you are not with your kids. And when you are home or have to leave early to pick up a sick child, you feel guilty for not giving 100% at work. 

You may decide to be a stay-at-home mom (SAHM). From talking to SAHMs, they often feel the guilt of not contributing to the family’s income. If this is you, just remember that what you are doing is SO IMPORTANT. Furthermore, as my financial advisor once told me, you are saving your family, on average, $10,000 per year, per child. (In my area, it’s more like $15,000-$20,000 per child, per year, so $30-$40k for a family with 2 children!)

If you are a work-at-home mom (WAHM), there is still a lot of guilt in splitting your time. When you are playing with your kids you feel guilty you are not working. As you sit down to work, you feel guilty that your children may be getting a little more screen time than you would like or that you are not spending enough quality time with them.

For me, I always felt as if whatever I was doing at that moment, was not what I should be doing. Essentially, I was failing at that work-life balance I thought I had prepared myself for.

Tips to help you through the shift

In my experience, I felt as if I almost lost myself when I became a mother. Who was I now? What did I want? I was uncertain if the decisions I was making were right because it was all new to me! As a maternal figure, you naturally worry about your children’s safety and well-being, so there is that added day-to-day stress. In today’s society, it often feels like we have to do it all, and I can tell you from experience, that is not the answer. While we are capable of “doing it all”, that is a recipe for disaster for your mental health and well-being.

So what do you do if you are feeling lost, uncertain, or you cannot find the right balance? Here are some tips to help!

#1 – Set time aside for the priorities.

Protect yourself from being pulled in multiple directions by designating time for each of your priorities. When you are a mom, be a mom and set work aside, both mentally and physically. If you do work (home-based work or other), know and trust that your children are being cared for and focus on the task at hand. In other words, be in the present moment and try not to stress about other things—you will drive yourself crazy.

If you do work from home and are looking for more tips, check out How to Set Boundaries When Working from Home

#2 – Celebrate your new efficiency.

Moms are some of the busiest people I know. And busy people get stuff done. The one thing I have learned as a chronic over-thinker, is I do not have time to over-think as a mother if I want to cross anything off of my list. We have to make decisions and move on. You might make mistakes, and you will learn from them. That is life. There is a reason several employers search for mothers to hire.  In fact, there is a whole agency built around that premise at The Mom Project. Moms get stuff done.

#3 – Trust yourself.

This is a big one for me. When you are uncertain about what path to take or what decision to make when it comes to family, planning, and work—TRUST YOUR GUT. As humans, we do not know everything, and life will continue to throw curve balls at us. The one thing you have is your own inner voice, telling you what is right and wrong for you. Listen to that voice and try to channel it when you are making decisions as a mother, as a woman, as a wife, and as a friend to others.

#4 – Have something that is yours.

It is easy to get lost in your role as a mother or to be consumed by the responsibilities of it all. If I had to give new moms one piece of advice, it would be this one. Have some part of your day that is yours. It is so important to have a sense of self and a sense of accomplishment for YOU. So whether it is a hobby, exercising, a side gig, freelancing, or building your own business, set time aside for yourself. Your mental health will thank you.

Did I scare you away from being a mother? The magical thing about becoming a mother is that you do change. You become a new version of yourself, with little people (who become big people) to love and take care of, and you learn a whole lot about yourself in the process.

I do not think any mother would tell you it is easy or full of joy 100% of the time. There are definitely moments of awe and joy. It is important to celebrate those little daily wins and good moments with your children. It is possibly more important to not lose yourself in the shift of becoming a mother, and discovering who you are as a mother. After all, you are their role model and guardian. Have and do something for yourself so that you can pour from a (semi) full cup! What are you doing for yourself today?