You’re Not Alone If You’re Experiencing The ‘New Mum Identity Crisis’
You don’t need to be a parent to know that having a child is life-changing. Long gone are the days when you could sleep in past 6am – and being able to take the time to indulge in the luxuries you once enjoyed, and actually enjoy them? Forget it – for at least six months, at least.
So much changes when you have a baby – especially your first. The sleepless nights are hard (anyone that has ever had a newborn will tell you that they totally understand why sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture), and the not being able to ‘get up and go’ when you want to is a huge adjustment. And although you may feel an overwhelming amount of love and an urge to always protect and nurture your baby, there’s no denying it takes its toll mentally.
Statistics say that over half of first-time mums feel that they lose their identity after having a baby*. The life that you once knew has been turned upside down and inside out practically overnight. Your career, your friends, your hobbies and interests all take a back seat once that little bundle of joy enters the world – or, it did for me at least.
I had my first baby when I was 26. Prior, I was a high-flying beauty editor with an extremely busy social life and a passion for travelling the world. I was lucky enough to travel a lot with work, and the nature of my job meant that I was at some luxurious work event or another most nights during the week. Lavish breakfasts, dinners in fancy restaurants and make-up and skincare consultations with world-famous experts were all part of my daily nine to five.
But then I got pregnant. I was so excited. I spent my pregnancy buying cute clothes, reading books on motherhood, preparing and telling myself “I’ll go back to work when he’s 6 months old”, “I’ll make it work”, “I’ll still see all of my friends and just take the baby with me”, “things wont be that different!”.
And then… he arrived.
I absolutely adored my baby from day one. I’d had a difficult pregnancy for various reasons, and I was so relieved that he was here and that he was safe and healthy. I had so much help from my family, and the first few weeks felt like a complete blur as I was trying to adjust to ‘new mum’ life and recover from my C-section.
Family and friends all made a fuss at first, and rightly so – the child was gorgeous! I was proud to show him off. It was so amazing to have so much support and love from my friends and family. But as he grew, people stopped visiting as much and everyone carried on with their day-to-day lives, my immediate support network returned to work, and there I was… in the house, cradling a baby, watching copious amounts of daytime TV and wearing the same pyjamas for three days straight. I had traded in my twice-weekly blow-dries for a ‘mum bun’ that resembled a birds nest, it felt like a struggle to leave the house even just to visit my favourite café, and solo trips to the bathroom were non-existent.
As the weeks went by, my love for my child grew more and more each day. But so did my resentment towards myself. I was becoming a shadow of the woman that I once was right before my very eyes – and there was nothing I could do about it. My life was being led by a tiny human that made me question whether it was selfish of me to leave him in his crib for 5 minutes while I went to take a shower.
I also noticed that my body confidence had vanished, too. I felt really sexy when I was pregnant – I had that notorious glow and my hair and skin were thriving. My bump was a lovely size, I had beautiful maternity clothes and still had the time to put make-up on in the morning. But as soon as I gave birth, that ‘sexiness’ was replaced with dark circles, a saggy jelly belly and postpartum spotty skin and greasy hair.
And, dare I say it, I actually missed work. It seemed ironic as I’d spent most of my pregnancy yearning for maternity leave and a nice, ‘restful’ break. But by this point, I would have given my right arm to be able to strut back into the office, Starbucks in-hand, have a laugh with my colleagues and write a beauty feature.
The truth is, I missed me. I missed the free spirit of my 20-something self. I missed just going shopping and not having to take pit-stops to feed. I missed just ‘popping’ to the shop to pick up a chocolate bar. I missed going out for drinks with child-less friends, and not worrying about having to face the consequences in the morning. I was longing for myself. Longing for the life I once had - just with my baby as part of it.
I was relieved to find that I wasn’t alone. According to figures, over a third of women feel the same way as I did about work after giving birth. They missed it, too. 55% also found it difficult to get used to the fact that they couldn’t ‘get up and go’, and over half found it hard to accept the way that pregnancy and childbirth had changed their bodies. I realised that these feelings were normal, and very common.
That said, 8 in 10 mums say that having a child is one of the best things they’ve ever done, and I can totally relate to this as well. My child is now 2. I am working again, just in a different capacity. My body confidence is on the up. I’ve mastered solo shopping trips with my two young children and I know when to ask for help when I need it. I can’t go to work dinners anymore, certainly not ones that clash with bedtime, but do you know what? I’m OK with that.
I am not the same girl that I once was – but I am double the woman that I ever was before. Being a mum is my superpower. To feel such intense love and joy at once is such a blessing. The cuddles my babies give me at bedtime, all the ‘firsts’, and the delight that my children give me far outweigh any negatives. I’ve got all the other parts that I loved about my life back, just in a more structured, compartmentalized way, and I’ve got used to life being this way. Sure, it took me a while to get here, but I can honestly say – I love my life this way.
And most importantly, I realise that this phase of my life wont last forever. One day, not too far in the distant future, they’ll be grown up, living their own lives and I’ll probably be left wondering what on earth I did with myself before them. The irony!
*Survey by Nurofen for Children