I recently answered a few questions about identity and motherhood on the Spright app that I wanted to share here!
One of my favorite quotes about the transition to motherhood is something I found in this Atlantic article during my own transition to motherhood — ”becoming a mother is like discovering the existence of a strange new room in the house where you already live.”
To be honest, even though I feel so much more like myself (the new and improved version) now that my daughter is a toddler, I still have to be very attentive to my own needs and desires or they can tend to evaporate into the ether...I am in the same exact house I've always lived in but sure spend a lot of time exploring and living in that curious new room!
There is a lot that takes a different shape or tone than we expect when we become mothers, and it's a worthwhile venture to grapple with discovering ourselves in this new context in order to become the mother and person we wish to be. I hope as I answer some of the questions here, we can think together about how to do just that.
I’m a few months out from giving birth and really freaking out about how much our lives, but mine in particular, are going to change. I’m worried about never getting to work out again, or have any alone time, or even time as a couple. How do I calm down?
I'd start by being confident that you've covered your “worst case scenario” bases, and that hopefully actual life will be more forgiving! I joke, because my brain does this to me, especially during big transitions, and the blessing of all the worry is that things are never quite as bad as what my worry brain tells me, and I'm prepared!
In saying that, things are going to change (of course!) but there is some wiggle room and some room to plan for what you need. If you know working out is something that fulfills you, keep fighting for that space to do it. I think one of the coolest parts of growing a baby is the empowering piece! If you can grow a human and deliver it earthside, you can definitely work through finding time for a walk. Though you're right that it may be hard sometimes, it's not impossible to negotiate, I promise!
As a therapist who specializes in this, I would be irresponsible not to mention that if your worry impacts your life or how you're able to feel excited for this baby, there are lots of ways to get more support and to feel more comfortable. Therapy, mom groups, Spright - do what it takes!
Pre-baby I made a lot of friends through a triathlon group. I was never that good at the sport, but I trained and raced with them and was a mentor for new triathletes. Last weekend, a bunch of them did a full Ironman, and I … ran two miles. It feels a little like I swapped out “recreational athlete” for “mom” in my identity, and I’m not totally comfortable with that switch. Any tips for appreciating where I am, or for not comparing myself to my friends (or past me), or for not being jealous when I hear about what my friends are doing now?
I love this question. It encapsulates what so many moms deal with, but don't always say. I have a couple of thoughts-the first of which is finding a way to fully accept that swap (that may not be permanent, but is your “now”) and in doing that feeling what might possibly feel like a little (or big!) grief for that part of you that is currently lost. Sadness for what is gone doesn't dim what you've created in its place-your gorgeous baby!
Having such strong simultaneous and seemingly contradictory emotions is part of the mindblowingness of motherhood. Having never done triathlon training myself, I can only imagine what you've gone through throughout pregnancy and in this first year with baby is at least as strenuous, monumental, and meaningful as your friends who ran the Ironman, though I also know that that kind of rational balancing act doesn't always make it better in the moment.
I'd also try and dig a little deeper into what that training provided for you that isn't being fulfilled now...was it a sense of adventure? Did you feel helpful? Like a badass? Whatever that missing piece is might be something you can work to build into your life in a different way until you decide how you can/if you wish to incorporate the triathlon part back in. But first, it's okay to mourn what you've given up in order to make space for your baby.
Before having a baby one could describe me as Type A (to say the least). Since having my little one a few months ago, I feel totally scattered and like that super organized, with-it, driven woman has left the building. I'm sort of too tired to find her at the moment, but it's hard to imagine that those pieces of my identity are gone forever...will they return? Will I rekindle my love of post it notes and to do lists? If yes, when?
You'll rediscover your love for post-its exactly 17 months and 4 days from now. Juuuust kidding. Here's what I think about “mommy-brain” as it sounds like what you're describing: I think that incredibly organized and driven part of you is being put to spectacular use right now with all of the scheduling, worrying, planning, and various other baby-related decisions that are occupying an ENORMOUS part of your brain.
I think we tend to hear of “mommy brain” type stuff framed as a diminished capacity when it's entirely the opposite. You are doing and accomplishing SO much, and just because it's not as visible or concrete as what you did before baby, I'd argue it's more valuable and sophisticated than to-do lists. You might have to be more conscious of noticing and congratulating yourself for the things you accomplish, as they aren't always post-it-able, but in general the baseline for your current level of functioning and accomplishment is WAY higher than before baby, just by the nature of this new role.
On weekends my partner and I are both SO exhausted, we tend to get grumpy when trying to figure out who gets to take “me” time. I know we both need time alone to recharge, but finding that time is hard. Any advice?
Yes, finding that time IS hard. Especially when exhaustion comes into play.
I'd see what you can do to make things as simple as possible in arranging “me” time. Alternate mornings? Just pick something as regular and predictable as possible so you can do it on autopilot.
The other thing I'd mention is that when you're already at the end of your rope, there's also an opportunity to think about ways to build in a little more of a “reserve” - are you trying to accomplish too much during the week? Are there ways you can find more help or lower your expectations? (<---Not a bad thing!)
Since having a baby, there are so many days when I feel like I’m not doing anything well — work, parenting, taking care of myself. I know the traditional wisdom is take care of yourself so you can take care of the baby, but I honestly don’t know how to carve out that time without feeling like I’m sacrificing other things that are also important. Help?
So, I don't go to yoga as often as I'd like to or should, but one time my marvelous yoga teacher said something I loved that I'm hoping can help with your question. She said something to the effect of “you need a different foundation depending on what kind of structure you're building — are you building a cardboard playhouse or a cathedral?” She was talking about physical strength and flexibility, but the emotional realm isn't all that different.
Reframe your definition of “well” if you can. Think about the long game. Make a five or ten year plan. You are building a cathedral! It takes so much work, including pain and suffering and frustration sometimes, because it's big and important.
I'd also mention that though it may look different on the outside, what you describe is a common feeling for most parents, and it doesn't mean you aren't doing wonderful things, it just means relationships can be hard.
Another thing I'd like to mention is the idea of motherhood as a “social construction.” Without going into too much depth, there are many things that get plopped on our lap along with baby that are other people's expectations and may not serve us. There is the blog/instagram/pinterest version of motherhood, the mother we or our partner had, the movie or sitcom mom, etc...and none of those are our real life experience. None of those clearly portray the difficult trade-offs and decisions we have to make day to day or the frustration of not feeling like we can do things well enough.
You do have to sacrifice other things that are important to get some self-care, but remember — you are building a cathedral.
I really enjoy hanging out with my childless friends (and so far, they’ve been great about accommodating my post-baby schedule), but I’m never sure when we’re catching up if I’m talking too much about the baby. Like, she’s a huge part of my life now so obviously, something I want to share. But, I also don’t want to be that mom. How do you balance that?
You just have to “do you” and see who can hang with that. One of the coolest things about motherhood (besides the whole birthing a human part referenced earlier) is the lack of ability to tolerate much extra BS, so, while I'd definitely care about how my friends are feeling about the baby talk, I wouldn't worry TOO much. You're doing your best to be a good mom and friend, and that's enough!
Any final thoughts for us?
One of the best ways to find your "you" in the midst of motherhood is to check in with how you feel. In conversations with friends, do you leave recharged or feeling depleted? Are you feeling like you are snappier than you'd like to be with your partner? What thrills you about your baby? These are little ways to notice and hopefully recalibrate and reconnect with the person at the center of all of this creating that's happening. You're still you, but you're weaving a bigger, more beautiful tapestry, and that takes some extra love and attention! Be good to yourself!