When I say I lost myself after my first baby, I mean it. Sense of purpose? Out the window. Identity? Who's she? Becoming a mom truly rocked my world. And I just wanted to feel like myself again. It wasn't until I had my second baby that I started to regain some of who I was. So, here are 5 tips I used to overcome my lost sense of identity & mom burnout.
And, if I would have heard this advice after having my first, I would have thought uh yeah, not helpful. So, if that's how you feel, that's okay. Take it with a grain of salt. If it's super relatable and helpful, great! I just hope this can help you in at least some way.
Figure out your new normal
The number one struggle I had when I first became a mom was, “when are things going to go back to normal again”? Aka, when will I travel again? When can I just get in the car and go to Target on a whim? I thought my life was going to go back to exactly what it was, just with a baby in it. NOPE!
This gave me a really negative feeling towards being a mom. I think I always thought I was doing wrong. I thought I was doing something wrong so she wasn't sleeping well or whatever it was, and that's why we couldn't get back to how things were before.
If this is you too, you really have two ways to overcome it.
- You need help. It takes a village right? Some of us have better access to this than others, but there are two options. Either you need to enlist family (or friends) that are willing to come help out or even take your baby for a weekend so you can go away. Or, you get paid help. A nanny/babysitter, an au pair, daycare…whatever it is. We don't all have a ton of access to these options, but this is a solution not only for a break, but to have some time back to do some of the things you did before kids.
- Accept the change. This might be the information you're not ready to accept. I wasn't. But, I am now and I have accepted the change which has made a GIGANTIC change. You need to accept your circumstances and then figure out any changes you need to make to keep yourself happy. Accepting the change took me a while, but when it finally happened it was so liberating, it took so much weight off my shoulders and totally shifted things for me. When you decide that you're never going to be the old you and that you're now the “new” you with a different lifestyle, you can enjoy your life where it's at. For me, one thing that was super important for me that I needed to do for me was workout. Figuring out the one thing I needed to do for ME was not easy, but once I did, my partner and I could figure out how I could fit that in and I could let go of needing to do all the other things I used to that I can't anymore. Find a thing (or a couple) that you need for your sanity and happiness, figure out how to logistically get them done, and LET GO of everything else that has changed so you can ENJOY your new circumstances. If this sounds like something you need, I shared more about my recent major mental shift in motherhood here.
Journaling (and being super intentional about it) can work wonders. Take a problem you have and write down who you WANT to be in that situation. For example, let's say it's been a long day and Seth comes over and says “hey, I'm going to go get a workout in” and I'm like errgggg fine. Because I haven't had a break all day so why does he get one? I need one too. Well, I never ask for a break (even when I need one). And when Seth knows I need one, he offers one, but he doesn't usually know that I need one until I'm basically at a breaking point.
So, what I'd do in this situation is write down what happened, how I want to respond in the future, and the type of person I am. Something like “Seth went for a workout. I know Seth is someone that works very hard and is very involved with the family. When he asks for a break, it's because he needs one”. Then you write as if you DID do what you want to do and you ARE the type of person you want to be. Such as “I also ask for a break when I need it so I don't get to the point where I'm on the verge of a breakdown. During that time I'm gonna meditate, read a book, workout, journal, sit down and do absolutely nothing(…whatever it is)”. Then I write “I am good at asking for what I want”. Men tend to be much better at asking for what they need than women. It sounds kind of dumb, but doing this has helped me actually follow through and respond the way I want to when situations come up (and start to believe that I am the type of person that asks for what she wants, is patient, etc.).
Reframe your negative thoughts
I exclusively breastfed both of my girls. With my first, I was like “oh my gosh, she needs me all the time, she's crying again, she wants to eat again”. With my second, I was like “yep, she needs me, I am her source of comfort, I can calm her down”. Same situation, two completely different outlooks.
It's up to you how you perceive and respond to things. Part of it too is that when you're a first time mom, you're spinning in all of the newness and just overwhelmed. Again, I was also always thinking I wanted to get back to my old self, which meant not wanting to be so heavily relied on. With my second, I has better expectations so I could calm down and look at it in a new way.
If you're a first time mom and struggling, you're baby is not crying to make you angry. They're crying because they need something (probably YOU). It can be super overwhelming, but you can also feel good knowing you're there for your kid, you're they comfort, and they only need you like this for so long…some day they won't.
Use your partner's brain
An alternative (or better yet, addition) to journaling is using your partner's brain. When I do this, depending on the situation, I start it with “Seth, I don't want a solution from you, I just want you to hear how I'm feeling” or “I need help finding a solution to this”. With my workout example, I said something along the lines of “I need your help figuring out how I can fit a workout in to my day because it's important for me & my sanity”. And usually, your partner will have a great solution. They're not hormonal like we are, they can usually come up with a good, simple answer.
Co-exist with your child
You can co-exist with your child rather than feeling the need to constantly entertain them. This released me of SO much stress.
The book that was super helpful & taught me this was Hunt, Parent, Gather. I listen to audio books because I can do it while I do dishes, drive, cook, clean, etc. The author of this book travels around, studying different familial dynamics and basically tells you don't have to go constantly play with your child, you can co-exist with your child. This meant I could do the dishes without being so stressed about not playing with them. They can co-exist and watch me do the dishes, see how things work, and learn to entertain themselves.
We can all go on walks together, we can all build something together. If I don't enjoy playing barbies, I don't have to. They can play barbies on their own if they want to and together, we can make cookies or do a project, etc. If your kids are into it, great. If not, try other things until you find somethings that stick that you both enjoy.
Read (or listen to) the book if this idea intrigues you. It's very helpful and can relieve a lot of anxiety.
These 5 things have helped me a TON but it doesn't mean I don't still have those moments of omgggg I'm gonna lose my mind or feeling like I'm totally on the struggle bus of motherhood. Some of this just comes with the territory of being a mom, but there are things we can do to help ourselves be happier, more sane, and better moms/humans, and I hope this helps tell you how to do those things to lessen the mom burnout.