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Identity Crisis: Should You Give Up Who You Are To Be A Good Mom?

Identity CrisisBack in 2011, Jess Craig was having an identity crisis. She wrote about feeling like she needed to stop doing the things she enjoyed before she became a mother, like dancing all night long at the concert of a favorite band:

I sort of just labeled myself as a Mom and I stopped caring about the things that I once loved.  I thought, “Nope, gotta be a mom now.” And then I just pushed all my other interests out of my mind and thought that this is what things were going to be like from now on.

Jess later recognized that sacrificing her wants and needs and pleasures in order to be a mother wasn’t good for her, or for her child. She decided to stop living her life like she “hated it.” It was okay to have fun every now and then. To be 25 and be cool and also be a mom.

I remember having an identity crisis around new motherhood as well. For me, it was my career I worried most about. At the time I had my first child I was 32 and had been working in the corporate world for many years. I worked my butt off to make an impression and advance, and my strategy was working. After having my son I remember thinking my career trajectory couldn’t possibly continue, given that I’d need to run out of the office every day at 5pm just so I could make it all the way back to the suburbs to pick my son up before daycare closed. What do you do when the Chief Marketing Officer wants to meet with you at 5:30 — for my career this was like being invited to a meeting by God — and you have to say no? (True story.) This caused me massive amounts of stress and stomach acid production. I was so accustomed to making decisions to support my career, and now it wasn’t so easy because there was an adorable little monkey waiting for me. How could I keep being successful in my career and be a good mom too? It didn’t feel possible, and I started feeling like a failure at both.

Jess and I aren’t the only ones. Apparently, it’s very normal to feel this way. In an interview with BabyZone, Gail Kauranen Jones, author of To Hell and Back . . . Healing Your Way Through Transition, explains, “A typical adult transition takes between one and three years before one fully assimilates a new identity. It’s perfectly normal to grieve the life before children and to miss parts of it. And it’s perfectly normal not to be totally fulfilled by one’s children. All of us have a purpose for being here. Motherhood may only be part of our purpose and that is okay.” No need to panic. You can successfully transition.

Given how things were in the corporate world at that time (and maybe still are), I was probably right that I couldn’t have continued on in my career in the exact same way I had before having a baby. In the end I found a new normal, a mixture of blogging and advocacy and being able to pick my kids up at the bus stop after school. I feel as fulfilled as I thought I’d be sitting in a corner office on the top floor, which is a lovely surprise. Still, I remember how confusing it was to go from one way of living and being to quite another in such rapid fashion. For a while I did feel like I had to give up who I was. Later I learned that wasn’t true — I just needed to make the right adjustments for me in order to live and prosper as myself while also mothering.

Tell us: Have you ever felt this way? Like you’ve been living your life like you “hate it,” as Jess describes, or have you felt held back in some way by motherhood? Either in your work, or your dreams, or your hobbies and pursuits? If so, what have you done to get through it?

Photo credit: © Mohsen Beirami – Fotolia.com

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