Why do mothers lose their identity?
The concept of mothers feeling like they don't know who they are anymore, or comparing their life to how it was and who they were before and after having a child, is an experience many of us can relate to.
There is a lot that contributes to this. Because mothers who are struggling are doing so in isolation, it becomes easy to believe that the problem comes from within them. The truth is that this shift in identity is much more encompassing. When we start to look around and observe how mothers are treated, how this role of mother or parent is created, even comparing to how it used to be vs how it is today, we can start to see how all these external factors are contributing to this issue. It's not you.
I'd like you to sit for a moment and ponder or write your answer to the following question: What is your story of who and what you thought a mother should be like?
Having a baby changes a lot of things
Having a baby changes your life in many areas including your physical body, mental health, relationships, time and energy, profession, and how you are viewed by society in this new role of parenthood.
The way mothers are treated matters
The media portrays mothers in gender-stereotyped roles such as a 'perfect mother' who is self-sacrificing and 'good', and alternatively offers a paradox of a businesswoman who is a neglectful parent and 'bad'. Often not holding fathers to the same standards.
There is no 'village' that everyone talks about
Mothers are unsupported and expected to 'do it all'. They are told to be grateful and 'enjoy it while it lasts'; shamed for how they are feeling. The village no longer exists to relieve tiredness and isolation. We need programs and services that support families.
What can we do about this?
Creating change takes time, and it's important to be aware of the policymakers in your local area so you can be a driver for change.
Finding community as a parent is so important. Healing doesn't happen in isolation, it happens in community. This could include your spouse or partner, family members, friendships, local social groups, mental health professionals, online social groups, and social media accounts on this topic. I think the way we view what community is needs to be expanded to suit our modern society, which is why I mention online platforms as that is what helped me find support and make friendships with those who 'get it'. I also used the word 'social group' to include special interests or hobbies.
There needs to be more balance between seeking support in ourselves and seeking support in others. Be mindful if your tilt is going too far one way or the other. Both are important factors in improving our mental health and wellbeing.
To recap or TL;DR
- Change can feel uncomfortable. It's a process adapting our lives before and after a child.
- What we consume affects our belief of what a mother 'should' be like. We need a critical lens.
- More support is needed for families to thrive through community care and effective policies.
*Disclaimer: this is a single blog post that will not be able to cover all of the nuances on this topic and other related topics. Whilst this post is written specifically in language for mothers it does not negate the experience of all parents. Take what is relevant for you from this post.
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