Many things change once you become a mother. Apart from the obvious changes to your daily routine (and not to mention your nighttime one!) there will also be some changes that are more gradual and subtle.
You will probably find that your priorities change – which is absolutely normal, since you have a new baby to take care of. But you might also find that your likes and dislikes change, too. Perhaps you lose interest in some of the things you used to enjoy; or you can’t quite relate to your girlfriends’ stories about nights out; or the career you spent so much effort to pursue suddenly loses its appeal.
Relax – this is all normal.
Having a baby is a massive change, and not just to your body. Your whole life will change. Everyone will tell you about the sleepless nights, or not having as much time to yourself as you used to; but not many people will tell you that the changes go far beyond that. Your whole life will change. Your sense of self will change. Your identity will change.
It can come as a shock when you suddenly don’t feel like yourself any more. “Why do I feel different? Is there something wrong with me?” – you might ask yourself. And the answer is: no, there is nothing wrong with you.
Becoming a mother is a huge deal. It’s massive and life-changing – and it’s only natural that it feels like you have changed. You’re no longer a woman responsible only for herself – now you are somebody else’s mother.
Yes, that’s a pretty big deal.
All new mums experience an identity shift to a certain degree as they transition from woman to mother. Becoming a mum is a rite of passage – of course it will change you. This is perfectly normal. So when one day you suddenly find yourself wondering why certain things don’t feel the same any more, don’t worry. This is still you – but a new, “updated” version.
Get to know this new you. What are your new interests? Do you fancy taking up a new hobby? Do you want to change your career? Be honest with yourself, figure out your new priorities, work out the new rules. It will be a fantastic journey.
But let’s talk about the negative side as well. Dealing with so many changes is not always easy. Sometimes when the identity change is not anticipated it can be a major source of stress – and this is when it can become a problem. One of my interviewees in my book Honest Talk for New Mothers: things they don’t tell you at the antenatal classes shares her experience:
“We’re talking about a woman who’s gone from an independent person, in her own right, overnight, a complete identity shift. And I would argue that many women feel resentful about that. Just because you have a baby you are no longer the person that you were. I felt like I lost myself completely and actually it made me very ill.”
It’s important to distinguish between an identity change and depression. With an identity change you might lose interest in some of your old habits and activities, but you develop new interests instead. This is because you now have a new role in life; and you have changed so that you can fill that role. With depression however, you lose interest in the things you used to enjoy, and there are no new ones to replace them.
If nothing brings you joy anymore, that’s a warning sign that you might be sinking into depression – do speak to your health care provider as early as possible. Don’t wait until things escalate further.
Talking about your feelings is very important. Talk to your partner, your family, your friends openly. These people love you and they will want to be there for you. Opening up will help you identify how you’re really feeling; and people who have known you for a long time usually know you well – which means they can tell if they think something is not quite right and you should seek help.
Having a baby is a whirlwind. Be kind to yourself and allow time for the dust to settle first – and once you can catch your breath you can do some introspection and figure out the new rules for this new stage in your life.