Round the clock feedings, diaper changes and everything else that comes along with motherhood can make you feel that your only value lies in being a mom. It’s true that this new identity is front and center, but being able to navigate the transition can make adapting to your new life so much easier.
So how do you adjust to the new woman you’ve become? Here are 5 ways:
1. Change your expectations.
According to Dr. Meg Meeker, author of The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers: Reclaiming Our Passion, Purpose, and Sanity, we anticipate that we’ll feel overjoyed when our babies are born, yet if we don’t, panic sets in. You may feel like a bad mom or that you don’t love your child like you should. Plus, your hormones are unbalanced, you’re sleep deprived, your personal relationships have changed and you’re trying to find a new rhythm. With all of these changes, it’s really important to let go of how you thought life would pan out. “Give yourself permission to accept what comes and not be too hard on yourself,” she said.
2. Get some perspective.
According to Meeker, particularly during the first year, many moms believe they are their child’s everything: nourishment, source of joy, nurturing, and development, but the reality is much different. “We’re not a little god to our babies, we’re just moms,” she said. So take the first step and acknowledge that caring for your baby is not entirely your responsibility, then get Dad more involved, and ask family members and friends for support.
3. Grieve the old you.
Maybe you were closing million dollar deals before you had a baby, but now that your days are consumed by spit up and dirty diapers, you’re feeling disillusioned. “Many women report the lack of structure in their days as a difficult shift, especially if they had previously spent many years in a structured work environment,” according to Dr. Kira Bartlett, a clinical psychologist who specializes in pregnancy and postpartum issues. “The rewards are very different as well. “There is no praise from a boss or colleague, no paycheck at the end of the week, and no work lunches or dinners,” she said.
“In any transition, there’s a loss,” Meeker said. So whether it’s the value you had from your career, changing friendships, or the control you’ve given up, you have taken on a new identity. Acknowledging what you’ve lost, giving yourself permission to grieve it and then moving forward are key because only then will you be able to settle into your new role.
4. Nurture yourself.
The postpartum period is also challenging because your hormones are very different than they were during pregnancy. Your body has changed too, so realize that it’s normal to feel a little out of sorts. “Expect yourself to feel ugly, to feel out of control, to feel messy, but understand, it’s going to pass,” Meeker said.
Creating opportunities to nurture yourself and do things that will make you feel better about life like working out, meditating, or having a date night with your partner are good for you and your baby. “Babies need a mother who’s whole, rested and sane,” Meeker said.
5. Get support.
“Hearing other mothers’ stories can help a new mom create and define her own identity as a parent,” according to Dr. Bartlett who says it’s easier for moms when they have a community for support. A postpartum support group, a mommy and me class, or a moms’ group are all great options and sharing your feelings with your partner, family members and friends can also help you feel more comfortable in your new role.
Julie Revelant is a freelance writer specializing in parenting, health, and women's issues and a mom. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com