Rediscovering Yourself After Motherhood
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At some point or another, you will find yourself consumed in motherhood. And, truth be told, it’s not wrong. It’s a part of your journey that you need to venture. Because the seasons of motherhood come and go. Eventually, you’ll find yourself on a path to rediscover yourself after motherhood. In this article, I’ll share some of the best ways to help you remember that you’re so much more than ‘just a mom’.
The loss of identity in motherhood extends long before your baby is born. In fact, many pregnant women find themselves consumed just in the planning of their baby’s arrival (reasonably so).
Fast forward to the baby being born and everything is all about them. But the harsh reality is that with the birth of a child, comes the birth of a mother — and she needs love, compassion, and care just as much.
So, how can you find the delicate balance of being a mom, caring for everyone else’s needs, without sacrificing your own? Let’s find out.
How to Tell You’ve Lost Your Sense of Self
Before becoming a mother, you had hobbies. Maybe you had a job or career. You had just about endless time to do whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted.
You and your partner could enjoy fun date nights. And now, you’re a mom. Tasked with the job of taking care of another human life that constantly needs your attention during those early years of parenting.
It’s some of the most rewarding work you’ll ever do, but also, the hard truth is that it’s not easy.
The moment you find yourself reminiscing on your old life and feeling like the life you’re living right now is more overwhelming and stressful than fulfilling, you’ve probably lost your sense of self a bit.
Is Your Mental Health Being Impacted (The New Mom Identity Crisis)?
One of the top reasons it’s so crucial to rediscover yourself after motherhood is because when you get trapped in the role of “just being a mom”, the challenges you’re bound to face can feel 10x more overwhelming.
Here are some examples of ways to tell that motherhood is rocking your world and your mental health could be suffering:
- You don’t know what to say or how to converse with people outside of talking about your child/children
- You have no interest in any hobbies or activities
- You struggle to get adequate sleep (even when time is not an issue)
- Your body and physical awareness of self do not feel familiar
- You no longer have a social life or anyone to talk to
- You have no desire to leave your home or see anyone
- Eating food is a struggle
- You have no desire to get yourself ready or do basic care tasks for yourself (showering, brushing your teeth, getting dressed, etc…)
In 2016, Nature Neuroscience published a study that revealed a mom’s brain undergoes significant rewiring during pregnancy and for at least two years postpartum. While the study was unable to provide definite reasons as to why this happens, it’s thought that the need for a mother’s brain to adapt to the needs of her baby and the stressors of motherhood play a key role.
Add a motherhood identity crisis on top of a woman’s body and emotions changing — you can see already this some hard work.
And when you begin to fall into the slipper slopes of suffering from postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, experiencing mom rage, having intrusive thoughts, or truly struggling with any sort of PMAD (Perinatal/Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorder), it’s time to seek help from a licensed professional that can help you rediscover yourself.
Self Care Activities Any Mom Can Do Comfortably At Home
I get it. The days of having a newborn and toddler truly do fly by before our eyes. If you’re finding yourself being stuck in the mom life role while wanting to explore some ways to get to know your sense of identity outside of that role, practicing a little self-care can be a great start.
Below are some of my favorite self-care activities literally ANY mom can do on a day to day basis:
- Taking 5 minutes to simply breathe
- Get outside
- Go for a walk
- Journal (this journal is one of my all-time favorites)
- Call a friend
- Take a shower or bath
- Recite affirmations
- Give yourself a facial
15 Ways to Rediscover Yourself After Motherhood
Now that you have a better understanding of the biggest reasons some moms go through an identity crisis, you can now spend your time focusing on how to rediscover yourself after motherhood.
Shift Your Mindset
Shifting your mindset can be a complete game changer throughout motherhood. Oftentimes, we set ourselves up with unrealistic expectations of ourselves which literally leaves us feeling depleted. We expect to:
- Be a full-time working mom who has a clean house 24/7, gets all the errands ran and shows up 100% for her children and partner.
- Bounce back postpartum, lose all the baby weight, and be ready to get frisky with our partner by just the 6th-week postpartum checkup.
- Know exactly what our baby needs at all times, understand their sleep habits right after birth, and be pro breastfeeders.
- Never use baby formula, do everything perfectly, and never need help.
I mean, can you see how these expectations are seriously not beneficial for ANYONE?
So how can you reframe these types of thoughts and expectations? Well for one, you need to be conscious of them when they’re creepin’ up on you.
The next step is to lean into them. When you feel like you’re a failure because your baby won’t stop crying — lean into it and let yourself feel the overwhelm; “this moment is so hard, my baby keeps crying and I’m doing my best to help him or her find comfort”. This step is so important because it’s allowing yourself to feel vulnerable, but also acknowledging that you ARE trying your best.
Then, you can continue to reframe these thoughts as times go on (which will help minimize the dreaded mom guilt). And the more aware you are of them, the more you can actively work on reframing BEFORE they consume you.
A good friend of mine who happens to be a maternal mental health expert created an amazing workbook specifically for this reason. It’s called The Visible Motherhood Workbook and I suggest it to every single mom (even when you aren’t anticipating a mental health issue to arise).
Remember Your Old Hobbies & The Things You Loved
You might have a hard time feeling connected with some of your old hobbies or leisure activities when you think back to them.
I mean, when is the last time you were able to really focus and partake in them uninterrupted since becoming a mother?
So, start a list. Jot down every and any hobby you can think of. Go through and number them from activities you’d like to start doing again to the ones you don’t really care about.
Then, go through your numbered list and figure out the ones you can incorporate into your daily or weekly schedule (when you have or make some free time). I always suggest sharing this list with your partner to collaborate on ways you can work with your schedule to make time for your self-care needs.
Ask a Loved One for Help
They don’t say “it takes a village” just for funsies. Sadly, modern-day motherhood is now defined by moms who have to do it all.
You’re expected to give birth, come home and jump right back into the normal routine of things, be back at work within a matter of 2-3 months, spend a ton of money on childcare, breastfeed (while trying to juggle working and learning how to breastfeed without proper support), assume all physical changes are just normal once you’re a mom and you have to live with them, and so many other BS modern-day motherhood standards.
It’s just, not working. It’s failing women all over the world and truthfully, we need to change it. You need to feel empowered to ask for help when you need it.
If you are fortunate to have a friend or family member that can jump in and help you with baby care, household chores, cooking dinner — or anything at all, don’t feel ashamed for asking.
Instead, think of it as you acknowledging your own needs for support and having the strength to speak up and ask for it. What an awesome lesson for your children to grow up learning too.
Spend Quality Time With Yourself, Alone
A great way to really reconnect with yourself is to spend some alone time with yourself. You know, to be able to hear yourself think for once.
Whether you’re a working mom or stay at home mom, you’re probably being pulled in multiple directions all day long.
Here are a few activities that can spark up some ideas on how to spend alone time with yourself:
- Go out to lunch (alone)
- Watch a movie
- Go out for a jog or walk
- Get intimate
- Take a bath
- Try a new skincare routine
- Do some yoga or exercise
Which of these ways can you envision spending your alone time?
Prioritize Getting Enough Sleep
I know it’s no surprise, but a lack of sleep is inevitable in early motherhood. Your new baby will need you to feed them, change their diapers, and comfort them on repeat.
Did you know, that anxiety and lack of sleep are major contributing factors for postpartum depression? Yet, you don’t often see it being talked about too much.
I don’t know about you, but when I went through postpartum depression and anxiety, that was when I felt the most like a different person. Like I had no idea who this new identity was.
So, if you can, prioritize your sleep by taking naps (yes, the chores can wait), asking your partner to take over some feedings or diaper changes so you can get some extra sleep, or asking a friend to watch the baby for a couple of hours so you can catch up on much-needed rest.
Also, this is where postpartum doulas and nannies come into play. If you’ve considered hiring one, learn the different ways they can support your postpartum journey.
Pour Into Your Bucket (aka: Self Care)
Self-care can go a long way, but you need to be consistent and purposeful with it. Now, I understand that without the proper community support, it can be near impossible to get any time to yourself.
This is why you have to find ways to carve out throughout the day to help you feel grounded and wholesome. Trust me when I tell you it’s the little things that can have the biggest impact.
Like taking a nap when your kids are napping or popping in a headphone to your favorite tune when your kids are losing their marbles to keep your calm.
Explore New Hobbies & Activities
Being in routine is good, but having some flexibility is healthy. What I mean is, that doing the same thing over and over again like a robot isn’t going to bring much excitement or joy to your life after a while.
And as moms, we can easily fall into that trap if we’re not careful.
So, find new hobbies or activities to explore! This could be venturing out to try the new mom & pop coffee shop that just opened up, taking a new trail the next time you go on a hike, or even buying yourself a new perfume. A little bit can go a long way.
Release Yourself of Expectations
We touched on this earlier in the article, but having expectations that are just flat-out unrealistic will not serve you or your family.
Learning to let go of expectations can be a hard thing, but so important if you’re striving to find the joy and happiness in motherhood.
For example, if your infant wakes up every 3 hours each night — getting caught up in the “maybe tonight is the night they’ll sleep longer” will only leave you incredibly frustrated and let down with it happens again. So, expect that your baby just may wake up every 3 hours, acknowledge it’s a hard season and that it will eventually pass.
Move Your Body
It shouldn’t be a surprise that adding in more physical activity into your day is beneficial for your body and mental health.
If you really want to, you can intermingle this with a playdate. Let your kiddos play while you and some other moms do a low-impact exercise routine and socialize. This app is loaded with exercise routines ranging from prenatal workouts to postpartum workouts.
Practice Giving Yourself Grace
Motherhood is kind of like a wheel that keeps on spinning through new changes. You have to learn how to adapt and move through the journey, not against it.
The good news is that when you are able to show yourself some grace through these changes, you’ll be on the path to really accept your newly rediscovered self in motherhood and beyond.
Don’t Be Afraid to Look Inward
One of the big changes I think many women don’t see coming in motherhood is that our children present themselves as a mirror to us.
We quickly become faced with our own past traumas and unhealed wounds and have to choose whether to lean into them and finally work through them or ignore them and carry on the patterns that never really served us.
What I mean is, yes, it’s triggering when your baby has been crying for 3-4 hours and you have no idea why you can’t find the solution to calm them down.
However, it’s likely because you weren’t given the tools and lessons to sit with these types of challenges when you were little. So now as a mom, it’s very overwhelming and overstimulating for you.
Lean into those feelings when you’re up for it and you might find parts of a new identity waiting to be flourished.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
Gratitude journals are an awesome way to practice being in that positive mindset and finding gratitude in the small things (regardless of whether or not you’re a first time mom or a seasoned mom).
Here’s a gratitude journal I love because it has some really insightful prompts.
Go to Therapy
A lot of time, therapy gets a bad rep. So many moms have this ashamed feeling like if they go to therapy, they’re not good enough mothers or they couldn’t handle enough.
That couldn’t be any farther from the truth.
Sometimes, we need an expert to help us break down our barriers, work through our challenges, and come out even more equipped to not only rediscover ourselves but really find peace with our new selves.
Don’t Stress About Being a Good Mom
Trust me, you are exactly the mother your children need them to be. There is no such thing as a perfect mom and if that’s what you’re aiming for, stop now.
Stop spending time trying to measure up to other people’s expectations of yourself and start focusing on knowing your limits, asking for help, and prioritizing your own needs as a person — not just a mom.
You’re a good mom. No, you’re a GREAT mom.
Drop Social Media (if it’s adding stress to your new role as a mother)
Lastly, everyone’s best friend — social media.
I’ve met some of my closest friends through social media, but I’ve also been totally overwhelmed by the lack of transparency on these apps too.
As a new mom, it can be really overwhelming being on social media and not comparing yourself and your journey to others. Honestly, that’s because it’s really easy to fake it til you make it when you’re behind a screen.
So, suppose you’re finding yourself spending a lot of time scrolling social media apps and feeling even more confused and overwhelmed after seeing a ripped woman’s body just weeks after birth or watching a mom take her entire family of 6 kids out to dinner without an ounce of stress on her face.
In that case, it’s probably time to take a little break to focus on YOU.
The beautiful thing about motherhood is that you’re not in it alone and there’s no rush in rediscovering yourself after motherhood. Take time to learn about yourself and then practice applying the tips from this article to your everyday life.
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