Adjusting to motherhood is one of the most difficult transitions you will ever make. Your whole identity shifts in an instant. Suddenly your friends and family are coming to see your new baby, and not you. The life you had the day before giving birth becomes an entirely different and unreachable world. The person you were before motherhood is essentially gone. And I’m not just talking about your pre-baby body.
Even though it may seem daunting to take care of anything other than the tiny dictator who decides whether you eat or sleep, it’s crucial to also create space for yourself during this transition so you don’t lose sight of who you are as an individual. Motherhood can easily eclipse your own mental, physical and emotional needs if you aren’t mindful about creating some breathing room to be you. Here are 5 ways to transition into motherhood without losing your sense of self.
The first step to discovering your who you are as a mother is to accept the fact that you aren’t the same person you were pre-baby. Your priorities, your schedule, your body, your emotions are forever altered from the moment your baby enters the world. Accept that it’s going to take some time to get reacquainted with yourself, and give yourself some grace while you figure out the “new” you. [Editor’s Note: we’ve got a pack for that. Queue up the Acceptance pack in the Headspace app.]
Instead of focusing on the loss of your former self, think of this transition as a new beginning. Motherhood is a transformative experience that can spur tremendous personal growth. Having a baby turns you into an instant role model. Focus on becoming the kind of person you want our child to look up to.
Everyone will tell you to sleep when the baby sleeps, but you don’t have an off switch. Infants sleep a lot of the time, and while you’ll want to curl up with your new baby and nap every now and again, you can also use your baby’s sleep schedule to find time to be you. Once you start to figure out your baby’s rhythm, and how long they normally snooze, build a small routine that fits within that timeframe. Reading a book might seem beyond exhausting, so read a magazine or a few good articles online. Squeeze in a five or ten minute meditation. Pull out those favorite macarons you’ve been saving. Reflect on you. Clean up a little (yes, really) so your space isn’t cluttering your mind. Do things that bring you back to yourself.
There is nothing quite as devastating to your sense of self than spending all day every day with a tiny person who can only communicate through cooing and crying. Motherhood can be terribly isolating, so it’s important to spend time with other adults to combat the loneliness of new parenthood. Make time to go out with your friends without your baby, or have them over to chat while the baby’s in bed. Take time with your partner to talk about something other than your baby. If you feel like you have nothing to talk about other than the enormity of the life you’ve created together, try listening to the same podcast or reading a certain online column so the two of you have a no-fail topic.
I know, it seems crazy to even think about taking time for a hobby or passion at this point, but getting back to the activities that bolstered your identity pre-baby will help you transition into your new self more seamlessly. Having a creative outlet—whether it’s drawing, photography, writing, or cooking—can boost your happiness and break up the monotony of changing diapers and being a round-the-clock human pacifier. Even if that just means putting a little cumin in the tuna salad or writing “I MADE A HUMAN!” over and over again in a notebook. Just a touch of what made you you will get you on the right track.
When you’re spending every waking moment trying to take care of someone who is wholly dependent on you, it’s easy to forget about taking care of yourself. However, tending to your needs is one of the best ways to adjust to your newfound identity. Taking daily showers, exercising a little, eating substantial meals, maybe putting on a little makeup every now and again will remind you that you are worthy and deserving of care also.
When you’re spending every waking moment trying to take care of someone who is wholly dependent on you, it’s easy to forget about taking care of yourself.