Identity Loss In Motherhood: Why You Might Be Feeling Estranged From Your Old Self

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The early weeks, months and years of being a mother can be an absolute whirlwind. You’re learning about how to keep small humans alive while not totally abandoning yourself. You haven’t slept normally in what feels like years. 

Your house, once a zone of zen and peace, is now looking like a preschool. The learning curve is steep—and usually pretty stressful. You haven’t so much as glanced at the unread copies of your favourite magazine subscription. The outfits that make you feel your best haven’t seen the light of day. Your workout routine has gone dormant. 

This is what it’s like adjusting to caring for a new member of the family. In an effort to stay on top of our childrens’ needs, it can feel like there’s nothing left for you. 

Feeling Lost In Motherhood

When a baby’s needs become the top priority, it can feel like there’s no space left for your own. This is what we mean when we talk about identity loss in motherhood. It’s when your role as “mom” becomes the one and only role you play these days.

Simply put, this is a chapter in life where the things that make you feel like you just don’t make it into your average day anymore. 

At face value it can seem like not putting energy into your home aesthetic, your evening routine, or your friendships isn’t that big of a deal. 

But, what happens is that with time, you lose more and more of the things that made you feel alive. That made you feel like you. 

What usually happens next is that moms feel angry that their needs aren’t that important anymore, and that all the responsibilities consume every ounce of energy. 

Feeling out of touch or as though you’re drifting from your old self can feel disorienting at best. At worst it can feel like you’ll never feel like yourself again and that there’s just no room for you. 

We hear it all the time: I don’t even know what I’d do if I had time; I don’t know what makes me happy anymore; I don’t feel like myself.

Many Moms Feel Disconnected From Themselves

Before having a child, the idea of losing yourself can feel like an unlikely problem. Many women assume that this won’t happen to them because they’ve got their routines in place, or they’ve already gone on a long journey of self-discovery. 

Sometimes women who have kids later on in life feel even more solid in themselves so don’t think that they’d also feel disconnected once the baby arrives. 

The reality often looks different. Shockingly different. 

Keeping in touch with your authentic self suddenly sounds so much easier than it truly is. This is because the demands of motherhood can be so intense (especially when there’s no village around to help) that the capacity to do anything beyond caring for a child seems non-existent.  

But what I want you to know is that the self-sacrificing mom isn’t a happy mom. You deserve to spend time on the things that make you feel whole. 

How to Reconnect With Yourself In Motherhood

Whether this disconnection has been happening for a mere few weeks or a lengthy five years, it’s fixable. This doesn’t have to be a major overhaul of your new daily routine either. (It’s not exactly realistic to book a week-long stay at a hiking lodge in the mountains or ignore family responsibilities in favor of doing whatever you want all day.) 

So start really small! Here’s a post about some realistic self-care ideas that moms shared to give you some ideas (and no, let’s skip the advice to get a facial or massage… as nice as they sound). 

You could also think about ways to start expressing yourself again. You could do this with clothing, music, creating some simple art, decorating your home, cooking or gardening. Reconnecting with friends is another way to remember that there is more to you that being mom

What have you done that’s been helpful? We’d love to hear from you in the comments. 

We want to remind you that if you’re feeling lost, and hardly recognize yourself anymore, you’re certainly not alone and you’re not doing a bad job. 

It’s almost inevitable that all parents will go through a period of feeling like their life revolves around everyone but themselves. But with time, support, and a little effort, you can get back to your routines, your joys, and start to see glimmers of you in your own life once again. 

In Canada? We have a team of perinatal mental health therapists who are trained to support moms as they navigate the challenges of motherhood. We also offer support for couples who are experiencing challenges in the relationship due to their growing family and changing roles. You can learn about our team here, and book a session.

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About The perinatal collective

Welcome! So glad you're here. 

We're a team of mental health therapists across Canada with advanced education and experience in perinatal mental health, meaning you don't have to cross your fingers and hope that we understand how hard this stage can be.

We understand the nuances of the early stages of parenthood: how typical counselling strategies may not be relevant to parents with young kids, and how mental health challenges look different during this time.  

From deciding to have children, to navigating your journey through fertility, pregnancy, birth, postpartum, relationship changes, parenting, career demands and beyond, parenthood can be full with challenges.

Our goal is to help you manage the peaks and valleys of the entire journey, while staying connected to yourself, and feeling whole, along the way.