Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lost and Found: On Becoming A Mother

I have read more than enough articles in parenting magazines that have dealt with the topic of women feeling like they've 'lost their identity' when they became mothers.  I know I've overheard mothers say: "I feel like I lost a part of myself after motherhood" or  "I just don't know who I am or remember who I used to be". 

I never gave much thought to this identity crisis...I never really cared to, to be honest.  I could never relate...I was hardly a person of my own when I became pregnant.  No, 25 isn't that young, but really, I had experienced little of life, was newly married and never really had some big fancy career.  Heck, I hadn't even figured out WHAT career I wanted to have when I started barfing my guts up.

That's exactly when my white flag of surrender went up to this thing called motherhood.  You could say I was surrounded by enemies on all sides and didn't know what hit me.  An innocent (obviously not that innocent) bystander in life and one moment I looked up and had an army of soldiers (otherwise known as hormones) holding me at gunpoint.  Surrender or else...or else die of puking?  Yes.  That's what I did. Threw up (in more ways than one) that white flag.  My life changed so quickly and really my body felt like it was under attack.  I could hardly lift my head, let alone arrange a defense.  And so there goes my fight to keep life as I knew it...Sarah as I knew her.  I was gone before I knew what hit me....before I really became me.

And that was a blessing in disguise I think.  Oh, maybe some drawbacks to it, but none I ever knew about.  When they put that little guy in my arms I had already surrendered.  Another battle...this one more heated, had me raising that white flag again, with every muscle in my body aching from the aftermath of the battle.   I had already, in way, been forced to be open to whatever this new life brought me.

When I thought back to those years before becoming "mother", when I was just ME, I try to imagine what could be missing now, 15 years later.  I try to relate when other women say they struggle with feeling they lost a part of themselves.  I look back and think, what part of myself did I lose?  Who was I before that? 

When I turn around and look, I see along the years, that indeed, I did "lose" myself.  If I look back on the journey, along the way I can see parts of myself have dropped off.  Mostly I didn't notice, sometimes I fought against it, sometimes I threw those parts off with joy.  Parts that I needed to lose, parts that I can't imagine wanting to hang on to.  Each child has forced me to let something go that was part of who I was at that time.

I see a rockslide of losses, and they read like a Paris Hilton biography.  I wasn't a spoiled rich brat by any means...I was just ME.  Like I said...I took care of ME.  That's only one person...and I had my best interest in mind.  I was in charge of myself, and myself only.  I had not a care in the world...because really a job, bills, and any other responsibility is nothing compared to being responsible for another human being's life.

Maybe there is some nostaligia there...some innocence lost along the way.  But I shudder to think at the alternative.  To NOT lose, to NOT surrender, parts of myself.  To still be the same person I was...to not replace those aspects of myself with something bigger, to not gain something so much greater.  To put up a fight to remain who I was 16 years ago...so much energy wasted, how could have I anything left over to be a good mother?

My children and I...we each gave each other gifts in the end....I gave away pieces of me to be their mother, and in return recieved a gift from those who made me mom...a new identity, a better self.  They continue to do that and will, I imagine, forever.

52 comments :

  1. Oh man, Sarah, I love this. You are so very eloquent in what you say. I'm so glad I lost part of myself too, because I like the new me so much better than the old one. Maybe it's because I get to be surrounded by my children, and that's what I always felt a loss without before. Anyway, thank you for those beautiful thoughts.

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  2. I enjoyed this post! The only thing I miss about the old me is an occasional shower and some down time! Otherwise, it's all good! I wouldn't trade my life for anything!

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  3. Great post!!!
    I never felt I lost anything when being blessed with children. In fact, I gained a whole new life.

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  4. Love, love, love this! I am totally in agreement and feel the same way. Thank you for expressing your feelings so beautifully. I love being a mother and am so, so much richer for it.

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  5. i think these are the most wonderful & true words i've readon *mothering* for a long time... like you,i never felt i *lost* a part of myself..
    that feeling was not understood by many other young mothers i knew- who it seemed to me complained endlessly about their *loss* of self
    & identity....my kids know they are the pinnacle of my life, not the things that *took* away my life and replaced it with a self-sense of *loss*
    i work from home with great love & support for my children and their wonderful dad- but i work from home *between* my real life- mothering...& i have absolutely no problem with that- old fashioned perhaps- but modern as i am proud to say it out loud....
    thankyou!!

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  6. Sarah, beautifully stated. I couldn't agree more.

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  7. Wonderful blog! I like to think of myself as being "refined" by having children--all the unnecessary stuff I thought was important, is sloughed off to make way for the better me, the me I didn't even know was waiting to shine.

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  8. Well said! Of COURSE you loose part of yourself when you become a mother- adn a wife too, for that matter. It's that thing called selfishness! I'm pretty sure God ordained it that way. As we focus on others and not ourselves we grow to be more Christ-like. Sometimes that growing hurts. Sometimes it's scary. But if we keep our eyes on Christ, it will always be good.

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  9. Wonderful post! I never understood the whole "losing myself" idea either. All the major events in my life (marriage, children, death of loved ones, etc.) have all contributed to shaping who I am, not the losing of who I am. They gave me insight into who I am deep down and what I wanted to become. That's a good thing!

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  10. Love this, Sarah. I think it's just as Jesus said, when we lose ourselves is when we truly find Him. How can we better serve Him than by taking care of his little ones?

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  11. I completely agree! I get so tired of hearing moms complain that they "lost their identity" when they became a mom. I feel like I finally gained my identity, and what I was truly meant to be! Thanks for putting my thoughts into words. Love your post.

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  12. Another great mothering post Sarah! Thanks for sharing. I don't feel I lost anything right away when I had the girls. I felt like I gained so much, now I just need to remind myself of that on the bad days.
    The biggest thing I did give up was my career to stay home, but I don't look back on it and regret it one bit. I would not trade this job for the world, even on my really bad and ugly days.

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  13. This last year I have struggled to regain myself after a horrible job experience. What I have come to gain back are all the wonderful things that being a Mom has given me. I wouldn't want to be any one else. All the things I learned while raising my daughter are the things I admire most about myself.

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  14. Awww...that was a great post! Beautifully spoken.

    -FringeGirl

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  15. I would love to ask your opinion on something since you have a daughter the same age as mine. My sweet girl is so good with children and loves babies. I know she'll make the best mother someday. I would love for her to be a stay-at-home-momma because that has always been important to me. I was never career-oriented. But, she's already thinking of some serious career possibilities that some teachers have encouraged her towards. What would you say to Abbey if you are in the same situation?

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  16. you have an amazing gift of expressing yourself and encouraging others. thank you for this post. brought me to tears. i was struggling a little bit this morning thinking about how much my life has changed in the last year and a half, but truly it's changed into a better self. i love how you said that.

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  17. Excellent post, Sarah. I can totally relate. I like who I am and who I've become BECAUSE I am a mother. I feel for the mothers who struggle with this issue and am grateful that it is not an issue for me.

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  18. This super conservative writer that I love (I won't even give her name) says motherhood, is giving up everything of yourself for your children (and husband). It is denying yourself, which is what Christ did for us. It is a pure way, if we allow it, to be more like Christ. Self-denial. And in all that is pure joy. Jesus, others, you! love the post.

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  19. I know i commented on this early this morning but maybe because I didn't have my coffee yet, it didn't make it through.

    I may have lost myself when I became a mom, but it was a good self to lose. I was spoiled, selfish and self destructive. Only by becoming mom did I learn who I really am - or at least became a better version of me. I couldn't be more thankful I lost that old self.

    Emily@remodelingthislife

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  20. Someone needs to book you for a talk show (The View? Oprah?) to speak for all of us who feel the same way. And I think it would help the women who do feel lost to help realize what motherhood is all about. It's hard. And there are sacrifices. But surrendering part of ourselves leaves us open to be filled with so much MORE.

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  21. Right on, Sarah! I love the way you are able to put into words things that I can only grasp at. Yes, I'm a different person than I would be without children, but I'm so grateful they helped shape and mold me into the person I've become.

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  22. Traci-
    I'll answer that in a post one day I promise...and what I say to my sons too!

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  23. Thank you for encouraging women to embrace the changes that being a mother makes to our lives. The influence of a mother on the lives of her children is beyond calculation, and vice versa too!!!

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  24. Just lovely! I could not agree more!

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  25. Oh man Sarah...this post is beautiful ;) I really need to read this today :) Thank you so much!

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  26. It is so refreshing to read your posts. Thanks for the reminder.

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  27. Enjoyed this. :) I am getting married this year, and after living for myself for most of my 20's, I am a bit nervous about all the changes. This was comforting. :)

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  28. I've been thinking many of these same thoughts lately. I feel a post coming on . . . kinda like a migraine.

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  29. And when we lose ourselves in the service of others (hello motherhood) that is when we truly find ourselves.

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  30. You have the very best attitude about mothering. I love to read your posts and get gut-checked about the more selfish feelings. Thank you so much for sharing your joy.

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  31. I am who I am because of my children. I never gave a thought to losing myself. I think I found my TRUE self when my children were born.

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  32. Love this Sarah! It's true. We lose and gain things when we become mothers, but what we gain is so much more. I also love the post on your friend Gina. What a beautiful tribute to her.

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  33. Love this! I couldn't agree more. I shudder to think who I would be if I hadn't surrendered my selfishness to mothering and wife-ing. Great great post!

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  34. AMEN! Well said, keep on being an advocate for tall, proud, happy moms! Love it!
    Ü
    Joni

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  35. Lose a little of ourselves, but gain so much more in return...

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  36. Great post! And while I love being a Mom and my boys are my whole world, somedays, I am not cut out for it. Like today. I have been instructed to not speak to my son (from him) again until after the school year.

    Your post brightened my day!

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  37. Amen to that! Thank you Sarah, you helped me understand somethings I've been wondering about. You are a very talented writer.

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  38. This is a "must post" on Power of Moms. Please say yes!! Just beautiful - thank you!

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  39. super message. thanks. couldn't agree more. i shudder to think of my previous self.

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  40. What a lovely post. My Mum always told me she couldn't understand why people say that either, but a lot of my friends struggled a lot. I'm so grateful that I love my new life soooo much (my first baby is just 4 months old) - I've only ever wanted to be a Mum, and I just feel like she's added so much more to me, and us, and I can't wait to have some more!

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  41. For me I had a very awesome career when I had children and although I didn't feel like I 'lost myself' after having children I did feel like there was a process, in which I had to relearn and rediscover my identity. I agree that I am a much better person today than I was 5 years ago (as I grew), however how I defined myself has changed and what I have had to base my personal success on has changed.

    Ever since I was little I wanted to be a successful business woman - when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I never said 'mother' but rather 'lawyer'. I had forever seen myself as a business woman. After having children I felt the pull to mother and over time have changed my primary focus in life (for now). So while I feel like I have grown as a person and have become better for it, I do feel very much like I had to redefine my identity to myself.

    To the woman that was concern her daughter wanted a career - I personally feel that you should encourage it. Not everyone feels the pull to stay at home and not everyone is 'made' for this career. PLUS she can always have her career and then later have children, besides who knows when she is going to meet the man of her dreams? She may be in her 30's For about 10 years I had the best career and am so thankful for that. However after having children and trying to balance work & career I ultimately decided to stay home, for now. I am not sure what my future holds, but I am thankful that my parents encouraged me to get the higher education and pursue my dreams. I am also thankful that I now have the opportunity to stay home.

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  42. I agree! I loved my life before children but I love my life and myself even more after children. They are the best thing that has ever happened to me. I teach and I feel that its the absolute best career I could have gone into now that I have a family...same hours and same school system as my kids, very involved in the community etc. However, thats not why I went into teaching. I was raised and educated and sent out into the world prepared to take care of myself. Marriage and children were something that I hoped would happen in life but I knew that I couldn't absolutely count on it.

    I have two daughters and personally, I can't even imagine encouraging them to be stay at home mothers at their young age. What if they don't want to have children? What if they can't have children? I am hopefully raising them to make good decisions so when the time comes (a very long time from now) and they are expecting their first child, they, hopefully with a supportive husband, will be able to make decisions to best suit their new family.

    I think the mother staying at home is a wonderful scenario but it didn't work out for either of my grandmothers, my mother, or me. I say didn't work out, but its what we chose and I am really proud of both of my grandmothers and mother. I think both of my daughters will be wonderful mothers but they have a lot to learn and a lot of life to live before then.
    This was beautifully written by the way.

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  43. What a great post! I can relate to all sides of this. Certain parts of me went with a fight and some I can't imagine holding onto. Sometimes I look at girlfriends who still have the freedom of their twenties and am jealous, but only for about .5 seconds. Then I hear "momma hold you!" from my 18 month old and I can't imagine not having that little face to kiss and cuddle. I'm sorry for my girlfriends who don't yet have a little being that can truly challenge them and everything that they think life is about. Careers and jobs are a very real part of life too. I found out I was pregnant in the last year of grad school and had to put off graduating for a year. I was mad at first. But now, I look back and realize how ignorant I was of the finer things in life. And after being home with my baby for a year, I returned to work and found its not the place I want to be. We can never know all these things at the start of our journey, can we?

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  44. Amen, amen. This 'keeping your identity while parenting' thing is such a strange concept to me - I think parenting is the best tool for helping us throw off our selfishness - I loved this post!

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  45. I found myself nodding in agreement with all of this. Thank you for writing it!

    It was only 2 years ago and I was only 21 to the day when I had my first baby. I honestly don't think I was "anyone" before I had her. I love the person she is helping me become.

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  46. I love your blog and this post! I've linked it on my blog. I hope you don't mind:)

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  47. When I turned 30 I felt a little lost. Though, I was right where I wanted to be. Happily Married, 3 kids, stay at home mom etc. I love this post. It's beautiful and lets those of us who have felt lost know that it's okay. It's not a bad thing. It's just a time to recognize that there has been alot of change but it's been for the better.

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  48. Thank you...so glad I came across this article. Recently, my two sisters (one older and one younger than myself) felt concerned about me on a family trip. They felt I was being hard on myself as a mother and that I might have PND. Both of them went through PND and also felt they had 'lost' something on becoming mothers. I cannot honestly say I felt like that, in fact your article speaks volumes to me as I too feel that yes, I have changed but in all the best possible ways. I have not lost a thing that is truly important. Every day as a mum contributes to who I am and combined with other aspects if my life, I am confident that I am living the life I am meant to. Some women, even those closest to us, are the hardest on other women and their choices, personality traits and parenting styles. I will always continue to do it my way for what I believe to be the best possible outcome. And my way includes picking up new info and being open to new ideas and influences all the time. Thanks again!

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  49. Great post!...I honestly can say without a dought that motherhood has been my greatest blessing in my life. I am more complete, more whole, more richer because I am a mom, and I give ALL the glory to God!! Praise you Jesus! Wonderful post..

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