Many mothers will share that those first few weeks of motherhood are a blur. Between the lack of sleep, the barrage of intense emotions, and for most moms, the physical recovery from giving birth, it is a moment in your life that stretches you beyond your imagination, and may not exactly meet your expectations. Becoming a parent naturally prioritizes life in a way that centers around your children. Every baby is really different and no matter how many books you read, you are truly learning on the fly and figuring out what works for you and your family – for that week anyway, because it constantly changes! Motherhood comes at you fast and from every direction, and it can often lead women to wonder if they’ve completely lost themselves now that they have a baby.
Many moms often feel incredibly vulnerable after giving birth. They encounter a host of physical changes, as well as, a shift in their overall disposition. Which often causes women to feel like they’re experiencing a bit of an identity crisis. Ironically, after welcoming and celebrating new life in the world, some women may suffer what they perceive to be a significant loss. The freedom they once enjoyed during their pre-baby days has been replaced with round the clock feedings and diaper changes. And when you are still in the throes of the early months, heading back into work and feeling the need to pretend that nothing has changed is particularly overwhelming. Of course, things have changed, but not everything is different.
In what seems like a blink of an eye, you transition from an independent woman to primary caregiver while on maternity leave, and then to this crazy blend of the two – we call the ‘working mom’. It’s during this tumultuous transition where you may wonder if sleep deprivation and the daily chaos has sidelined your ambition and goals. Though it might initially feel like ambition takes a back seat, it doesn’t mean you’re any less career-driven. You are still the person you were before giving birth. And as a new mother, you bring recently acquired skills, strengths, and experience that according to TendLab CEO & Co-founder, Amy Henderson, makes you better at work:
Both anecdotal evidence and academic research show that women who choose to become mothers develop the capacity to outperform their former non-mom selves in their careers. I know this from personal experience, from interviewing more than 120 high-performing mothers, and from research from a variety of fields, including neuroscience, evolutionary biology, game theory, primate patterns, leadership studies, and more.
Ultimately, it’s about finding your new normal and learning how to thrive in the space where motherhood and career intersect. It’s much easier said than done, and more often than not, it takes a while to find your footing. Here are four things you can do to help thwart an identity crisis while merging career and motherhood:
- Find your tribe. After running several working mom support groups, I can attest that there is no better comfort than other empathetic working moms. Not even husbands or partners come close to understanding the nuances, issues, and guilt that working moms face. It is worth the time and a little bit of research to find a group of women, whether it’s in person or online, where you can connect with other ambitious working moms.
- Ask for help. Whether you receive support from family or you hire someone or download an app, you’ll benefit greatly from handing the baby off and finding some time to check in with yourself to evaluate where you’re at on your journey. This is especially true as you get closer to returning to work after maternity leave. Take time for yourself to establish a self-care routine that includes any of the following: exercise, mental health counseling, career coaching, meditation or even journaling. All of which will help you connect with your pre-baby self.
- Be patient. Give yourself the time and grace you deserve to adjust to your new normal. Just because your child is your main priority doesn’t mean mothering is your only priority. Heading back to work with the enormous responsibility of caring for another human, can be daunting and downright messy. But your work and career deserve the time it takes to adjust and acclimate to this new way of life. And with the right support at the office and home, you’ll be on a path to success in no time.
- Remember your goals. If after a few months, you still feel as though you’re experiencing an identity crisis, step back and reevaluate your professional and personal goals to determine if they still align now that you’re a parent. It’s okay if it’s different and if your goals have changed. What’s critical is that you identify what is important to you and your family and set up the support in order for you to reach those new goals.
Having a child is one of the most significant milestones in life. It’s no wonder we feel disheveled and perhaps a bit confused about our lives after giving birth. Everything in our world has shifted, but that doesn’t mean we’re lost. And if we dive deep and take our time, we’ll eventually reconnect with our ambition and work better & harder than ever before.