Self-Identity After Kids

FreeDigitalPhotos.netNot everyone calls me mom. In fact, most people don’t call me mom, but it’s the role I allow to consume most of my time and energy. Why is that?

Mom Is My Most Important Role

The simple answer to that question is that I consider being a mother the most important role of my life. Since becoming Mom, I spend quite a bit of time reading about parenting and baby topics, shopping for baby items, and sharing pictures and stories of my kids with others. I now get excited if there is a family event in my neighborhood, like the annual “Snow Day with Santa,” instead of the hottest downtown event, and plan play dates insteads of shopping dates with my girlfriends. I even blog about topics related to child psychology and parenthood, even though I could easily write about relationships and work issues. I do all these things because I truly love being mom to my two beautiful babies and wouldn’t change it for anything. However…

I Have Other Roles and Interests

Even though I now have this new role, I haven’t lost the titles from my “previous life.” I am still a wife, daughter, friend, colleague, neighbor, and therapist. Despite my extensive deficit of time and energy these days, my relationships continue to be important to me and I want to nourish them as much as possible.

I also have other interests outside of my kids, such as exercise, scrapbooking (although now I scrapbook baby pictures instead of vacations), and various home projects. These interests are part of who I am. Even though I am now a mom, does that mean I have to give these up? I feels like it sometimes, but no.

Maintaining Your Self-Identity After Kids

Holding on to those relationships and interests can be difficult when our obligations and priorities change, but it’s possible.

  1. Foster your interests and hobbies. Even if you spend one hour a month (which is very little time) on your hobby, it can make a diffierence. Connect with others who are also involved in that hobby, whether it be at a coffee shop or online forums. If you have a magazine membership for your interest, continue to receive it and make time to at least flip through the articles.
  2. Take time for yourself. This can be part of fostering our intersts, but it also involves other activities. Get a bubble bath or sneak away to the rocking chair on your front porch for a few minutes. You can even run an errand alone if you just miss that kind of independence.
  3. Make time for your significant other. To me, this is one of the most important things we can do. I hope everyone reading this grasps the importance of having a healthy relationship with your husband or wife. Other than meeting your own needs for companionship and intamacy, think about what kind of relationship you want to model for your kids. What kind of marriage do you want your son or daughter to have when they are grown? Also, think about the fact that once the kids are grown and moved out, it will just be you and your spouse. You don’t want to look up in 18 years and wonder who that person is across from you at dinner. Make sure you are spending time on your relationship with one another away from being co-parents.
  4. Develop new interests and relationships. If you suddenly feel like you don’t have anything that is “yours,” go out and discover new things for yourself. Maybe you have discovered that you are really good at snapping photographs… go out and learn more about this. Do it for you!

The “New” Me

Now that I have written about maintaining our self-identity after kids, I’ll now point out that the bottom line is that we do change after having kids. You will never be the same person you were before kids. Priorities shift dramatically, and in some cases, so do values. There are many milestones in our lives that lead us to alter our identity is some way, such as marriage or a professional title, and becoming a parent is no different.

I’ve actually heard many parents say they are better people for having kids. There is so much responsibility with children that we strive to improve ourselves. We are forced to evaluate our beliefs, values and behaviors. I want my kids to grow up in a safe and loving world, so it’s important for me to surround myself and my family with others who support that dream.

Discovering and accepting our “post-children identity” is a process. You mean we didn’t complete self-discovery in high school? Definitely not. As long as your life continues to evolve and change, so will your self-concept and sense of identity. Consider your self-discover a journey. Continue to learn new things about yourself and accept those things you have not accepted in the past.

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Being Prepared for Postpartum Emotions (of Mom AND Dad)

The birth of a baby is no small event and can trigger significant and sometimes long-lasting mood changes, in both the mother and father. I think everyone has heard of postpartum depression at one time or another. Millions of new mommies experience deep feelings of sadness or persistent anxiety after the birth of their baby, which medical explanations attribute to the rapid decline in hormone levels after the baby is born. Fathers can also experience significant mood changes, including depression and anxiety. After all, his life has undergone drastic changes as well.

With a little one soon to arrive and a toddler at my feet, I easily recall those weeks and months after my first child was born. I remember the powerful wave of emotions that flooded my body and mind.  In fact, even with all I knew about the postpartum mood changes, I was shocked at how powerful they could be that first week. The birth of a child, and especially the first, is supposed to be joyous. So how is it that I could feel even the slightest bit of sadness?

There are many factors that can lead to the postpartum blues:

* Hormones: This goes for mom and dad! Yes, even dad experiences changes in testosterone levels after a baby is born. Here is a link that may interest you.

* Fatigue: In case you didn’t know yet, new babies are exhausting! They feed every 2-3 hours and may even wake up between that time for a multitude of other needs.

* New Responsibility: Holding your new baby brings up floods of joy, as well as an “Oh my goodness, this is a big responsibility” kind of feeling.

* Financial Strains: Babies are expensive… and so are kids and teens and college students. The financial burdens of a new child are significant and long-term. This places a lot of stress on new parents.

* Social Changes: The days of care-free living are over and new parents often have to find new social circles to join. In addition, at least one of the parents may be making changes in their job status or putting off career aspirations.

* New Identity: Having a baby also means being called “mom” or “dad” and owning this new identity, and all that comes with it, can take some time to adjust.

* Relationship Changes: A couple will need to make some adjustments to their relationship. With so much time and energy going to a baby, it will be important that they find creative ways to maintain a healthy relationship and find time to spend together.

With all these factor in place, it’s natural for new parents to experience changes in their emotions, from the good to the bad. No person is the same, so they can even come at varying times and in varying forms and severity.

So how do you deal with these emotional changes and when do you seek help?

* First of all, learn the symptoms of depression before baby arrives- sadness, tear fullness, hopelessness, lack of joy, fatigue, lack of motivation, changes in eating habits, and sometimes emotional numbness. Knowing these symptoms can help you to identify depression in yourself and in others if they should come. The Mayo Clinic website has more detailed information on these symptoms.

* Attempt to identify some of the greatest area of need for you at the moment. Sleep? Food? Time out of the house?

* Seek support from loved ones, such as your significant other, relatives, and friends. Be sure to let them know you really need help and if you know how they can help, communicate that clearly. Don’t expect people to guess what you need.

* Talk to your doctor a) if the depression and anxiety has been going on for more than 6 weeks, b) if you feel the emotions are too much to handle, c) your symptoms continue to get more severe, or d) anytime you are unsure what to do or what you are experiencing.

Please keep in mind, changes in emotions are normal for everyone. Having a baby is a wonderful, joyous occasion, but also a huge change! There is no shame in what you are experiencing and I can guarantee you that another mother or father out that has experienced something similar. Seek the advice of your doctor anytime you have concern.

Related links:

Mayo Clinic

Baby Center

Postpartum Men

Men’s Health article

Article: Men’s Testosterone Levels After Baby is Born

Childhood 101: 7 Reasons Not to Leave the Hospital with Baby Blues

Books:

The Postpartum Survival Guide

Postpartum Depression for Dummies

Postpartum Depression and Child Development

The Postpartum Husband: Practical Solutions for Living with Postpartum Depression

Goodtherapy.org: Number 1 Complication at Birth

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