5 Ways Motherhood Has Changed Me As A Therapist

How Motherhood Has Made Me a Better Therapist.Kim's Counseling Corner

My son turns 2 years old today. It has gone by so fast and and I haven’t been a mom for all that long, but I know I have definitely changed. Thinking about all the joys and challenges over the last two years, I can’t help but also think about how motherhood has changed me professionally and made me into a better therapist.

1. I am more empathetic to parents. In counseling, we like to believe that we can empathize with just about everyone. After all, pain is pain, joy is joy, etc… no matter what the circumstance. I still think this is true to an extent. But now, when a parent sits across from me and says they are devastated because they don’t know why their child feels so sad, or they want to know where their little angel has gone, I think of my own children. How will I feel if my happy little guy is one day an adolescent who rages in my living room, or if my sweet girl one day talks about hating herself because she is not accepted at school. The pain for me is so unbearable. I channel this empathy towards my clients to help them see better days ahead.

2. I give limited “homework” assignments to parents now. Pre-motherhood, I had all kinds of homework for parents, such as charting 5 different aspects of a behavior during the week (when, where, why, your response, their response…sigh), completing daily exercises with their children, taking personal time out for an hour a day… can you imagine? I am much more cognizant of the daily demands of parenthood. Now, I still recommend personal time for parents, but aim for one hour a week, and my homework assignments are given with more realistic requirements. I get much more follow through now!

3. I am more confident. This increased confidence is not completely due to being a mother, but also due to just having more experience under my belt. However, I do feel that since I am a mom, I can connect better with parents and kids. I also feel more secure in setting personal boundaries for my time and commitments. As a professional who aims to teach healthy boundaries to my clients, being able to set them for my own life is important.

4. My priorities have changed. Now that my family life is set, I can begin working towards long term professional goals that sink with the demands of my family. For example, I hope to establish a successful private practice over the next several years that will allow me to schedule appointments during the time my kids are in school.

5. I have more life experience. No matter what field you work, life experience always give you a leg up. The more I live and the more life phases I enter and travel through, the more I can relate and offer help to others!

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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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