So there I am, sitting with my girl friends having dinner and we are all talking about our ‘previous lives’. As if it was some scene from a movie we had seen. We are all happily married. We are not complaining about our marriages. I know a lot changes after kids but I think in a way my life has just become crazier (and I love craziness). I still travel as much as I used to, or maybe even more, the only difference being I have the kids with me too. I might not go out at night like I used to, but that doesn’t bother me much. Yet we all seem to have this unexplainable frustration inside.
I then realise that since having kids I have lost my identity and have been searching for my new identity.
I used to be independent, ambitious, single, outgoing, and carefree. I moved from country to country. I was never scared of change, and loved a good challenge. I started a company with a partner and managed an office. I worked hard and loved my job.
Fast forward to the present – I have 2 kids and 2 step kids, ages 10, 7, 3 and 2 and I have no clue what I am doing! I am always exhausted thanks to my youngest who doesn’t know the meaning of ‘sleep’. I make ‘rules’ for my kids and then later look at my list of rules and realise I am totally failing at Rule No.1: NO SCREAMING! I try to explain to myself what I’m feeling. You wanted kids, now you have kids. What's there to complain about? Let me try to explain…
I have lost my identity. At work if I did a job well, I was rewarded for the hard work I put in. So the self-esteem I gained through my professional life is gone. I am now a stay at home mom. I am not good at my job. I am not good at cleaning, washing, ironing, keeping the house in order and managing everything related to the house. We often run out of milk, or toilet paper, or tooth paste… Shit, why did I have to struggle through all those Finance and Economics classes, they didn’t teach you how to know when to buy toothpaste! I used to support myself, now I do not earn any money and my husband supports the family. I am dependent on him, but cannot even keep the house in order, so for that I feel a failure.
I know my husband fell in love with me because I was an independent professional woman. Now he is living with a dependent zombie with food stains all over her clothes. I am not 100% present to my husband and so the self-esteem I gained as a woman is gone.
I am trying to find a new, updated identity. I’m basically the same person as I was before so why do I feel so lost and invisible? When you first become a mother you have NO IDEA what you’re doing, everything is a learning curve. As you learn and start to get a grip on one thing, everything changes again and you have to relearn everything. You start to feel frustrated and overwhelmed all over again. The kids are misbehaving and you feel like you did something wrong and that’s why they are not behaving. So as a mother you start to feel like a failure.
Do men lose their identity? Mine didn’t seem to. In fact, fatherhood has had a positive effect on him. He has more confidence and self esteem as now he supports the whole family single-handedly. As a father he’s good with the kids and helps me when he’s home, so he feels he’s doing a good job. As a husband he helps me around the house and is more organised then I am so feels helpful. All these are big boosts to his confidence.
Where do I go from here? Is there a happy state of mind somewhere in the future? Will I ever go to bed at night feeling satisfied with my daily accomplishments? I know I will eventually adapt to my new identity as a mother/wife/woman but I still feel like everyday is still “baby steps” for me.
To other mothers out there who have gone through this same process, what have you done to regain your identity and find your self worth?