How I hit an identity crisis but slowly got my way out of it step-by-step
This is a personal story (and a rant because I am emotional right now). It is not a debate whether stay-at-home moms have it harder than working moms or vice versa. It's my story on how I was only functioning as a mother without really knowing who I was anymore. And maybe there is someone out there who can relate to me and my struggles. And that one I want to help feel a little bit better.
Day-to-day life as a SAHM
My days used to be pretty the same every day. Get up, get my kids their milk or breastfeed, drink my cold coffee, get the kids ready, make breakfast, get the baby to nap. And then entertain, cook, clean. And repeat. Every day with little changes here and there. It was all a pretty damn well routine. I love a routine. Well, it was a routine for my family. Not really my routine. No, I had absolutely no routine. I only lived for the routine of my family. My whole day revolved around my family. I did not have any dedicated time to myself. Not for getting ready in the morning or at bedtime. Not for socializing without bringing my kids, let alone pursuing any hobbies. I just couldn't fit it in. Because there was always someone who wanted something from me. Whenever I attempted to do something for myself I would get interrupted. I could not finish one thing in one stretch. Doesn't matter if it was 10 minutes or an hour. It seemed impossible.
Being the last in line as a mother
I felt this deep. I still feel it often. Being the last in line. It is probably not really SAHM-related, but most mothers experience this I guess. You are always last. Except that you are always the first to get up in the morning. You drink your coffee last, you eat last, you get ready last, you go to bed last. Your needs matter last. It seems to be a standard mom thing. You give, give, give, and as thanks you receive last. Great feeling.
When "this shall pass" did not work anymore
How often did I hear someone say this to me whenever I hinted at my struggles. Until one day it had absolutely no effect anymore. In fact, it was the most annoying thing that you could throw at me.
"This shall pass."
It didn't pass. It got worse every day because all my neglected needs piled up little by little until I couldn't see the tip anymore.
This shall pass might work with certain situations. When your little one is ill, when the 4-month sleep regression hits when your toddler needs to get used to daycare. Maybe it will help for a little while if you say it again and again and again.
But do you know when it doesn't help at all? When you go through years and years of motherhood where you always have to give. No, this is not a situation where you can use the phrase "this shall pass". It's the worst pep talk you can give anyone who is struggling.
How about finding actual solutions that will ease the situation instead?
Other reasons why I lost my identity
I was a people pleaser
This was simply how I was raised. I would constantly prioritize others before myself. But was left super disappointed when I wasn't treated the same. Only in later adulthood, I learned that I could help and support others with a whole heart when I prioritized my needs first.
I stopped caring about my looks
I am not saying that looks are important. But personally, they helped me lift my spirits. I liked taking care of my skin. I liked choosing an outfit. But once I became a mom I somehow threw it all out of the window. Skincare? HAHAHAHAHA. Clothes? No time. My hair had fallen out so badly after my second baby but I just couldn't make time to take care of anything. Having worse skin and hair really took a toll on my self-esteem.
I felt unfulfilled work-wise
I know it's an absolute privilege to do what you love for a living. And I sometimes feel ashamed of even saying that I don't feel fulfilled with my job because I know there are so many people that would take any job in the world. But I studied for 8 years something I didn't feel really passionate about only to work for years at a job I didn't really like. Back then I was kind of pressured into it. Now I feel like I have wasted so much time and effort. But there would never ever be enough time again to find out what I really want to do in life. At least, that's how I felt at that time.
So why did I even become a SAHM?
First, I want to say that only because you decide to become a stay-at-home mom doesn't mean that your whole life's meaning has to revolve around your family. Yes, it was my personal choice to become a mother. It was my personal choice to stay at home for the first couple of years. It doesn't mean I don't love taking care of my family. It doesn't mean that I expect to have the life I had before kids. But it also doesn't mean that I have to give up myself completely. I still need to nourish my soul with things besides my family.
So why did I even keep being a SAHM if I was troubling after some time? There was a lot playing into it. I felt some kind of moral obligation. I also wanted to give my kids more of what I wish I had received during my childhood. I wanted to give more attention, more time, more understanding, more love.
Also, I as mentioned above, I wasn't really passionate about my job. Deep down I didn't want to be a working mom at this job but I was also scared of trying something new at my age. I had my plans of creating my own business during my time at home. But little did I know that it would be such a struggle. I was on the verge of depression.
So whose fault is this?
First, I know my children are never at fault. Doesn't matter if they are unable to play independently or stay in their room during quiet time. I never blamed my kids. I love carrying for my children and I am doing my best to create a healthy and strong attachment between them and me.
So, did I blame my husband? Well, to be honest, partly yes. Especially during my lowest low. I was mad how he simply left in the morning for work without having to consider what the kids will eat or how they will be entertained in the afternoon. I mean, what an audacity. I was mad when he was setting up meetings with his friends and only needed to notify me. Whereas I had to organize food, diapers, and clothes before I even could attempt to get out alone. I was mad that he didn't offer me enough time alone. That he didn't take the kids out for the whole day.
But I also knew he wasn't acting that way because he had bad intentions. He wasn't aware. I will even claim it's a men's thing (which doesn't mean it's ok). Especially his generation was not raised into knowing how much work goes into taking care of the kids or the house. He didn't seem to grasp the intensity and the work it demanded from me.
So I had to be honest with myself. It was also my fault. Yes, a human descent thing would be probably to get help thrown at you from all over the place. But this is not the truth. It will not happen. Everyone lives in their own bubble and has their own troubles. Which doesn't mean they are not willing to give you all the help they can. But...you have to demand it. Very. Clearly. You have to make it happen. Not your kids, not your partner, not your friends. Somehow you have to find a way to make it happen.
How I get back my identity step-by-step
I made time for myself
The truth is that we mothers don't need plenty of time. Just once a week or every two weeks, a couple of hours, or maybe even one day of uninterrupted self-dedicated time. It will work wonders. How often did you think to yourself "if I had just two hours to myself, I would invent the next Facebook."? But how can you get more of something you don't really have? You take it. You leave. You don't ask. You announce. You will have to learn to do it but you can. Hand over those kids to your husband, their grandparents and say "k, bye!". Don't feel bad for your children or your husband or anybody else. Focus on how much you need that time NOW so you can be a better mother and partner.
I let my partner take over without intervening
This was a difficult one. I had to let my husband do his thing with the kids without me guiding him. It was the only way he could learn. The toddler was hungry, baby clingy, and he had to make breakfast. Well, then he had to make breakfast. I had this exact situation a million times in the last couple of years. Usually, I would tell him what to do first or I would take the baby completely annoyed. But nope, not anymore. We will master it. But what if the baby cries? If the toddler has a tantrum? Well, they all will survive.
I stopped overthinking and caring too much
This one takes a lot of practice. As moms, we tend to overthink everything and we want to please everyone. I was extreme. I would even feel bad if I skipped a page during our bedtime story. I didn't want to bother my husband with household tasks. But overthinking or caring too much will get you nowhere. It will just bury you deeper in a whole while you try to make everyone happy besides yourself. You need to look at the big picture. You are a wonderful mother that does everything for their children. Accept your best. Your children don't have to be happy all the time. Your husband doesn't have to be happy all the time. That is not your job. Learn to accept cries. Whenever you start overthinking or worrying too much, catch that thought and think rationally. Stop thinking. Practice it. It is a thing. Learning this strategy will also help you to hand over some of your tasks or ask for help.
I started having a full skin and hair care routine
I put this always last because I did not find the 15 minutes in the morning to have a real skincare routine without being interrupted or a toddler putting their dirty fingers in my moisturizer. And in the evening? Honestly, I was so tired I was just happy if I was able to brush my teeth. Now I have a strict routine. How do I make it happen? I go to the bathroom, shut the door, and ignore everyone out there. This half hour is mine, and it does not get interrupted by anyone anymore. I don't care if someone is whining or crying or knocking at the door. Half an hour is nothing. They can manage.
I sleep in every now and then
Your sleep will change after you become a parent and I doubt it will ever be as restful as it was before (remember the worrying?). But when I notice that I run on very low energy I sleep in during the weekend. Not like 10 am. But a sold 8:30 am is a DREAM. I don't ask. I inform. I need to sleep for two more hours. I put that earplugs into my ears, close the door. My husband can take care of the rest.
As mothers, we tend to sacrifice ourselves completely for the sake of our family. But it doesn't have to be that way. We deserve breaks to recharge. Everyone in your family will be much happier if you are happier. We need to allow ourselves solid breaks without having any bad feelings. You need to understand that you are a priority as well! And I really hope that I could motivate someone to rediscover themselves again.
If you struggle with mental health or postpartum depression don't hesitate to call out for professional help.