Becoming a mother is a wondrous, life-altering experience. But from weight gain, to sleepless nights, to round-the-clock childcare duties, it can be easy to mourn the person you once were. Becoming a mom can make you lose sight of your sense of self, but that doesn’t mean the person you were before you had children is gone forever. And while it’s ok to grieve the loss of your old life, it’s important to value self-care and pursuing your dreams, too.
Before becoming mothers, many women lead exciting, carefree lives filled with travels, academic pursuits, busy social lives, enjoying hobbies, and more. From catching a late night movie at the local theater, to traveling the globe, to working your way up the career ladder, to hosting parties with friends, to attending fitness classes at the gym, there are many things that become much more difficult to accomplish once you have children. It might be difficult to arrange for childcare so you can keep up your “normal” way of life - and even if you are lucky enough to have a reliable sitter, you might just be too tired to do any of the things you used to enjoy doing anyway.
Grieving who you once were doesn’t mean you don’t love your new life.
While “grief” can conjure up images of black clothing, funerals, tears, and desolation, it can also be an appropriate way to describe what many mothers feel as they transition into parenthood. In a sense, something has passed away: your former life, free of being attached to a new little human who is completely dependent upon you for its survival.
And grieving your old life isn’t something to feel guilty about.
The transition into new motherhood is monumental. The long days of caring for a newborn baby can mean intense hormonal changes, mood swings, sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, career changes, lifestyle changes, relationship changes, and much more. New moms are told by well-meaning family members and friends, as well as complete strangers, that they should cherish every moment of motherhood because it goes by too fast. And yet, many new moms find themselves wishing time would speed up just a little to a time when their child won’t be quite so needy.
Women are expected to rejoice in the glory of parenthood. After all, not everyone who wants a child is blessed with one. We’re expected to treasure each and every precious moment with our little ones, and never question how drastically different our lives become. We’re expected to not only be wonderful, doting mothers who spend every free moment marvelling at the new life we’ve created, but also somehow also excel at our friendships, marriages, careers, and so on.
Research shows that the first six months are the toughest on new mothers. Once your baby reaches the stage of better sleep, more mobility and strength, easier eating habits, and more predictable moods, motherhood can become easier. Even so, this is not the case for everyone. Some babies are more high-needs than others, some babies don’t have the same temperament as the parents, and some babies are affected by other factors such as ongoing medical issues - and this can all take a major toll on mothers.
Grief can take on many forms, from anger, to anxiety, to depression, to insomnia, and there really isn’t a “right” or “wrong” way to grieve. You may find yourself wanting to hide in a closet on the days your baby won’t stop crying. You may find yourself becoming bitter about your lack of date nights with your spouse. You might find yourself extremely anxious, thinking of hundreds of hypothetical scenarios in which your baby might experience harm. You might spend night after night lying awake in silence, even after your baby begins to sleep through the night. Grief looks different for everyone.
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by grief, here are some ways you can help yourself get back on track.
Remember - it’s ok to mourn your old life, and that’s nothing to feel guilty about. However, if your feelings become overwhelming and debilitating, it might be time to reach out for help. We’re all in this journey of motherhood together!
Parenting is awesome. Sleep is overrated. Every day is an adventure.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.