When you’re called “mom” about 4,000 times a day — and most of that day is spent tending to the many needs of your kids — it can be hard to think of yourself in any other way. And if you’re doing more of the parenting, a single parent, or the default household manager, there might not be much time or energy left at the end of the day to feel like you’re anything more than a mother.
So, it’s not terribly surprising — and it’s not good news — that a recent survey by Baby Center found that 22% of moms feel like they’re “just moms” and have “lost touch” with any other identity besides parenthood. Equally as troubling is that mothers were more likely to lose their personal identity the longer they had been a mother and if they had more children.
Why is this happening? A lot of the answer has to do with lack of time and energy to spend on other things, which translates to a lack of support from family and the wider community. And some of the answer has to do with societal pressure and expectations put on moms to be perfect and selfless.
For example, over one-third of women (34%) said that they put themselves last in their lives. And 40% said that although they know that self-care is important, they don’t have the time to invest in it.
Only 17% of mothers identified as “many things, not just mom.” More millennials and women of color fit into this category. These women reported that exercise (36%), shopping (39%), traveling (31%), and spending time with a partner (37%) were the best ways they found to keeping more of themselves even with kids.
The survey was conducted through the Everyday Health Group Pregnancy & Parenting Talk to Moms Monthly Poll, which spoke to over 400 moms ages 18-44 with at least one child under the age of five.
This is not the first study to find such shocking numbers about motherhood and identity loss. In March, a British survey of over 2,000 people found that 62% of moms felt like they’d lost at least part of their identity since becoming parents.
In that survey, conducted by the app Peanut, moms said that a lack of time for themselves (37%) was the biggest barrier to keeping their identity intact, while the expense of having kids (19%) and childcare issues (17%) were also factors.
How can moms prevent postpartum identity loss? You’ve probably heard this list before, but it’s worth going over it again.
- Acknowledge your feelings.
- Make time for yourself. Seriously.
- Take a look at your partnership and make sure it’s equal.
- Hold on to hobbies or start new ones that fit into your life.
- Let others know how you’re feeling.
- Ask for help from your community.
It’s true that your identity will forever change when you have a child. But it’s also not great when your whole life becomes caring for your kids. And if you’re still having trouble making time for yourself or finding the energy to engage in the things you love, remember that you are your kids’ biggest role model, and showing them how to live a full life is super important.
And if you’re still struggling to find your identity apart from your kids? It might be time to see your doctor and discuss some options from there — because having kids can trigger anxiety and depression, too, which can lead to identity crisis.