Faith, Identity, Motherhood, parenting, postpartum

How to balance your pre-mom-self with your new-mom-self

Now, hear me out — being “mama” is a beautiful thing. It is an incredibly special gift bestowed upon us by God. But motherhood is not our be-all and end-all.”

Let’s face it — motherhood changes us. Whether it’s for better or for worse, bringing a baby into this world alters something (or everything) about us.

All of us.

Trust me, mama — none of us journey through motherhood unscathed. And a healthy dose of positive change can be good for us. Now, notice I use the phrase “healthy dose of positive change.” Too much change can throw our entire identity out of whack. And negative change will bring us even further away from our true self.

Ideally, we want to reach a balance between the woman we were before becoming a mom and the woman we have become (or are becoming) since being inducted into the motherhood club.

But that is much easier said than done, am I right?

The trap most of us mamas fall into is letting our original self fall to the wayside while we navigate the rough terrain of first-time motherhood. Although doing this might be necessary for survival during those first few months of newborn care, the true problem arises when we continue to bury our original self. If we aren’t careful, our original self will wither away completely and all the identity we will have left is, “mama.”

Now, hear me out — being “mama” is a beautiful thing. It is an incredibly special gift bestowed upon us by God.

But motherhood is not our be-all and end-all.

It is part of who we are — an integral part, most definitely — but not who we are entirely. Motherhood should enhance the person we already are and highlight the best parts of ourself. It should not be all-consuming; it should not replace the identity we held before becoming “mama.”

It’s easy to let motherhood come in and wreak havoc on your identity. It takes work to not lose sense of your true self. And since motherhood (especially the early days) comes with a whole lot of tiredness and overwhelming emotions, you will be tempted to just let it happen.

Don’t.

Mama, don’t give in. I am speaking these words to you from personal experience, from a place of past hurts, trials, and eventually, a courageous triumph. I am encouraging you to fight for your identity — especially in the moments where you’re tempted to let it fall away.

I want to share with you — mama-to-mama — a few tips to help you maintain a healthy identity while navigating #momlife.

1. Know where your true identity comes from

First and foremost, let’s remind ourselves where we find our true identity — in Christ. That’s right, mama, it is in our Creator and Savior where our identity is always found. Here are a few verses to remind you of this wonderful truth:

  • “For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.” (Colossians 1:16)

  • “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

  • “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

  • “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)

  • “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor or the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

So what exactly are these verses saying about our identity? Well, mama, they say quite a bit — and all of it is good news.

First, we were created by God in His likeness. In fact, He knit us together in our mother’s womb. From start to finish, we are entirely His creation. And before He even finished creating us, He knew exactly who we would be. He named us and called us according to His purpose.

Furthermore, as followers of Christ, we do not find our identity in earthly things. This means who we are is not defined by the family we are born into. Or by the level of fortune or misfortune we are raised in.

As a matter of fact, our identity is not found in: our career; our income; where we live; who we hang out with; our achievements; our failures; the things we desire; our shortcomings; our Myers-Briggs test results; our Enneagram number; and not even in our church.

No. Our identity is found in Christ alone.

As you step into motherhood, keep this truth at the bedrock of your foundation. Remember that as circumstances change — and even as you change — your identity in Christ is firm. You are a wonderfully made child of God, mama.

I encourage you to find time to pray. If you can’t find it (which is often the case in #momlife) — make time. One of my favorite places to pray in early motherhood (and even now) is in the rocking chair in my daughter’s nursery. When she was a newborn, we spent A LOT of time in there. Sleepless nights were spent there. Napless days were also spent there. Middle of the night feedings were spent there. And now, consoling her through teething, nightmares and growing pains are spent there.

For me, there is something incredibly special about praying to our Heavenly Creator while holding one of His most precious creations — especially the one He has entrusted me with.

2. Introduce your pre-mom-self to your new-mom-self

When you become a mom, it is not an “all or nothing” deal. You can be a mom and still be other things. Honestly, you should still be other things.

For example, if you were a follower of Christ, you should definitely still be pursuing your relationship with Jesus. Finding time for reading, prayer, and fellowship with other believers becomes much more difficult in parenthood. You have to work at it for awhile, but you will find a rhythm.

And don’t be discouraged when these rhythms change. Because it’s inevitable, mama, they will change. Just like feeding times, nap schedules, and daily routines change with each new season of motherhood.

If you were a wife, you should still be a wife. Don’t allow your marriage to suffer because you’ve put on a pair of “mom-blinders” and now only have eyes for the children and their needs.

It is OK if your marriage becomes an item on your “to-do” list for the day. I know that sounds extremely unromantic, but it may be necessary to maintain a healthy marriage. Schedule times to communicate with one another if you have to! Just don’t let your spouse become a well-acquainted roommate you share a child with.

If you were a friend, keep being a friend. The way your friendships look may change — actually, they will definitely change — but continue to be a friend. Whether it’s with the same friends you’ve held dearly to you for decades, or with new friends you meet in motherhood.

If you were a runner/cyclist/gym-goer/yoga-lover/etc. — get back at it, mama! Of course you’ll be taking a short (or long) hiatus from these activities because postpartum is no joke — but you shouldn’t say goodbye to the things you love forever.

This goes for all of your hobbies. Even if you can’t jump back into the things you love for six months, a year, or maybe even longer after becoming a mama — don’t let go of your passions. It’s okay to put these things on the back-burner, but don’t keep them there!

Basically, just fill in the blank: If you were a __________________, keep being a ___________________.

Also, it’s OK if your passions change after becoming a mom. If you no longer enjoy skydiving, don’t force yourself to do it for the sake of doing it, but do yourself a favor and find a new passion to take its place (that does NOT have to do with being a mom!)

Basically, tell your pre-mom-self to say hello to your new-mom-self. Maybe not everything in your pre-mom-self life will align with your new-mom-self — and that’s OK, too. In fact, I am sure this is the case for most of us mamas. As you work to find a balance between the two, you will discover what fits and what doesn’t. One way to figure out what should stay and what should go is to:

3. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize

You heard it here first, mama (not really, but just go with me) — get your priorities straight! It is totally normal for our priorities to get all whacky once we enter into motherhood.

I repeat:

It is totally normal for our priorities to get all whacky once we enter into motherhood.

Why wouldn’t they? The minute we welcome that baby into the world (whether by birth or through adoption) — everything else becomes backwards. It only makes sense that our priorities would take a hit, too.

We need to recognize this, so we can fix it and yank ourselves back on track. (Again, this might not be feasible during the newborn months — just survive weeks one through twelve mama, that’s all we ask of you!)

Well, now you might be asking what exactly your priorities should look like. Unfortunately, I cannot answer this question for you — because I’m not you! And honestly, I think it looks a little different for everyone. I do think, however, there is a ‘general outline’ that most of us can follow:

  1. Our relationship with God
  2. Our relationship with your spouse and his needs
  3. Our children and their needs
  4. Our health (mental, physical, and emotional)
  5. Other important relationships (family, friends, etc.)
  6. Our career (being a SAHM counts!)
  7. Our passions and hobbies
  8. Everything else

Like I said, this is a general outline. Your priority list might look just like this — or it might look nothing like this. You could have all of the same priorities, or they might be totally different!

Maybe you aren’t married, which means #2 doesn’t apply to you.

Maybe you aren’t a believer, which means #1 isn’t something you have (if this is the case, I want to encourage you to talk to a friend who is a believer and give them a chance to help Christ lead you to Him — you can even talk to me! I promise it is the greatest transformation you will ever experience in your life!)

Perhaps there are other things on your priority list that aren’t in this outline that trump your passions and hobbies.

If you struggle with any kind of health issue — be it physical, emotional, or mental — you will probably have #4 placed higher on your list.

Basically, you will have to work to find out what your priority list should look like. You might even have to move things around every now and again until you find the perfect balance. You may even have to change things again to keep that balance while in challenging seasons of life.

It’s your list and your life, mama!

I did not know who I was or who I was even supposed to be. I looked and felt different; my interests and priorities had changed — and I had no idea where to even begin!

Although these three things are not the only things you can do to help balance your pre-mom-self with your new-mom-self, I believe they are the most important ones. The smaller stuff will likely fall into place once you focus on the big three we covered in this post.

And remember, you cannot do all of these things overnight. It will probably take months (or even a year or more) to feel like you have found a good balance.

For me, it took almost eleven months! I didn’t start working on these three things until about six months postpartum when I finally realized I was having a major identity crisis.

I did not know who I was or who I was even supposed to be.

I looked and felt different; my interests and priorities had changed — and I had no idea where to even begin to fix it. It wasn’t until I started tackling these three things that I started to feel like me again. There were little things I also did outside of these three things to help me settle into a comfortable identity. To give you an idea, here is a list of some of the small things that helped me:

  • Seeing a counselor every other week. Speaking with someone who isn’t a family memeber or close friend is so beneficial when you’re struggling — I highly recommend trying it. It doesn’t have to become a permanent thing (I did it for about five months) and it doesn’t have to move beyond your struggles as a new mama. I saw a woman (a fellow mom) who specialized in postpartum counseling.
  • Eating a healthy diet. Of course I still ate ice cream and indulged every now and then, but I was more mindful of what I was fueling my body with throughout the day. While breastfeeding I was snacking 24/7, so I made sure to keep easy, accessible, and healthy snacks in the house!
  • Keeping a journal. I didn’t write down my entire day or list out my hopes and dreams in every entry. I kept it simple. I would write the date, my overall mood that day, and then a short sentence or two about the best part of my day and then about the worst part of my day. This helped reveal patterns and/or habits that were either helping or hurting my efforts to balance my identity postpartum.
  • Getting out of the house. I made sure to get out of the house twice everyday — once with baby and once without baby. It wasn’t anything extravagant. Most days I would just take my daughter for a drive in the mornings to grab a coffee from right down the road and then walk around the parking lot of our condo building with her in the stroller for thirty minutes to an hour once we got back. This gave me a chance to drink my coffee, get some exercise in, and catch up on any audiobooks I hadn’t finished lately. She really enjoyed getting out, too.

    Then, when my husband returned home later that day or evening , I would get out of the house alone — whether it was for fifteen minutes, an hour, or maybe even longer. Sometimes it would just be a drive around the block while listening to music or praying. Other times it would be a trip to the gym and dinner at Chipotle by myself afterward.

    What is important to note, is that I did not set any expectations for these outings. The only rule I had was that they would occur — no matter what they looked like!

Balancing your pre-mom-self and new-mom-self will be work. It will take time. But, it is important — no, necessary — for your mental and emotional health. It is essential for you to figure out you in order to be the best mama you can be to your babe(s).

You got this, mama!

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