Where did “Me” go?
Bewildering and battering, wonderful and wild – the journey into motherhood is a tough ride for a new mum. Leading life coach Carole Ann Rice negotiates this rocky terrain with some great coaching tips to ease even your bumpiest days.
Do you remember a time when the thought of not being able to shower, eat and sleep in the same day sounded like a torture audition for I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here as opposed to an initiation into motherhood?
No one, not even the doom mongers who warned “life will never be the same again”, could have prepared you for the reality of being a mum. No matter how it’s been dressed up in the self-help motherhood manuals, the tips and tricks of friends who’ve been there before you, this new wonderful, wild and bewildering one-way journey is unique to you.
Feeling overwhelmed or even guilty that this isn’t the experience you thought you’d signed up for are just some of the very real issues new mums face. But the good news is there are not alone and although the night seems long, the feeds eternal and the dawns coming round a bit too quickly you can start to adjust, align and in time get into the fluid flow of a powerful new chapter in your life as a woman and a mother.
Let’s be very clear – it is not unusual to feel lonely, isolated, lost or overwhelmed, or just not yourself some or most of the time. It’s perfectly natural. Here I share some coaching tips to help you segue into your new life and ease you into a whole new chapter of your life.
Loss of Identity – where did “me” go?
You were the centre of your own world, the light in your partner’s eye or the apple in your parent’s heart, the ace team player at work and now you are playing second fiddle to a stranger who is hogging all the limelight. Hello I am here, is the silent scream to self but sometimes you even doubt that. You don’t even look like you in the mirror and with brain fog can barely remember your shoe size.
The shock is sudden and can take a while to adjust to, but you are still you, just with a new role, a family and new responsibilities. Rest assured underneath all that is still you. When sleep is in short supply and there never seems enough time to even shower and eat, let alone prise the clothes and wet breast pads off the floor, it’s time to show yourself compassion.
- Slow down, give yourself a break – this is not a “perfection” contest.
- Take time to reconnect with you; take time to play the music you used to love, listen to audio books that you are interested in and read the blogs or magazines that used to light you up.
- Let old friends see the new you and make new friends who won’t compare you to the old one.
- Take time to look after yourself – being “responsibly selfish” means you have a full tank and therefore have more to give your family. You can’t pour from an empty cup.
- Be patient as you adjust. Resistance is futile, take your own time to accept and slip stream into the flow of your new life. Give it time – it’s not a race.
It used to be you could surf the morning commute, churn out an impressive workload, go for an evening run and maybe even meet friends for an evening drink. Now you are lucky if you are out of your pyjamas before 4pm.
We all feel overwhelmed with the new tasks and demands of motherhood so be forgiving of yourself if it all feels too much. Be realistic with your time, energy and responsibilities you are juggling.
- Set reasonable easy targets for each day. Taking baby out, healthy lunch, feet up, emails, housework and manage your expectations.
- Take some time out – rest more. When we are tired a small pile of washing can seem like K2. Notice when you need to rest.
- Delegate – get help. Chores that a partner can do; order groceries online, bundle up tasks into 15 minute bursts, someone to walk the baby or take it out to give you a break.
- Take the pressure off yourself by learning to not sweat the small stuff.
- The burden of responsibility can feel huge – be sure to share your feelings and get support from family, friends, your GP or your health visitor if you are feeling you genuinely can’t cope. There is nothing wrong with asking for help.
Empty Desk Syndrome
Yes, being a mum is hard work and stressful but it is the most rewarding job in the world. Yet you miss the cut and thrust of your professional life; your other job. Again, this is only to be expected. At work you are known and respected for being you at your best and it’s a place where you can shine and reach your potential.
Once upon a time you negotiated sales figures and presentations but now your biggest challenge is on-demand feeding and emptying the nappy pile up. Don’t despair it is worth remembering:
- You can return to your career.
- You can keep in touch with colleagues
- Don’t miss out on these wonderful early years with your mind on getting back to work. You cannot replace this special time.
- Plan a side hustle
- Many women go on to have great success after motherhood. This is a detour not the end.
The Eternal Guilt Trip
Motherhood and guilt go together like shoulders and baby sick. Please note – here is a genuine request – wherever possible decide to drop it. Guilt is a corrosive emotion that has little positive use. Guilt is good if you feel genuine remorse for doing something wrong – so rectify what happened, make peace and move on.
But to feel guilt for being a mother – tired, irritable, impatient, stressed, anxious, lost and time poor is reductive and so very bad for you. You are human, you are under pressure, you are not perfect and you are not a celestial being who is holy in every way. You are a real woman who is allowed to say things are tough, not as you expected and that you’re struggling, or simply struggling to say how wonderful it all is when you are on your knees with fatigue and frustration.
- Stop trying to be perfect (avoid Insta and the compare and despair cycle)
- Unconditionally forgive yourself – you are human and we all have weaknesses and failings. It is tough so don’t deny it or guilt trip yourself. Keep it real.
- Write a blessings book of things you are grateful for
- Keep a Big Me Up book of all the great and small achievements you have done in your life and do each day. You so rock.
- Ask yourself “how is feeling guilt helping me?” and start to see it as self-harm. Ouch!
- Write out positive mantras “I am good enough” or super size it to “I am MORE than good enough” and believe it.
- Happy mums are the best mums.
- Give yourself lots of love
Am I the only one who …?
Although it feels as though you and your baby are joined at the hip (and in the first few years you usually are) some days can feel very lonely. You have a constant companion but you desire company, someone to share simple observations with and share the load with a friendly ear. You can’t have meaningful chat with a teething baby.
Try wherever possible to make new friends via baby and mother groups, online forums and meet ups. Your new community will be a life saver over the years with babysitting rotas, play dates and social gatherings. Old friends want to see you too. Don’t cut them out.
At this time you can make some great connections, a whole new gang of friends who will be sharing the very same journey.
- It’s OK to feel isolated and lonely some days. Try and speak to a friend or get out for a coffee – babies are like catnip in the community.
- Don’t keep it to yourself – talk to old friends and family.
- Create a WhatsApp support group so you have buddies to share and groan to.
- Try and get out with the baby each day.
Understand that no two mothers’ journey will be the same. It is unique to you. You can write your own rules, have your own story to tell and do things your way. Accept your limitations and embrace this new chapter in your life which will undoubtedly be the richest and most rewarding adventure of all.
For more free coaching tips sign up to Carole Ann’s newsletter. She’ll upscale your dreams, challenge your excuses and get you the results you are looking for.