I Can't Leave My Baby Behind, But I Can't Leave My Life Behind Either
I’ve always known that motherhood will restrict my freedom of choice, but I had no idea to what extent it could change my life until I gave birth to my beautiful baby girl.
I love my baby to the core, but oftentimes, I was feeling detached from myself and isolated from my former social circle and pre-pregnancy activities that I felt my identity slowly slipping away. This is the story of how I managed to rediscover myself after a long bout of loss of identity and social detachment.
Welcoming Our Bundle of Joy
Before my first pregnancy, I played a lot of roles. A highly driven career woman in a fast-paced corporate industry, a dutiful daughter to my aging parents, a romance-chasing wife to a supportive partner, a reliable sister, and friend, the extroverted life of every party, the social media oversharer, and the travel enthusiast. I enjoyed every role and I felt successful with how I managed my time to give myself the satisfaction of fulfilling every goal that each role brings. When I got pregnant, I started preparing myself for another big role I’m about to take: being a mother. Little did I know, this would be the only role I’d be playing for a long time.
When my partner and I welcomed our first daughter, we were ecstatic and excited. The love I felt for her came almost instantaneously and overwhelmingly. As the days went on, I started to forget all my other roles and focused all my attention on this tiny baby who is entirely dependent on me for all of her needs. It was tiring, confusing, and stressful, but fulfilling at the same time.
Realizing the Struggles of Parenting
Because of the fulfillment I feel whenever I do my job as a mom successfully, I started to care less about anything else that I used to care about. I felt like I was losing myself. And here’s where my struggles in losing my identity started.
- I had no energy for anything. Since my body was still recovering, I was not getting enough sleep, I'm constantly doing chores or attending to the baby, and I do not have the energy to go out and meet my friends, go on dates with my partner, visit my parents, and do anything else that once made me happy.
- I had no social interactions. Since I stopped going to work or going to social gatherings, where I used to make social connections and interactions, I felt isolated from everyone in my life. I also stopped using social media, which made me feel even less connected.
- My relationships were changing. Although all my friends and family understand that being a new mother takes up most of a mom's time, I couldn't help but feel left behind whenever there's an event, meet-up, or holiday that I missed. On the rare times, I try to go out, the struggle of exclusively breastfeeding makes it difficult to connect with others as I constantly have to leave the group to pump or breastfeed my daughter.
- Money was getting tighter. Having a new baby is expensive. Our monthly costs almost doubled, and since I stopped working, our income decreased. With our financial freedom getting restricted, social activities and holiday plans were put on the backburner.
- The intimacy in my marriage was declining. With my partner and I both overworked and tired all the time, the romance in our marriage has died down. We did not have the energy, time, or money to go on dates and vacations like we used to.
Should I Just Leave My Life Behind?
Whenever I find myself daydreaming of my former life, I started feeling guilty. Am I a bad mother for wanting an escape even just for a few hours? Is my love for my baby not enough to satiate my needs for love and connection?
I’ve come to accept that my baby should not be solely responsible for keeping me happy, connected, and alive. It's still my responsibility to find connections with other people, find myself, and achieve the perfect balance for my baby and myself.
Finding the Balance Between Motherhood and Myself
I finally decided that I needed to make some changes. I did not want to completely leave my life behind and be solely identified as my baby’s mother. Here are habits I tried to practice to rediscover myself as a parent while not completely abandoning my old self:
- I made time for self-care. When my partner has the baby, I would take a long bath, do my skincare, do my makeup and hair, or dress up even if I’m not going anywhere. These were the things that made me feel good about myself before I was a mom, so I continued doing them to gain my confidence back.
- I got some help. I would ask my parents if they could help out with the baby, which not only helped me connect with them better but also gave me some time to re-energize and socialize with others.
- I started working from home. My work was a huge part of my identity before my baby. So I couldn't just leave that part of me behind. I explored my options and found a work-from-home job that is flexible and not as demanding.
- I worked on my relationships.With more time and energy to meet my friends, and family, and go on dates with my partner, I felt a lot more connected to myself and others, while helping me be a better, happier, and more fulfilled mother to my baby.
Accepting my Real Self as a Mother
I realized that most of the mental and emotional burden I felt was exacerbated by comparing myself to my former self. By accepting that I am still the same person, only wiser, better, and more well-rounded, I found myself again. With some effort and compromises, I still manage to be my real self while still being a good mother. All it takes is some practice to manage my time and balance my activities.