Why Don’t I Feel Like Me Anymore?

white women on a grey background. head in hands.

I’m going to jump straight in with …

  • Getting to grips with the emotions, thoughts and behaviours that you experience when you’re a Mum
  • Delving deep in the real reasons for this loss of identity
  • Exploring some effective ways you can reach out for help

Perplexed by the precarious path of motherhood

To your friends, family, work colleagues and other parents, it might appear as if you’re ‘doing it!’ 

But to you, you feel like you’re failing at it.  But why?

  • You read a book about having a baby.
  • You flick through the mother & baby magazines and collected ideas about names, nursery décor and ways to look after your little bundle of joy.
  • You clicked on the cute mothering blogs and laughed at the humorous stories of poop seeping out of nappies.
  • You had this vision of being a mother that would bring joy, happiness, fulfilment and a sense of completeness that couldn’t be rivalled.
  • This wasn’t going to change you.
  • You got it nailed.

So, why do you feel like you are battling to know what your baby needs when they cry?  Why do feel like there’s never enough time to do all the things you feel you need to do, like feed your baby, get your baby to understand the difference between day and night, clean the bottles, prepare the baby food and your own, tackle the endless pile of washing, get to the midwife appointments, meet-up with mummy friends who are clearly doing better than you?

You can feel like you’re spiraling downwards into this void of failure.  You’re failing at being that vision of the perfect mother.  You’re failing at knowing what your baby wants because they’re still crying and why does their cry cut through you like a knife? 

Self-doubt starts to set in and you over-analyse what’s going on around you…always questioning your partner and friends motives for saying and doing things moving you to compare yourself to those friends and other mothers.  Feeling alone and essentially stuck on a conveyor belt of reactive chaos, you can begin to feel like this was all a big mistake.  That this vision of motherhood with a white picket-fence is all just a bunch of b*llocks that’s dreamt up by the celebrities you see with their babies in the magazines.

Is it any wonder that when you partner walks through the door asking why you’re still in your pajamas, a red mist descends upon you but you can’t form the words to explain how you fell out with your buggy when it wouldn’t fold so it stopped you from getting out today.  You’re desperate to plead for some sleep but what’s the point because you know you have a list of jobs to do which is long as your arm and he’s already started telling you how hard his day has been as he starts scrolling through his phone and sits on the sofa.

Your desperate to hand the baby over to him so you can ‘tag out’ and rest up, but you don’t take that rest, because you can’t.  You don’t let yourself do this because you feel you have to keep up the mummy momentum and just keep going. 

And while you’re keeping going, you’re locked in this anxiety-ridden scenario where you feel no one understands you and that makes you angry, frustrated, sad and exhausted.  No one gets why it’s important to pick the stuff from the stairs and actually take it upstairs with them.  No one gets why it’s important to empty the rubbish bin and replace the liner.  No one gets why it’s important to help make the tea.  No one gets why it’s important that you need to feel special, loved and attractive.  No one gets why it’s important to ask how YOU are and not just asking after your child.  Is it any wonder that you find yourself crying and becoming an angry mum and an angry partner?

And when it’s time for your return to that magical place – where there are no kids (work) – your life can become a guilt-plagued balancing act.  A box-ticking repetitive groundhog day. Every day is rushed. Getting the kids ready.  Getting yourself ready (well, sort of).  Dropping them off.  Fighting the traffic and getting to work.  Do your work and feel guilty for leaving your kids.  Leaving work as soon as the clock strikes as the guilt returns to remind you what a bad employee you are.  Picking the kids up.  Feeding the kids.  Getting the kids to sleep.  Drop dead for the night.  Then you start all over again.

And for a short moment before you fell asleep, you can sometimes wish it could be different.

The Guilt Gremlin

When you become a mother, you actually give birth twice.  You give birth to a little baby human and then you give birth to this other little invisible troll…or a gremlin that hides behind you…hiding in your shadow.  I call it a Guilt Gremlin.

It’s the most annoying of the gremlins because it creeps up from the depths anywhere and everywhere…you could be making dinner and UP the gremlin pops and whispers in your ear…’Why aren’t you making fresh food for your baby and why are using a jar?’  and how about ‘Why are you leaving Paw Patrol on loop on a tablet for your kids to watch when you’re having a sneaky glass of wine in the kitchen?’  And in work…yes, the gremlin travels with you in your car…prodding you in the back of your headrest reminding you that you’re a bad mum for leaving your kids at nursery when they were crying and sobbing…’what a bad mother you are.’

When you’re at work, you worrying about family. When you’re at home, you stressed about work.

Feeling like you’re constantly on the verge of a complete meltdown, you can see yourself turning into a woman you don’t know anymore and looking at your partner wondering how he even got to keep a front door key!

This is not what you expected from motherhood and you’re fumbling around in the darkness looking for the emergency stop button.

But who am I?

Well, when you’re pregnant, you focus so much effort and time on preparing for your new arrival, you don’t even think about how you’re going to steer your way through this transition into motherhood and then back into workplace.

While on your rocky road to be the perfect mum, you forget to be kind to yourself.  You put everyone’s needs first and you put yourself last.

In fact, let me be real here…it’s pretty much the norm too for you to not even feature on that list!

When you feel like you have lost your identity, it’s pretty much like going through the grieving process.  The person you once were is not there, because she’s been replaced with this ultimate giving superhero!

Pause Reflect Rediscover

The secrets to reigniting your own identity starts with pausing everything.

Take some time out and think about who you were before you adopted your ‘Mum’ label.  What were your personality and character traits?  What were your beliefs and your goals – positive or negative.

Now focusing on those pre-mum positive character traits, consider whether you still relate to those now that you’re a mummy and if not, think about the activities you once did that allowed your real identity to shine.

Keeping on top of the colossal task of cleaning and getting those repetitive household jobs completed are the around-the-clock activities which can seem to obstruct you from injecting ‘you time.’  Even with a cast iron plan in place, you can be thrown off by an unexpected pile of washing lurking under the bed, or soggy towels sitting in the bath and what about the sticky fingers marks on the work surfaces and washing up on the dirty drainer that you wake up to each morning?!  It’s like that to-do list doubles in size every day!

And finding the energy to get these tedious tasks done is half the problem, the other half can sometimes be having enough hands to juggle a toddler AND a baby and maybe MORE!  Using a carrier can enable you some hands free time to get jobs done, whilst also being able to respond to your child/dren and offer comfort and support.

The next step is to make an action plan for yourself.  I know that’s going to feel weird – planning to do doing something for you, but this is crucial to reigniting your identity.  Remember, you-time doesn’t have to be a spa day. It can be a walk in your favourite park, a hot cuppa’ with a friend or reading a book!

Incorporate those activities you once enjoyed that made you feel happy, that made you laugh and that made you feel free, into an action plan.  With support from your partner, friends and family, you can make a plan of action to get that stuff back into your life, little by little.  It’s the small steps that make this work.  And you know what, if you run out of activities to choose from, you can always use my free Hobbies List for ideas!

Comparing yourself to others is like comparing apples with chocolate – it’s impossible and that’s why you always feel like you’re failing.  Focusing on your aims and feelings that you want from your life will help you keep your mind on the NOW, rather than looking back to what you could have done better.

You can learn more about preventing perfectionism, stopping the people-pleasing, learning to say no without feeling bad, controlling your anxious thoughts and designing a new future YOU by downloading my Ultimate Anxiety Breakthrough Bible and working through each of four simple modules in your own time.  There are some great tools and resources in there to support you too!

Returning to work worries

If you’re a mum who is or has been on maternity leave, or has had a period of absence and now you’re looking to return to the working world. The thought of that can be enough to shock your system.

You can get this sicky feeling come up from the pit of your stomach that makes you imagine all sorts of anxious thoughts about what might happen, what could go wrong, how you might feel, how you might be judged.  It creates this seed of doubt that stays with you for a long time and boy, does this knock your confidence and self-worth into orbit!

All of this fear of the unknown mixed in with the changes to your hormones can be a recipe for causing anxiety, so wouldn’t it be great if you could have your own little HR buddy to help you unlock more confidence and belief in yourself and your abilities?

An HR buddy

Well, that’s what where a mummy mentor can help and support you.  I run The Mum Almighty and a mum to two girls who has lived with the feelings of overwhelm, fear and anxiety about my own transition from motherhood to working mother. I also suffered for years with postnatal depression, so I totally get it.

I take the time to really listen to all the stuff that’s whizzing around in your head, your worries, thoughts and feelings and together we can get to grips with your ‘mindset gremlins’.   With your desire and motivation for taking back control of your life, we can concentrate on REIGNITING THE REAL YOU. So you can achieve your career and life goals with conviction and certainty.

Mentoring with me will help you combat those cunning little gremlins, keep you focused and on track when you’re heading back out into the workplace. If this is something you want help with, let’s have a chat.

Just remember, your identity hasn’t vanished, it’s just submerged under a pile of stuff on the stairs waiting to be picked up.

By Julie Hartell @Mum Almighty Mindset Coach

*** Footnote and Reminder from Kizzy***

Often our expectations of motherhood are impacted by our unrealistic expectations of children. Learning about normal infant and child behaviors can help to understand and adapt our approaches. Making the dance between you a little more smooth. You can find out more by contacting kizzy@babywearingsouthwest.co.uk .