One of the most pervasive, harmful notions we perpetuate in our society is the idea that, once a woman has a child, she ceases to be a woman and is, from that moment on, only considered a mom. That doesn't happen to men who become fathers. Fathers are still allowed to be men with their own separate personalities and lives.
But women are expected to devote their entire existence to motherhood. And what this does is create a lot of resentful, exhausted, overworked, and lost women trying to salvage some bit of themselves while saddled with the work and the pressure to be the best moms they can be.
Kate — a writer who chronicles her life who raising three kids, one of whom has severe, nonverbal autism at Finding Cooper's Voice — recently took to Facebook to vent her frustrations about her "lost identity." It's so real and relatable for other women whose entire lives have begun to revolve around their children despite being full people with their own interests and desires and hobbies and skills that fall completely outside the realm of motherhood.
She calls her post, "I Never Knew Being a Mother Would Be So Hard For You..." She writes, "Hi, my name is Kate and I am 36 and I'm having a serious case of lost identity. Or maybe it's a midlife crisis. Or a little post-partum depression. Or maybe I'm just tired, overweight, and mentally drained. Who knows which one.
"I have three boys, a husband, a home, and a job I love. I am beyond blessed.
"I have devoted my life to the humans in my life. And again, most days, I am happy to do it. But some days, some weeks, I don’t feel that way. I feel like I have lost myself along the way."
She explains that she doesn't recognize herself when she looks in the mirror anymore. She looks "tired," "angry," and "rushed." As a mother, she's always rushing around for her family and in turn, rushing — or not even doing — the things she should be doing for herself. It's taken its toll on her.
"When I'm with my kids," she writes, "I feel guilty for not working and when I'm working I feel guilty for not playing with my kids more. It's a lose-lose at times.
"I feel like I wasted by education. I feel like a housekeeper, a cook, a chauffeur, and a ring leader. I feel like I always have sick kids and I can't finish the laundry or squeeze my butt into my fat jeans. I know I’m a good mom. I don’t doubt myself in that department. But I also feel like all I am is a mom sometimes."
That feeling is terrifying. She describes it as "disappearing into nothing." She and her husband take turns doing tasks (like changing "the pee sheets") that will give them a few seconds of alone time, the ability to breathe.
She doesn't have the time to eat well or pick out cute outfits or even take a shower sometimes. "And the sad part is I almost don't care. I'm too tired to care," she writes.
Kate is struggling because she doesn't have her own hobbies; she has no time to do anything for herself. "I'm nonstop busy and yet bored at the same time. It's a bizarre way to feel," she writes.
I think this feeling is unfortunately very common for lots of women with kids. Women still do the vast majority of housework and parenting in American families. Even if her husband is pitching in, even if things between them are truly equal (which it probably isn't!), parenting is so hard. Especially with the expectation that parents can and should do and have it all.
Parents who have to work and can't afford childcare feel this. Parents who work and can afford childcare feel this. Parents who don't work outside of the house and focus all their energy on running a household feel this. It happens to the best of us.
But Kate is determined to get out of this funk. "I want to slow down so I can enjoy this," she writes. "Because I don’t want to miss it. I don’t want to resent it. I don’t want to be angry. What I’ve learned is that there is only so much of me. And I need to find balance.
"This year I will find balance in motherhood, marriage, my job, my home and my sanity. That's my goal. Learn to laugh more too and give myself more grace."
There were so many comments and shares from moms who feel the exact same way Kate does. Many commiserated. "I’m in a dark, dark place today," one person wrote. "There’s so much screaming. I’m so tired. I just want today to be over. I desperately need a time out. I desperately need a minute without someone demanding something of me. I see you. I hear you. I’m sorry. Strength be with you."
Many reminded her that this feeling doesn't have to last forever. One fellow mom wrote, "You will figure it out. You’re stronger than you know. We as moms all have been in this season and you will find your way out of it."
Obviously, we all go through ups and downs, whether we're parents or not. But the struggle is unique when it comes to fighting between your parent self and your person self.
It's so important to prioritize yourself when you feel overwhelmed like this (and even before you start feeling this way!). Taking time for yourself isn't selfish, and it doesn't make you a bad parent. In fact, it sets an important example for your kids that their own health and well-being is of vital significance.