Have you ever travelled overseas and been lost in a new city? It’s kind of exciting and you don’t freak out because you know you can search Google Maps to find out exactly where you are, and where you need to go. You can also quickly work out how you got there in the first place.
However, what happens when you get lost in Motherhood?
There is no Google Maps for navigating that journey. You know physically where you are, but how on earth did you get to this mental space where you can’t even describe the landmarks! You know you want to feel differently but how do you make that happen? The clue lies in understanding how you actually got here.
Whenever you meet someone new, one of the first thing people ask you is “What do you do?”
When you’re in the workforce, you don’t notice how many times you’re asked this question.
If you’re on maternity leave, you’ll feel confident saying, “I’m in advertising”, or “I’m a Consultant” or “I’m a naturopath”.
However, if you’ve left work and been out of the workforce for many months, with no fixed plan to return soon, you may feel a little uncomfortable.
Society values roles where you’re doing something and being paid for it. So much of your identity is wrapped up in ‘What you do’, that when you stop work to stay at home in the (unpaid) role of raising your kids, society doesn’t quite know how to respond to that.
It’s almost as if the second you stop achieving and contributing to the workforce, you’ve stopped contributing. Period. And it’s a tricky perception to deal with.
In the beginning, when you meet someone new, conversations go like this:
Well-meaning individual: “So, what do you do?”
You: “I’m a stay-at-home Mum”, you say with confidence.
Well-meaning individual: “Oh”…and then,…silence.
And that’s often where the conversation awkwardly ends. Or sometimes they respond with:
Well-meaning individual: “Oh, you’re just a stay-at-home mum”…and then…silence.
But after hearing the “Oh” and the “Just…”again. And again…you start dreading being asked.
After having so many of these conversations, you then start to take on societies perception of the value of staying at home.
That’s when the conversation morph’s into this:
“So, what do you do?”
“I’m just a stay-at-home Mum”, you reply.
And that’s when the lost feelings start to rumble inside.
You want to enjoy this time at home with your kids, but you start wondering, “Is my role valuable?
According to Tony Robbins, life and business strategist, to feel happy we all need a balance of certainty and uncertainty.
We need to have security, comfort and predictability to have harmony in our lives. Humans love routine but we also love, and need uncertainty or variety.
We need challenges, excitement and adventure.
When you’re a stay-at-home mum, your days can often look like this:
The following day we rinse and repeat (that’s if you have manage to shower!).
After a while, the monotony can wear you down. There’s an imbalance between certainty and variety.
You’re missing the excitement, adventure and spontaneity that you used to have, and as a human being, you need!
Of course you're feeling a little lost, overwhelmed and exhausted!
You feel like you're on a hamster wheel.
There's is a way to start finding yourself again, getting back that variety.
Reach out for support when you're ready.
In your working role you were recognised for what you achieved. You were paid a salary for doing your work, and you were often praised through-out the year. You probably had great performance reviews too.
You felt appreciated, and if you didn’t, you went looking for another job.
You shared your wins with your colleagues and celebrated together. You won over a big client - YES! You made that sale – Hell Yes!
Now, it’s a struggle to shower daily. You find yourself telling your partner how you changed 6 diapers before midday but it doesn’t seem quite as satisfying as telling them you got that promotion.
It’s perfectly normal to miss someone saying at the end of the day, “Well done - great job today!”
Now, all you hear is crickets… no one sees the four loads of washing, two explosive poo-filled nappies you changed within minutes, and how you managed to spread butter on your toast one-handed while cradling your baby with the other.
At the end of each month, you don’t see the pay in your bank account that recognises you’ve actually worked more hours than you ever did in your life.
B.C. (Before Kids) if you had a meeting scheduled at 9am you would be there. Hair appointment on a Thursday evening – you’re there. Spring cleaning your house on a Saturday – in the diary.
A.C. (After Kids), drinking a hot cup of coffee or tea – it's almost impossible!
A.C., you’re no longer able to set a task or make an appointment without the risk of not being able to do it, or getting to that appointment on time, if at all. Unless you have your kids in childcare or you have a reliable baby-sitter, your time is no longer your own.
Even making a phone call can be challenging! No wonder you’re feeling frustrated. You probably have a hundred things on your ever-growing to-do list, and little time to tick anything off.
And this can feel really disheartening - I get it! Even though you’ve never been busier, at the end of the day, when you look at the dishes piled up and the toys on the floor, it can seem like you’ve done nothing.
You probably don’t recognise yourself anymore. Your life has been completely turned upside down. Even if you have a baby that sleeps well, just having another human being that completely relies on you for their survival is a huge shift in your life.
Your self-identity has left the house along with all the dirty nappies …where have you gone?
Where did your former self go…the person who went out regularly with friends, went to see a movie, ate whenever she wanted, slept-in on the weekend, and was fairly care-free? You can love your new role as a mother AND at the same time, be completely overwhelmed by it, wondering: “Who am I now?”
This questioning is magnified the longer you stay out of the work-force. It takes time to adjust to this, so stay kind to yourself.
The feeling of joy that washes over you when your baby smiles for the first time is amazing.
After a while though, you’re longing for conversation that’s a little more interactive than a ‘goo’ and a ‘ga’ from your baby.
You know you’re feeling desperate for adult conversation when you peer out of your window, hoping to catch the post-man. Or you rush to the door when your online package arrives, hoping to catch the delivery driver, just to say, “Thank you”.
In fact, this brief connection is giving you such a buzz that shares in Amazon have sky-rocketed because of all your online purchases!
You’re hard-wired for connection, and without the interactive and stimulating exchanges you’re used to, it can feel lonely – even though you’re never alone.
Your pre-baby self-care rituals decline for a little while after becoming a mother. It’s not surprising that you’re finding it difficult to sneak in a pedicure when even finding time to take a shower is a challenge.
All those rituals that made you feel good in the past are often put on hold, leaving you feeling a little flat. Everything from having time to exercise to catching up with a girlfriend takes enormous effort, and even with the best laid plans, your baby sometimes has other ideas.
It's no wonder you're feeling lost in Motherhood.
I want you to know that what you’re going through and how you’re feeling is very real and perfectly understandable!
Stay kind to yourself, and seek out support when you need it.
I hear you, I see you, and after 15 years of mainly being a stay-at-home mum, I really get it. There's is a way to start finding yourself again, and regaining your confidence.