Early Parenthood Identity: Who am I now?
I hear a lot of women talking about their sense of lost identify in early parenthood. This comes in many forms, at different stages and everyone's experience is different. It was certainly a thing for me and as I feel the fog lift I have been reflecting on my own experience:
In September my youngest started pre-school, my oldest went into year 1. I literally skipped home after dropping them both off for the first time. "Hello 30 child-free hours a week!!". Rushing through my head were all the possibilities this opened to me "I'll focus on developing my business, I'll join a yoga class, I'll read more, I'll lie around meditating, I'll meet friends for lunch without having metal-teaspoon-banging-table accompanying our chats. It will be amazing, I am going to be me again!!"
Two minutes later as a stepped through my front door into my silent house a new feeling struck me..... fear! "What now?". It was the "I am going to be me again" that tipped it. I am going to be me again: What did that even mean? Who is this "me" person.
Something changed for me that day - I realised I was finally coming out of the post-baby fog where life had revolved around dealing (coping) with the emotions, anxieties and intense responsibilities of new-parenthood. I don't think I'd even fully realised I was in that cloud until I felt it lift. It was exciting, refreshing, motivating - but in its place hung a sense of lost identity and two huge questions loomed over me: "What of me did I leave behind when I became a parent?" and "What of that do I actually want to get back?".
I quickly checked in with my values (see my previous blog on identifying your values). Yep, they were still all in tact; friendship, compassion, respect, empowerment, adventure. The beliefs I held about myself and the world around me; my underlying principles, were the same. However their weight and center of importance had shifted.
Within my value around friendship and connection with others now quite firmly sat community and a sense of belonging where previously I'd enjoyed the autonomy of living here, there and everywhere with friendships scattered.
Reflecting on adventure; I thought about how I had spent my post-teen years and early career travelling extensively, and how my enthusiasm for travel had waned the moment I found out I was pregnant. What was now liberating was the realisation that "adventure" was still very much a value of mine. I still craved a sense of adventure, but the context for me had shifted. I realised I was not hankering back to re-finding my travel bug. I was able to let go of my internal dialogue telling me that I had lost my sense of adventure because I no longer wanted to trek through the Borneo jungle.
Adventure for me now looks different, but it is still fuelled by the same desire to have variety in my life, to never get bored, to see and learn new things. This is definitely the area of me that has been most on hold in the past 6 years, and I now feel ready to reignite. This may mean me and my family spending more time with nature, being exposed to different environments, different spaces, exploring the amazing city and country we live in more, enjoying our love of canal-life, experiencing live music together. This doesn't need to be on the other side of the world. Never say never of course! But I'm no longer waiting for my travel bug to put its hand up so that I can start living a more adventurous life again. It starts now with talk of fulfilling dreams and doing new stuff!
As I crawl out of this fog and stand up again I feel the emotions of contentment, happiness and fulfillment creeping out of hibernation. I feel a sense of wanting to grab life by the horns again, embrace my mortality and get on with living my life with intent and purpose.
Or maybe this is just how I feel today - we'll see!