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Motherhood, Identity and Mental Health

Mental health

When we discuss mental health and motherhood, the conversation often veers (as it should) to postpartum depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns. There are studies and amazing supports for these conditions and I hope all mothers who are thinking that it’s a bit more than “baby blues” or “first baby anxiety” seek out these resources and access them. Go see your doctor. Talk to your partner. Accept support.

You are not alone. It doesn’t have to feel this way.


Today, however, I wanted to talk about a different type of challenge for mothers- identity. As I write this, I’m at a hotel where I’m finishing up an awesome training for my EMDR certification. After unpacking, I walked downstairs to the bar to enjoy a martini.

And there I sat.

With no one touching me.

With no one asking for snacks.

No random shrieks from the other room.

It has been glorious.

The shift

After my son was born, I remember my grimace as time-and-time again I was “____’s Mom”. Did my name disappear along with my ability to enjoy a trampoline*? I went back to work shortly, and was met with questions of motherhood: If my tiny human was sleeping through the night, how breastfeeding was going, and if I “missed him” while on the job.

(There’s a whole separate post here regarding fatherhood and careers. In the interim, feel free to Google. Or sign up for Billy’s Men’s Group.)

I am a social worker. I am a counselor. At the time I entered the role of motherhood I was a leader, an advocate, a supervisor, and an overall professional badass.  I did this on top of maintaining a beautiful two acre property and raising chickens.

Trying to avoid absolutes and black-or white thinking, but I did feel that none of this mattered once I chose to begin a family. As my amazing baby boy grew, my interests, roles, and vibrancy shrank. Through no one’s fault (you can’t blame the baby, it’s in poor taste).

Reclaiming identity

It took a long time to regain my identify. The formation of Ancora was a crucial part of that. We passed my baby from lap-to-lap, blew bubbles for him, and I breastfed while we drew up the vision and purpose of what will some day become Ancora Farms. And when my daughter eventually came along, the name “ancora” came from the air as she fussed, nursed, and slept in my arms. Kara was rebuilt, and the role of entrepreneur was added.

Women like me come into my office. Circles have become smaller. Interests forgotten. Frustrations with partners at an all -time high. This is consistent among stay-at-home homes, tiger moms, Pinterest moms, single moms, helicopter moms, free range moms, MOBs, crunchy moms, and full-time working moms. “How do I make time for me?”

And, more devastatingly…

“I don’t deserve time for me.”

Therapists say this too. I texted Arianna of the NYAM Project regarding the guilt of hiring a sitter.  So that I would be able to run my first ever half marathon.

So. Much. Guilt.

But a year ago I added “runner” to my identity.  And I need to honor that. For my sanity. And so my kids can see what a mentally and physically healthy mom looks like. If I honor my energy, my energy will be better for them. And they deserve that, 100 percent. 

In closing

This blog is without quick tips. This blog is simply that you are not alone. And to remind you that it’s possible to regain some of what you feel is lost and to integrate your new, awesome role (Mom) into the fabric of who you were. You deserve that, as do your kids.

If you need support with remembering who that person was… pre-kids… give us a call. Billy, Kara, and Lydia are all accepting new clients and both seasoned at surviving parenting.

(So far.)

*I do a lot of sexual health work with my clients I’m aware of Kegels, but thanks, folks!

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