Having become a mother myself two years ago, I am very well aware of the huge challenge presented by this gargantuan, life-changing transition. In my mind, possibly the biggest change any person can make in their life is becoming a parent. Along with the obvious benefits - the joy, the sense of fulfilment, the unconditional, abundant love - this event in a woman's life may also exact certain costs and is often a very difficult time.
I have been reminded of this today when stumbling across some research to be published tomorrow by the British Red Cross, which identifies that becoming a new mum is one of the key life events that can trigger loneliness and anxiety. Findings reveal that new mums sometimes lock themselves away at home with their newborns, or actually feel most alone when they are at baby groups with other mums because they feel embarrassed that they aren't finding is as easy as they perceive others to be. Mums report to be missing their old life, missing who they were and feeling a strong loss of identity. I too remember feeling like I had to mourn my previous life and find myself once again amid this new version of my existence. This isn't an easy thing to do when you're beyond exhausted and totally consumed by your new little person.
"It's not a difficult thing, to love someone else, but it's difficult to love yourself when you're giving so much"
~Jess, New Mum, Aged 23
The response by new mums to this research has been overwhelming. Clearly this is an experience faced by many, but perhaps one that too many feel ashamed to talk about, or just keep quiet and get on with it because seemingly everyone else is managing to. To this day, when I am faced with an unreasonable, irrational, exasperated little man who is outraged that I refuse put his shoes on the wrong feet as per his demands, or when he feels that lying face down like a plank in the middle of the supermarket is how he wants to spend his afternoon, I am totally baffled by the fact that everyone is just doing this stuff and that this craziness is somehow normal. Let me tell you, just because it's common, doesn't mean it's easy. However, the motherhood transition can also present an amazing opportunity for huge personal growth and a time to reshape the mould of your existence and make your life everything you want it to be. For me, having a baby was like throwing every single piece of my life up in the air, and I took the opportunity, once they all fell to the ground in a scrambled mess, to reorganise them and piece them together in a way I truly wanted them to be.
NCT research paper, Supporting Women in the Transition to Motherhood, emphasises this opportunity to reconstruct your identity:
"Becoming a mother involves a major transformation of self-identity, a profound reconstruction of self"
~Alex Bollen, NCT Postnatal Leader
I urge new mums to see this as a great gift, turn the challenge into opportunity and harness this moment for change; scope out the life of your dreams around your family and in total congruence with who you are and what you want from your life now. Make it happen and believe that you can. Don't feel isolated, uncertain or overwhelmed, but rather, find the time to focus on you and explore your purpose, and don't feel guilty about prioritising you and your dreams.
"Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent"
~ Carl Gustav Jung
Simply put, the greatest gift any parent can bestow upon their children is to be a happy, fulfilled whole person in their own right because in doing so you simultaneously set your child free to grow up to be themselves too! If you would like some help with this, please check out my coaching programme specifically for Mums- from new mums trying to find their feet, to returning to work mums and 'mumpreneurs' trying to forge out a new ‘reality’ and find a way to cope with all the challenges along the way. Ultimately coaching for mums is about helping you gain clarity and confidence in making and implementing the right decisions for you and your family.