The new reality: Becoming a parent without losing your own identity

Kids change your life — that’s a given. It is not only about practicalities, but mostly about mindset. However, both the practicalities and the mindset are in your power. You will need to adjust and adapt, yet you don’t have to forget who you are.

A while ago I have written an article for the School for Personality development ReFresh (article is in Russian language) entitled “Balancing on the new verge: What should you think about when moving on to a role of parent” (see link here). Of course, it is mostly relevant for those who are only about to become parents for the first time, yet might be interesting also for long-time parents, who are sometimes feeling a bit lost and in search for harmonious balance of their inner roles. This post will talk about the same subject as the article mentioned, so if you master both English and Russian — you can pick which version you prefer to read. It is not an exact translation, yet the essence is practically the same.

We are in a constant motion, even when standing still. We change, we grow, we learn new things and we try to strike the best balance between all of this. Then, when we believe we have finally figured it all out, we are faced with a completely new role — that of a parent. And… there goes our balance…

Before the child is born, parents-to-be usually prepare the nursery, buy a crib, changing table, clothes, diapers, toys and much more, naively believing that now they are ready to welcome their little bean. The problem is that even though we have all practicalities figured out, we often forget to prepare ourselves. No, it’s not about the prenatal courses  or the infant massage training. It is about making sure that the role of a parent does not entirely consume us or knock us out of our own balance. Is it possible? Yes, it is, yet it requires due preparation. And due preparation begins with asking yourself the right questions. Thus, in addition to the pure practical preparations it is important to realize that our own internal changes also require attention. In this post I will quickly share with you what I did to make sure that my own inner balance remains unshaken and that I don’t feel overwhelmed and “consumed” only by the role of a parent.

Before the birth of our kids I made a list of which inner feelings are important for me and what are my core values and needs associated with those feelings. Next,  based on that list, I wrote out what, in my opinion, could have a negative impact on my inner feelings. Finally, in the last column, I made a list of things, which in my opinion, would help me protect these feelings (in other words, what can I do or change to preserve that important stuff in my life). The above sounds like a complicated theory, but I will provide some simple and perhaps even silly examples:

  • I felt it was important for me that I look good (linked to the feeling of self-confidence). I’m not talking about extra weight after childbirth, stretch marks and so on. For me “looking good” is primarily about the neatness and fitting clothes (even if my size is far from the dream one!). Neatness means purity, a manicure and a little touch of cosmetics. Knowing myself, if I would have dirty hair, I’d physically feel bad to the point of having a headache. However, two small children 18 months apart and no nanny could definitely negatively impact my plans. It tends to get pretty busy and obviously lots of things seem way more important than a manicure. But then again. Recognizing that it is important for me, I organized my days to include at least some time for regular taking care of myself. If you realize that something so minor as not having a manicure could potentially disturb your inner balance, it simply pushes you to find the required half an hour in a week to actually do it (possibly splitting it over the whole 7 days; which I did a few times, literally taking care of one or two fingers a day). Difficult yet possible if you feel you need it. Same with clothes. It did not matter that I was planning to go on a strict diet and do physical exercises hoping to get back in shape soon. I knew that before that “soon” would happen, I would require a reasonable amount of clothes in a bigger size. Thus, now I have a beautiful dress 4 sizes bigger than me today… Nevertheless, 4 sizes ago… I wore it and looked nice and neat and – which is more important – feeling good about myself.

You might also be interested in – Dress even when there’s noone to impress

  • I also felt it is crucial for me to feel secure and independent. Those are complicated notions which include a lot of things. I have actually made a list of those things which I associated with the feeling of security and independence. Amongst them, was… a car. For a bunch of practical reasons a car was needed anyway (after our daughter was born we moved from the city where everything was close to home, to a remote village). However, for me the car was also a symbol of security. With a car I know that if something (God forbid!) happens, I don’t need to wait for my husband to come home, I can jump in the car and go (be it to the hospital or I don’t know where…). That’s about security. Moreover, a car in my perception was also a symbol of independence. Very silly example of such independence would be — I can get into the car and go to buy bread or milk when I want it, without a need to ask or wait. Rationally speaking, those are not very significant reasons. However, it is about the inner balance, not rationality. So… I have bought a car — a small, old “Toyota” with the built-in audio cassette player (does anyone still have good audio tapes lying around by the way?). Aside from practical value (that I bring kids to school), after purchasing this car I literally started feeling much more at ease and much more balanced, if you can call it that way.

    You might also be interested in – At the opposite sides of the spectrum: Peaceful co-existence of upmarket and lower-market in a single household

  • One more example. I always loved reading. Naturally, after kids were born, there was barely a moment to sit and read a book. However, as I said, reading has always been important for me. It is linked to feelings of inclusion (“I am on top of what “everybody is talking about“) and even self-worth (“I keep on learning and developing myself“). Thus, I perceived reading not just as a hobby, or a nice to have, but rather as a part of who I was. Yet, speaking about what can negatively impact my reading moment… My daughter! That little angel, especially in her first six months, liked “eating me for hours” and in general was almost constantly on my lap. Combining feeding or rocking a baby with reading an actual physical book was impossible. However, here Kindle with built-in light was my “saviour”. I must admit that prior to having a kid I was always sceptical about e-books emphasizing that I like holding an actual book and turning its pages. But when I thought about it – physical book was just a habit, yet my real wish and urge was the process of reading. It might seem that it would have been easier to give up reading for a while, but once again, knowing myself and what I value, it would most probably negatively affect my feeling of inner balance. Thus, instead of giving up on what was important for me, I sat in the dim light of the room, rocking my daughter to sleep and reading avidly on my Kindle with a content smile on my face.

Those are just a few examples to illustrate that once you know what you truly want and need, even if your circumstances change, it is still possible to find a way to keep that  important in your life. Moreover, a role of a parent however significant that might be, should not totally consume you. Life’s harmony is about a balance and it’s only up to you to find that exact balance most suitable for yourself. That, on the other hand is impossible without a clear understanding of your needs and values. Sometimes, preserving that balance requires certain changes, but more than often they are actually quite feasible (like, for example, starting to read on a Kindle instead of a physical book).

To conclude, I cannot cease repeating that it all starts with understanding of what is truly important for you (not as a mother this time, but rather just as a person you are) and being open to different options available.

You might also be interested in: Motherhood: What has actually changed?

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For Russian version of this article and for my other articles on inner role balance written in Russian language check out the list with relevant links here.



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