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Mothers identities

(47 Posts)
Purplelisa Thu 07-Jan-16 18:33:08

Hey ladies...
This is my first time posting a thread 😁
I am hoping you ladies could add to this thread with what you feel makes up your identity of being a mother.
it's a difficult one to me because sometimes I feel as if there are two identities at play... The me being a mum to three children under 6. being a busy mum who is constantly tired and striving to make sure I do my best for each of my three children individually.
Then there's the second identity where I am with out my children where I feel as I did before I had them, a lot more relaxed and care free.
With socetal pressure these days with working mums I sometimes wish I could go back to work and not feel guilty leaving my children, just so I could be just me sometimes. My husband works and I do get quite jealous that he spends his day with adult company lol.
I'm wondering if any other mums feel this way, or how they feel being a mum has contributed to changing their identity.

absolutelynotfabulous Thu 07-Jan-16 18:46:42

I became a SAHM at the grand old age of 42 after a full-on career. I can honestly say I did not miss work. I was fine if isolated and lonely until. dd started school and I discovered that most mothers were not, in fact, Sahms. I felt idiotic and, yes, inferior (although I had a weekend job). At work, I felt I could change the world. As a sahm, I was restless and frustrated, compounded by an unhelpful neanderthal dp.

For me, it's not a question of "just being me": I want to be the "me" that I used to be, and it's not gonna happen. I also want the other schoolgate parents to see the old me, instead of the ageing, fattening, menopausal shadow of myself that I have become.

I've lost any feeling of self-worth I had, and gained a grungy teen.

So yes, complete identity change here, and not in a good way.

Purplelisa Thu 07-Jan-16 18:51:46

Wow yes I understand how you feel... It's hard juggling being a mum and retaining any part of identity that you had. I always worked before I had my children, now I am a stay at home mum, I find myself restless, gaining weight, bored, unfulfilled even... Yet I also feel that being at home is where the mum should be, with her children.
As for the school gates, it's just pure torture for me, feeling as if your constantly under judgement from other mums who are probably feeling the same. But some seems to cope with the sociableness of school time drop offs and pick ups
Thanks for replying

MrsTerryPratchett Thu 07-Jan-16 23:56:02

My identity is great grin It's the feeling that I could be doing everything better. My job would be better if I could travel more and didn't have to arrange childcare all the time. I could be a better parent. Just generally. I do community stuff and feel I never have enough time or patience for that. But I can't give anything up for fear of not having the things that make me, me.

The house is a tip but thank goodness my feminist mother made me believe it isn't my image, it's just the house. DH cares more what people think and he cleans more than I do.

I always think, if I had more time...

Purplelisa Fri 08-Jan-16 07:47:53

I think I always feel I could do everything a bit better if I had more time too. I'm doing a degree in the hope that once all my children are at school I can get myself a job having not done nothing whilst I have children. I'm hopeful any way, I think when u feel a bit lost in yourself through being mum, hope is all you have

absolutelynotfabulous Fri 08-Jan-16 08:35:58

I was hoping to get a job too, purple, as soon as dd started school. It just didn't happen. It was a shock to realise that school days are inflexible in terms of working, and that you need reliable support before you can consider looking for work. It also didn't occur to me that I would very quickly become unemployable. So far, I've done some casual work unrelated to my ex-career and the usual volunteering in schools, but that's it, really.

Another thing that I was unprepared for was the sheer amount of headspace a child takes up. Prioritising another vulnerable and dependent individual over myself for years on end has sucked the life out of me. I feel drained and used up; not at all prepared for re-entering a competitive work arena. My age doesn't help! And that's just one childgrin.

I feel lazy and underachieving; not myself at all. I'm sure there are those for whom raising children is an achievement in itself. I'm not one of them. I've always felt guilty about not "working", even though I'm financially independent. To assuage the guilt, I've gone somewhat overboard in helping others deal with their own childcare problems, whilst at the same time resenting the fact that they still have careers, and I haven't. No doubt they are envious of my own position. Bitter, moi?!

However I'm proud of my "choice". I believed that parents should take full responsibility for their children, and I have. I made sure I was financially well-established before having dd, even if I underestimated the effort and cost of bringing her up and the long term financial impact it would have. Tbh, I don't think I was cut out for kids at all. Obviously I love dd to bits, but it's been harder than I thought and left a bitter taste.

I think you are doing the right thing in taking a degree and preparing for work as soon as you can. I wish I'd had the foresight...

Purplelisa Fri 08-Jan-16 09:49:38

I feel the same way, lazy, underachieved also some what bored. As much as the kids keep me on my toes and I'm constantly tired. I wonder sometimes how mums cope with working and children too it seems some what either or to me, maybe I'm just being silly.
Doing my degree does give me something to focus on though and I attend a few tutorials so that's nice to be just me and not mum. I go out the occasional weekend too which helps me feel like me. But then you get a bit of guilt for doing that.
It's such a hard struggle being mum and retaining some kind of self identify which isn't just mum

GreenTomatoJam Fri 08-Jan-16 09:50:11

I had my children a little later (not very late, early 30s) having done a lot of work and travelling and being dumped and having flings so my sense of self was pretty well developed, and I don't think I've lost any of it having my kids.

What I've gained is a continuous little 'lump' in my brain (for want of a better way to describe it) that even when they're not around, is thinking about them. If I'm out and about without them, I'll still have a running commentary in my head that I should tell DS1 about that, DS2 would love one of those etc. I really feel like they're always with me. Someone described it as having your heart get out of your body and wander around, and that's kinda how I feel. I never knew I could feel such a deep connection to someone (and I do love DP, we do click in a way I'd never clicked with anyone else)

The only changes are practically. If DP is at work and I'm with the kids, then once they're in bed, that's it - if something's not in the house, then I can't have it, where previously I could have just popped out to get whatever. And the drag effect of getting two little ones dressed and out the door makes any trip rather more involved.

In summary, I'm still me, it's just there's more of me, and they can wander off on their own now smile

Purplelisa Fri 08-Jan-16 10:23:40

I had my 3 when I was young, with my husband who I've been with for 10years now. Married for 2, we met at aged 19 and had our first child at 23. Now aged 28 I'm just questing what my indentity actually is other than mum, obviously I love my kids to pieces and wouldn't change anything for the world. It's just a struggle to be me whilst I'm constantly mum and my life revolves around 3 kids.
It's great reading other people's perspectives on how they feel their identities are constructed whilst being a mum

PassiveAgressiveQueen Fri 08-Jan-16 12:21:46

Another thing that I was unprepared for was the sheer amount of headspace a child takes up.

I sometimes wonder if this is actually the main reason for the pay gap for working mothers, i can't remember so much about work, as my head if full of kids stuff, whereas my husbands just isn't, his mind is full of work but can remember fuck all about the kids day to day stuff.

Purplelisa Fri 08-Jan-16 16:14:58

Yeah I can definetly relate to that, children do take a lot of head space, that's something I struggle with whilst doing my degree. Having to shut off all the kids stuff in order to focus. Children do definetly contribute to a complete overhaul in not just our identities but the overall way our brains function lol

absolutelynotfabulous Fri 08-Jan-16 16:22:03

Agree with passive and purple. I'm amazed any one can hold down a,demanding job with kids. How do you put thinking about them to one side (apart from the practicalities of juggling childcare)?.

leedy Fri 08-Jan-16 17:00:11

"How do you put thinking about them to one side "

I dunno, I just do. PERHAPS I AM A MAN.

Sorry about the flippancy, but I've never really had the "the children are entirely my responsibility because I am a mother, not a father" thing, so while I do think about them from time to time when I'm in work, I don't really worry about them, at least not at the moment. I mean, they're in school. Or with their minder. They're (generally) fine.

I have more thoughts about this but I need to go to a meeting...

absolutelynotfabulous Fri 08-Jan-16 17:12:57

leedy if you have a minder, fine. Someone else is caring for them. Many of us can't justify a minder because we can't earn enough; and we can't earn enough because we have kids. It's a vicious circle. If you're the only person who's there for them on a regular basis it quickly becomes self-fulfilling: you may only need a tiny bit of help but any help you have has to be reliable, available and affordable.

So many of us are on our own. And likely to stay that way, because other sources of support are stretched to the limit, not suitable or too expensive. It's a rut that's difficult to get out of.

thatstoast Fri 08-Jan-16 17:23:54

Something that annoys me is other people assume you want to talk about your children. Or even worse, assume you want to hear about theirs. It may be because I have a toddler so he's not that interesting (in so far as he's probably the same as 99% as other 1 yr olds).

I just know that DH doesn't get bombarded with questions about walking and talking and potty training and have you put his name down for school? Which school? And so on.

absolutelynotfabulous Fri 08-Jan-16 17:28:00

thatstoast I'm finding this with friends who are grannies, too. I'm 56, and I really like connecting with old friends and colleagues both online and irl. Some I haven't seen for 40 years, but all they seem to want to talk about is kids' weddings and grandkids.

Allaboutthatbass Fri 08-Jan-16 17:33:24

Hi Leedy,
I don't think about my three little ones either when I am at work. Definitely am not a man though!
I think it is part habit and discipline, but it helps that I find my work interesting and totally absorbing, and that we are able to afford very reliable flexible childcare that I have full confidence in. I don't have to clock watch for pickup times (not possible in my job anyway).
I would find the loss of identity associated with my career very difficult if I became a SAHM.

Lweji Fri 08-Jan-16 17:41:58

I think I identify primarily with GreenTomatoJam.
I haven't stopped working for ds. And although he is somewhat always on my mind, he's definitely not the only or not all the time.
No OH now, but a demanding job and other interests. But then so most of my friends, and people I meet daily.
I have always felt like me, with mother added at some point. The only exception was perhaps when I got pregnant where the baby sort of took over my mind for a couple of months. But then work forced the door back in.

NewLife4Me Fri 08-Jan-16 17:49:00

I really don't understand this at all, but certainly don't judge people for how they think.

For me I was/still am the exact same person as I always was with a few kids thrown in over the years.
I don't see the need to label or have a label to identify myself, I'm just me.
I haven't worked outside the home since having children, so about 24 years now.
I come and go as I please, don't have to answer to anybody and like it like this.
Obviously some of my time is dictated, such as friday and Sunday with the school run, maybe other things I will do for family, but generally I set my own goals, and deadlines.

Purplelisa Fri 08-Jan-16 18:19:58

I never tend to judge mums on what ever their decision is on whether to stay at home or go to work. Each individual mums basis their decision on their own needs and knowledge of what is right by their family and I'm sure what ever the reasons either way they are just doing their best for their family 😊
As for mums identities I definetly think choosing to go back to work has a huge impact on retaining some kind of self identity which isn't just mum.
It's hard to describe but it's almost like becoming a mum takes away from who you were before, but also adds so many other aspects to your identity which was not there before

NewLife4Me Fri 08-Jan-16 19:43:44


I think this is true of people who need to identify themselves somehow.
Having not gone back to work has had no effect on my identity as I don't identify myself by a label.
I see my life as being made up of different roles that change throughout life, some are added and some taken away.
I often wonder how I would feel if I needed an identity and what mine would be grin
I'm certainly not suggesting I have it right btw, just how I see it for me.
Maybe tbh it's a bit weird as I know others don't feel like this.

absolutelynotfabulous Fri 08-Jan-16 20:10:28

newlife maybe it's insecurity then. I generally feel inadequate, and constantly trying to validate myself, especially through ways that are visible to other people. Like having a stylish/immaculate house, or constantly trying too hard to look good.

I think being seen as "something" is part of that for me, and maybe I'm feeling that "just" being a mother isn't enough to validate me in other people's eyes, particularly if those people are career-driven mothers at the school gate.

Although in reality these people probably couldn't give a stuff....

NewLife4Me Fri 08-Jan-16 20:44:53


That must be awful for you and I can sympathise with you and others that aren't happy with their lot, or feel they need more to validate themselves.
I do think there are lots of different factors that can make people feel this way as on here it seems that everybody is unique and their feelings of course are personal to them.

I can't claim to understand though and I don't know why. I do know I'm the type to not bother about convention or mind what others think or do.
There is also a lot of pressure put on women in terms of identity from other women rather than men.
I think men tend to be less bothered about their identity and see life as roles.
I most certainly don't agree with it but can you remember the quote about women being domestic goddesses good in the kitchen and whores in the bedroom. It is true that some men think like this but it also shows that men think in roles rather than a specific identity/label iyswim.
We don't hear them talk about wanting a solicitor or mother of their children for a wife.

almondpudding Fri 08-Jan-16 21:04:20

I agree with New Life; I don't feel a need to have an identity.

I think someone on MN said that unless someone was likely to turn up on your deathbed, their opinion of you was pretty irrelevant.

I don't know why people feel the need for an identity. It might just be because we're bringing people up to think in those terms.

absolutelynotfabulous Sat 09-Jan-16 10:22:07

new it's probably something to do with the way I was brought up. My mother was the same. I'm from a "respectable" family in a small village, and appearances meant everything.

My mother always had what she called an "inferiority complex" based on how she behaved. We were a close family , but there was little warmth. Duty, however, was important. As long as you were perceived to be doing your duty, that was fine. This way of being was passed on to me, and as an only girl child expectations were high. Achievement didn't matter so much as doing the "right thing". My mother died ten years ago but I'm still living by the mantra. This is why, I think, I was happy to be a sahm when dd was unexpectedly born as I perceived being a sahm equated to "doing the right thing". I don't think this has made me a better parent, by the way. But I feel that I have, in my own mind, "done my duty" to her. I'm satisfied with that, but it has come at a price.

I think you're right in that things are different for men. I notice that the parents who stress over their kids are invariably women. So if I take dd and her friends somewhere for a day out it is seen as just something I do as part of my role as a parent. It's not noteworthy. If, however, dp takes her on a similar day out it is seen as a massive achievement, to be planned, talked about at length and then crowed over.

Same thing with my useless cousin growing up. No matter what I did it was minimised and taken for granted. The slightest thing he did was greeted with cries of "well done". Clever boy!!

So what I think I'm saying albeit in a roundabout way is that expectations of women and men are or have been, different (at least for my generation). Women have had to fight to be recognised for achievements outside the home whereas men have just been men not needing further validation. I've always had to fight to be taken seriously, both as a young woman in the world if work, and perhaps I'm still fighting that fight, even if it's only with myself!

I'm intrigued as to why those of you who feel no need for an "identity" manage it.

Because I can't quite seem to...

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