The Ultimate Guide to Motherhood (Keeping Your Sanity & Identity)

The Ultimate Guide to Motherhood (Keeping Your Sanity & Identity)

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Moms go through a revolution. Within. We lose the previous version of ourselves and we’re shoved into a new version with no guidebook and no instruction. We don’t even get to grieve the loss of the old version of us. And as we struggle to keep up with the ever-changing needs of our children, it feels impossible to keep up with who we are. The ultimate guide to motherhood is not about changing diapers or which car seat to buy. Yes, that stuff is important, but there is already lots of information out there on those topics. There is a whole other side to motherhood that we often ignore – your side.

You are the cornerstone, the foundation, the center of your family. You deserve to be the strong, amazing, and beautiful human you are. Here is your definitive guide to keeping your sanity and identity in motherhood — everything you need to know to maintain your sense of self, your sense of humor, and your unique awesomeness.

mom and daughter meditating on couch

1. Your identity doesn’t have to be displaced by your kids.

Let’s start with YOU. You are not the same person you were before kids. How does that make you feel? Sad? Happy? A little of both? It’s okay to be in love with being “mommy,” and it’s okay to struggle with that status. It’s okay to stay at home and it’s okay to go to a job. You can feel one way in the morning and a completely different way in the afternoon. But it’s important that we all have the chance to sort it out for ourselves. 

Now is the perfect time to connect back to who you are. Motherhood is a facet of your identity, not the single definition. It is a piece you must integrate into your being, but you don’t have to let it overcome you. And incidentally, the struggle of motherhood is the very thing that can lead you to a clearer picture of the person you want to be.

Some things to ask yourself:

  • Do you have a personal mission statement or core values?
  • Have you identified personal goals for the year ahead (or even 5 years ahead)?
  • What do YOU want out of life?
  • Lying on your deathbed, what will you regret if you haven’t done?
  • I believe we all have something to contribute to others in the world. What’s your “something”? 

2. It’s okay to feel feelings.

Most movies and TV shows out there with babies being born cut to the parents happily cuddling with a sleeping newborn talking about feeling complete and never so happy as in that moment. (These are also the moments shared on social media.) And while they may be entirely true, you seldom see the hard stuff. The mom crying because of the emotional overload or the fear of the unknown or her world being turned upside down.

We are told by complete strangers to “treasure these moments” as our toddler throws a tantrum in the grocery store or after 30 straight nights of waking every single hour to a screaming baby. The guide to sanity in motherhood doesn’t include total strangers telling us how we *should* be feeling.

sad woman sitting on dock

We feel a thousand percent in love with our small humans in some moments. But in other moments we feel resentment or frustration or anger. And we are sometimes led to believe that we can’t feel both. Or that we can’t talk about the hard stuff. That we might seem ungrateful if we show that we are struggling. Which leads to us struggling alone. And none of us should have to do that.

If you feel the “feelings” struggle too, check out these articles:

3. Motherhood is an adjustment.

When my first son was a few months old, I remember having a phone call with a long-distance friend who was considering having kids of her own. She asked me, “Do you feel like it’s possible to keep your life the way it was before you had kids? Do things change that much?”

Whew. That question is a doozy. (And I never say doozy.) Things do change that much. I wanted to tell her what she wanted to hear, but I couldn’t. And as much as I want to qualify it with, “Oh, but you’ll love it! The changes are so wonderful,” I couldn’t. The changes were hard.

Every woman is different, and every baby is different, so I can’t claim to have the answers to that question for each individual out there. I always wanted to have kids, and I always felt I was a nurturing type, even in my younger years. But the shift from — essentially — a selfish life to a selfless one was challenging. And yet I wouldn’t trade it for anything. 

My kids have forced me to discover things about myself I never would have otherwise. (See the section above about identity.) They have brought joy and growth and perspective in countless ways. But it has come with a wide spectrum of new feelings. (See the other section above about all the feelings.) It’s LOUD. And not just in volume. But guess what else? The adjustment is easier with other women who are going through or who have gone through the same thing. 

mom group discussing the guide to motherhood

So if you are going through it, you are not alone! Here are some articles to guide you through new motherhood:

4. Self-care isn’t separate from the rest of your life.

We hear about “self-care” all the time now. But I often see it perceived as something separate from the rest of life. Something I have to find 10 minutes for or enlist a babysitter in order to have. Something I am just adding to my to-do list … or my “should-do” list. And I agree, you shouldn’t feel guilty about self-care. And you should be doing it. 

But I just want to shift the definition a little bit. Self-care is something we have to integrate into our whole life. Into those loud moments where everyone needs something from you. It comes down to the beliefs we hold about our self-worth, the understanding we have of our own identity, and the respect we give our selves on a day-to-day basis. I am certainly not opposed to a spa day (or even just a simple shower!), but self-care is more than that. It’s internal.

And it starts with the pieces we’ve addressed earlier in this guide to motherhood — finding your individual identity, knowing its okay to feel the feelings, and having a support group of likeminded women.

5. Your body is amazing.

Body image can be a sensitive topic. It can be hard to talk about. No matter what size, shape, or condition your body is in, you can feel a wide range of feelings about it. And if you’re feeling it, then it’s real. 

These feelings are amplified after growing a human inside your body. Like it or not, the landscape changes! The hormones are shifting and the inner workings have transformed. Your organs were literally displaced and moved around to make room for a person in there. And it’s actually pretty amazing. There’s a reason it’s referred to as the miracle of life. 

pregnant woman's belly

It’s important to zoom out and change perspective a little. You may find that it’s a constant journey, moving back and forth from praise to bitterness. From forgiveness to disdain. From grace to impatience. 

I suggest trying out a gratitude practice. Yes, gratitude for your actual body, but instead of focusing all your energy on what you wish were different, start to focus on all the things in your life that are good. Instead of looking at your body under a microscope and trying to get everything “back to the way it was,” start to put the emphasis on what you have control over.

6. When all else fails, laugh.

Parenting feels so deathly serious sometimes. Like if I serve this pretzel stick instead of an apple slice on this particular day, the entire trajectory of my child’s life will be affected. And okay, there are some serious things about parenting. There are big decisions. Our kids are important. We care. But it’s easy to get too caught up in the tiny things and let them put us down into misery.

Laughter is healing. It can relieve the pressure when you’re about to explode. It can shift your mood and even stimulate your physical body. So follow the funny Instagrammers. Watch a comedy show. And when your toddlers are tantruming for no good reason, you may just need to turn to your significant other, throw your head back, and laugh. The guide to motherhood includes so, so, so much laughing.

couple laughing

Need a quick laugh now? Try these articles:

7. Motherhood is an opportunity to level up.

Having kids is life-changing, I think we all agree. But how it changes it our lives can vary. Your kids are constant learning machines. I suggest taking a cue from them, and capitalize on all the learning opportunities that YOU have during this time in your life. If you pay attention to how they see the world, there is so much to gain. Model after their curious mindset and desire for knowledge.

Want to get started? Here are some direct lessons I’ve learned that could benefit everyone:

8. Your dreams matter. So much.

Yeah, it’s harder to pursue your personal goals with little ones. So is that it? When we get “big ideas” when our kids are young, we tend to default to, “The timing just isn’t right for this.” And if we think that way, the timing will never be right. If you are dreaming it now, then the timing couldn’t be more right. This section ties right in with finding your identity and self-care. When you follow your passions, you directly model for your kids how to follow theirs. When you are satisfied, happy, and even THRILLED with life, your kids will be too. The guide to joy in motherhood goes right alongside the guide to joy in childhood.

live your dream as a guide to motherhood

Need a little more guidance on taking a leap to follow your dreams? Check out these articles:

9. Parenting is a skill.

One thing that is so overwhelming about new motherhood or not-so-new motherhood is parenting. We worry that we aren’t doing it right. We feel like everyone else knows what they’re doing but us. But guess what? Parenting is a skill

You can’t be expected to know it all or do everything perfectly right from the get-go. (Or ever, really.) It takes practice. It takes making mistakes. And it also takes the desire to learn and get better. No matter what approach you take, you will develop your own style with time. But know that you also learn by talking with other parents, joining online groups, reading books and articles, and having a support system of family and friends. 

The transition into motherhood is no joke. But you got this. It’s already there within you.

Are there any KEY elements to keeping your sanity and identity that you’d like to see in this guide to motherhood? Share in the comments below!

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Cyndi Harvell Lee

I'm an artist, musician, and mother of two boys. My goal is to help you keep your sanity, find your peace, and thrive on this wild journey called Motherhood.

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  1. Love this.

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