This is a well-known truth about becoming a mother: you risk losing yourself.
I was somewhat naive about what having children would do for me. I was in my late twenties and held a University degree and a good job. But I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. When, after the birth of my second child, the day finally came that I quit my job I felt free, unburdened and in control of my life.
That feeling didn't last long.
Being at home full-time with two small children was anything but the leisurely life I'd envisioned. Both of my kids were “spirited,” which is a nice way of saying they didn't do what I wanted them to. But the most surprising thing for me as an introvert was how lonely life got. While it was nice not having to be sociable at a job every day, I hadn't anticipated the fact that I often couldn't visit with people when I did want to. Working around feeding and nap schedules made getting out of the house challenging. Having two spirited kids made it nearly impossible. At some point I just stopped trying.
My life became only about my kids. Taking care of them was all I did. I loved them like crazy and I wanted to be with them more than anything. But after a few years I forgot who I had been before they came along.
I'd lost myself in motherhood.
But here's what I've never said before: I found myself there, too.
Losing my identity was difficult but it opened the door to find out what truly mattered to me. I realized a lot of the things I'd done before I'd had kids weren't important anymore. Being stuck at the grocery store with a screaming toddler on more than one occasion helped me get over my concern with what others thought of me. That was one huge battle finally won.
After stripping away the unimportant things, I could begin to see what I really did care about. When my kids moved past the baby stage they could distinguish right from wrong so I needed to teach them real things about life. And that made me start to wonder why I thought a certain way, which caused me to start examining my own beliefs. I'd realized I couldn't teach my kids what's really important if I hadn't figured it out first.
And then something else happened: I started to feel motherly towards all children. Suddenly, I'd developed a social conscience that wouldn't let me ignore the needs of hurting or hungry kids in the world. And when another mother's child was damaged, my heart broke, too.
Your priorities shift when you become a mother. You want to leave the world a better place for your kids and that means working for the greater good of all.
In this way, losing myself in motherhood freed me to find myself and my place within the world as a whole. Motherhood is a refining process; your selfishness is stripped away and that leaves room for your heart to grow bigger. It's a pruning of the overgrowth so that something beautiful can bloom in place of what you no longer need.
Before you have a baby you know it will change your life but you don't truly understand how much it will change YOU.
This is the truth: I lost myself in motherhood. This is the greater truth: I found a much better version of myself there, too.