I have a 23 month old son and I love being a mother, but the older he gets, the more I feel like I am losing myself. I try to talk to my husband about it, but I don't think he truly understands. I am always so busy with work, cleaning the house and keeping things in order that I don't know what I need anymore. My husband tells me to go out and enjoy myself, but I don't know how to do that anymore. I also feel really guilty when I leave my son. I feel like I should be spending as much time with him as I can. This feeling of lost identity has gotten so bad, that I feel depressed all the time now and I don't feel like I can be a good mother anymore. I'm not sure if this is normal for mothers. All the mothers I talk to seem to be fine. This is also causing a lot of problems between me and my husband. He wants to help me, but he doesn't know how. I'm so confused and I'm not sure what to do.
Is this normal?
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Other mothers have gone through what you are too. I went through some times like this when my children were babies and toddlers. Being so fully "on" in caring for a tiny person and trying to keep everything else going is very demanding and while it can be very fulfilling, it is not fulfilling in the way our lives were before babies. It is a huge shift in identity and some people make it more easily than others for many reasons.
It is great that your husband wants to be supportive in this. It is much harder when that is not the case!
What have you tried? How often are you trying to do something just for yourself? Maybe just taking an hour and going out for a cup of coffee and bringing along a book is good enough. Or maybe it is going and seeing a movie on your own. Do you have a friend you could call and invite to go for a walk? I used to love it when my husband would help me tidy up the house enough so it wouldn't drive me crazy and then he would take the kids out so I could have an hour or two alone at home. It helped lessen the feeling that my home was my work place and that I could never truly relax there. Having a bit of time when I didn't need to listen for the baby or do anything but just be or putter around did wonders for my mental health.
What kinds of things did you enjoy doing before you became a mother? Does any of that appeal to you right now? Do you feel like you need to do something and just can't figure out what that is or are you exhausted and what you need most right now is to catch up on some sleep? Trying to feel better by doing something when you just need a nap only makes things worse for me.
Your son is at an age where time spent with his dad on his own can be loads of fun. Even if you go out for a couple of hours two or three times a week to work out or do something else for yourself, you will still be spending most of your time with your son. There is no need to feel guilty for taking some time to take care of yourself when he has a loving dad to play with him.