Being an entrepreneur, I didn’t realize how much of my identity was tied up in my work. I distinctly remember feeling a massive identity shift when I got married - suddenly I was “wife” in addition to business owner.
But nothing rocked my identity quite like becoming a mother.
Taking care of business to taking care of a tiny life was a shock to the system and one I quite frankly wasn’t expecting. Everyone talks about how tired you’ll be, how filled with love you’ll be, how elated and terrified you’ll be. But no one talks about the identity crisis you’ll inevitably face when you step out of your role as CEO and into the role of parent.
I found myself sobbing when I had an idea I wanted to write about, but couldn’t because I was constantly nursing. I would curse to myself, “I HAVE MY MBA!!!” while emptying the dishwasher for the millionth time that day. I desperately wanted to work, but when I did, I desperately wanted to be with my baby. All the mom guilt followed. I found myself asking “WHO AM I?” constantly.
My children are 3 and 2 now and I’m starting to feel out my identity as I navigate motherhood and entrepreneurship. Here are a few ways I’ve reconciled my new identity with my old as I transitioned into motherhood.
Acknowledge Your New Mom Role
Start by acknowledging the fact that this transition is hard. Be clear about it and recognize when you are struggling with it. Just getting clear about how you are feeling about your new role can let a lot of steam out of the pot. Talk to someone who is going through the same thing, or has just gone through it. You are in the thick of it, so just acknowledging that will allow you to see things a bit more clearly.
Celebrate The Crossover
Running a business, or having a successful career means you have a very special skillset. Do your best to recognize that there will be a lot of crossover of those skills that will help you manage your new life. Being resourceful and efficient are fabulous skills to have when you become a parent. Remember that just because things feel out of whack at the moment, you do possess the skills to handle it.
The worst thing you can do is try to work when you are with your kids, or try to be with your kids while working. Neither work at all. When half of your mind and heart are with your kids, and the other with your work at the same time, you will never feel present. You’ll feel like you’re failing at both. When you are working, work. When you are momming, mom. I’ve noticed that when I take a few hours to power through my work, I am able to return to my kids much happier and present. It allows me to feel like Immy old self, so that when I’m with my kids, I don’t feel so frazzled.
Have you heard the saying, “I was the perfect parent until I had kids.” We all have grandiose ideas of what parenthood will look like, and how our kids will be perfect little angels. But if that were achievable, it would have happened by now. So let go of whatever expectations you have about what parenthood looks like and be open. You simply cannot control everything when you have a child. That’s a hard pill to swallow when you are used to keeping the lid on everything at work. This was probably the hardest part of my journey.
Usher In The Comedy
Aka: give yourself some grace. Being a mom is quite hilarious, really. Never before did I realize that I would have an audience every time I pooped, or that I would sing the ABCs hundreds of times a day. When you start to feel frazzled with the never-ending demands of the tiny dictators we call children, try and remember the absolutely hilarious things they do. At the end of the day it’s not life or death, so try and laugh…. or you’ll cry. Laughing about it has helped me a lot in consolidating my new identity with my old.
Stephanie Burns is the founder of Chic CEO, an online resource for female entrepreneurs, a mom, wife, speaker and consultant.