The Parenthood Trap: Losing Your Identity

Whether you plan parenthood or not, it’s understood that a part of you will either take a backseat or will cease to exist once your child enters the world. Caring for your little one(s) means there is a shift in priorities, a shift in scheduling, and an important addition to your existence in this world.

My entrance into parenthood was unexpected and unconventional. Simply because my “child” is actually my niece, and my mom and I are raising her. I stepped up to the plate due to certain circumstances, and it was a hard adjustment for me to make. I never wanted children. I still don’t want children of my own. But my little one and I have forged an incredible bond over the last few years. While I may not be her birth mother, the role of mother has been thrust to the forefront of my being.

This new and important role has caused a major shift in the direction of my life. There is no more coming and going as I please. There is no more sleeping in. There is no more peeing or showering in peace. A little life depends on me for basic needs, guidance, and an immense amount of love and attention.

The freedom I once knew and loved has now become a distant memory, one I had taken for granted while it was abundantly available to me.

Since Reilly started kindergarten and I had begun a journey of seeking more meaning in life, everything has changed. My focus has now shifted to accommodate her needs and her schedule while also trying to carve out a path for my own life. This has affected both my work and social lives, and quite frankly, I’m overwhelmed.

I’m working two jobs (one I like, one I don’t) that flow with Reilly’s schedule. Unfortunately this leaves little time and energy for myself. The plans I had for myself after the new year have blown away like dust in the wind. The spark that had ignited to follow my passion has suddenly died out. I’ve lost myself in the identity of being ‘mom’ — or Kiki in my case. Every decision I make has to involve someone other than myself.

And now I feel as though I am on the verge of cracking. Reilly has gotten so used to my presence that she gets upset when I leave to do something for myself. So guilt sets in, and little by little these things I enjoyed went from being placed on the back burner to being taken off the stove completely.

As parents, how do we avoid that? How do we not get entirely wrapped up in being Mom/Dad/Caregiver? How do we see that as one part of who we are but not the whole?

I think it’s important to give ourselves permission to be who we are, who we were before the kid(s) came along. I may not be able to freely doing the things I want to do, like going to the gym at 5am or meeting someone for dinner after work, but that doesn’t mean I can’t schedule them in as I would anything else that is important to me. It’s necessary. I need to be able to do things as my own person outside of being a parent.

And I have to learn that it’s ok to ask for help. And it’s ok to ask for someone else to take the reigns for a little bit. Losing myself in this role is not only unhealthy for me but it’s unhealthy for Reilly. How can I be the best ‘mom’ and teach Reilly the importance of reaching for the stars and living life to the fullest if I am not leading by example? How will resigning myself to this role, and only this role, only going through the motions of life to get by, benefit her? Where is the lesson in that?

For me, scheduling what I enjoy – the gym, running, yoga, quiet time – is imperative to my sanity and also to my role as a caregiver. I can’t lose who I am, my authentic self, and my dreams and expect to be looked up to by someone who is dependent on me for guidance. I can’t expect to instill certain qualities and a sense of self love if I am not owning them myself.

The hardest part for me now is climbing back into the driver’s seat of my life and making these changes. Taking back some of my time, making myself a priority, is going to require some big adjustments. But it has to happen. Not just for me, but for Reilly.

Being Kiki while also being Kris, blending my two worlds, is going to be challenging. It’s going to require sacrifice and maybe a few tears. In the end though it’s all going to be worth it. Returning back to myself is going to be worth it.

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