It’s no secret that becoming a mother takes some adjustment when you already have a career. Your responsibilities and priorities change and there’s an identity shift. Suddenly you’re not just leading a team at the office, or pitching things to a boss whose quirks you’ve grown familiar with, you’re also catering to the whims of a tiny person with a very loud cry that you have to decipher. When you return to work after maternity leave, you might need to step out of meetings to pump. And as your child gets older, you might not be able to make early morning meetings, because that’s school drop-off time.
Although not discussed as often, dropping the “working” part from your identity to focus on motherhood, and adjusting to that, can be just as difficult. Portland, Oregon-based mom, wellness writer and meditation expert Laura Irwin knows this well. Ten years ago, when she quit her corporate job, she didn’t realize she’d also lose her identity, self esteem and the status a job title affords.
As she detailed in a LinkedIn post, she entered “the world of thankless tasks” in motherhood: “learning new things, freelancing, chores, more chores.”
“It was messy. I was messy,” Laura wrote of the identity shift. She called parenting “an inside job,” and pointed out that inside jobs are often the most difficult. “A war wages within you when you have to learn new life skills while taming your inner critic or when you’re winging it as a parent and [are] too exhausted to feel like you’re any good at it.”
And for parents who are used to the validation that comes from thriving in an office every day, the switch to taking care of a child and doing remote work can be daunting.
Laura eventually had an epiphany, and found a way to embrace the identity changes she experienced. “When the number of chores you do has nothing to do with how many self-esteem points you earned that day, you realize you have to work on yourself, not for anyone else’s sake.” Laura wrote. “You don’t need a pay raise or a pat on the back to to be your personal best. Give yourself credit.”
It’s so important to be kind to yourself as a working mom, even if no one else but you and baby are seeing the long hours you’re putting in. Laura put it perfectly: “Growth can be occurring on the inside while everything else looks…messy. Sometimes the seemingly thankless jobs, the ones nobody sees us doing, are what build us and better us.”