I remember a few months after Felix was born, I told my husband "I really miss ME."
I had been so caught up in being a mom, getting to know Felix, learning the ropes of breastfeeding and mothering that I had not taken any time to myself. Part of it was because motherhood is very demanding, but, to be honest, the other part was that I didn't want to be away from my baby. It almost felt like he was a part of me and I -the woman- didn't really exist anymore.
This didn't particularly bother me for the first few months until -very suddenly and very intensely!- I started to miss her. However, reclaiming her hasn't been all that easy. I am learning that I am not coming back to my former self, but that I am discovering my new self. And that requires work, close attention to my own feelings, and lots of internal reflection.This journey has been intriguing and beautiful, but also exhausting and frustrating at times.
Most women who become moms go through an enormous shift in their identity, how they relate to themselves, who they are becoming, how their value system works, what they prioritize and find important, how they envision their future and what kind of life they want to live and as a result, give to their children. I am so happy to share my dear friend and colleague Bailey Frumen with you in today's Motherhood Spotlight, because she is not only a mama herself but an expert in what it means to own your power.
How I know Bailey:
Bailey and I met at a retreat called Live Free that was led by two fantastic women, Sarah Jenks and Nisha Moodley, in Sonoma, CA in 2012. I was immediately struck by Bailey's open and loving energy and got back in touch with her when we had babies around the same time. She is the author of a book called "Own Your Power" and shares some of her incredible advice and insights on how to own your power as a mom in my Well Mama course. In her Motherhood Spotlight below she talks about the unexpected difficulties new moms can face, especially when they are ambitious women by nature.
DOES THIS BABY HAVE A RETURN POLICY?
Shifting my mindset to create a new postpartum identity.
by Bailey Frumen
“Does this baby have a return policy?"
In our day and age of modern conveniences, this question popped up in my mind several times a day for the first few weeks of becoming a new mama. It was a thought that I was very ashamed of as a brand-new mom but also one that I couldn’t seem to shake.
I’m going to tell you a story that I haven’t told many people AND in someway, it might not be very different from your own.
I grew up an overachiever. Striving to get the best grades, achieve the highest accolades and recognitions in school, and working toward being the best at whatever I did. Perhaps I could blame this on being the first born, being a scorpio, being born on a Tuesday—who really knows but what I do know is that I’ve always been a t-crosser and i-dotter because it gave me a sense of being in control.
I was the type of person who read the syllabus from start to finish at the beginning of the school year, sat in the front row, and attended the office hours. It gave me a deep sense of comfort in the orderliness of life and that made me feel like I was in control.
(Would I have admitted to being a control-freak? Absolutely not. But was I? You betcha.)
When it came time to start a family, I approached it the very same way. I felt sure that there had to be an exact process or science to not only having an easy time conceiving but gestation, child birth, and being a mama.
(Now in full disclosure, I will tell you that I am a psychotherapist and thereby felt like raising a child was going to be relatively easy because I had worked with so many children, families, and people over many years of my practice. Boy, was I WRONG.)
And being wrong didn’t sit well with me. As a typical type-A striving for perfection, I had a deep desire to do it ALL the “right way.”
As you can see, this is not only a story about becoming a mama, but this is also a story about humbling your expectations to create a new reality.
I had many of the same beliefs that most first-time moms do—I would be a patient mom, I would nurse on demand, Having a baby won’t really change much in my life, I’ll still be me but with a new baby…and the list goes on.
Some of those beliefs manifested themselves as a welcome reality to me, such as nursing. Other beliefs that I had created something called cognitive dissonance. In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance refers to the mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values.
Now this can happen in many parts of our life from our career, relationships, spirituality, or event stepping into a new role such as motherhood. I found myself struggling with having deeply wanted to start a family alongside the belief that somehow I was failing as a mother because I couldn’t get my baby to stop crying and sleep while running my business and taking care of myself. I felt miserable and incredibly confused, left with the question: How could something I wanted so badly be making me so miserable?
Before you dismiss my story as postpartum depression or find it laughable that I kept my business running full-throttle while having a baby, I want to remind you that somehow, in someway, we’ve all been THERE. Juggling many different things at the same time, uncertain of what beliefs or responsibilities to let go of out of fear that we might drop the wrong one and therefore we don’t drop anything. We just stay in the misery, feeling befuddled on how we ended up in the place we are right now.
But remember, we’ve ALL been there.
The next question that remained was: If we aren’t happy about where we are, what do we do to change it?
For me, that was not about overcoming my challenge at hand but instead shifting my mindset to create a new postpartum identity. It was about allowing myself to grieve a feeling of loss around who I was before becoming a mom (definitely a feeling that I couldn’t have anticipated) and step into re-defining what it meant to find myself while also settling into the new identity of motherhood.
In this new space, I was able to give myself the grace to be patient with the overwhelming emotions I was experiencing while also actively defining and re-defining what it meant for ME to be a mother. This meant letting go of what I thought I “should be” or what I perceived others doing that was the “right way” but instead discover what was going to be MY WAY.
In my discovery I used a tool that I shared in my new book, Own Your Power, called the Self-Talk Cycle. Looking at how my inner dialogue was impacting my feelings and thereby my actions made a huge difference in feeling that I had the power to shift my mindset to create a new postpartum identity.
I began to shift from the belief that “I was failing as a mother” and thereby feeling a deep sense of sadness, disappointment, and frustration to slowly believing my new reality that "I could learn what it meant to for me to be a mother." This shift in my mindset allowed me to feel lighter, a sense of calm, and more in the driver’s seat of my life.
Here’s a quick snapshot from the book so you can get a visual of this exercise:
I will tell you that I don’t have it all figured out. (The truth is that no one really does and if they tell you that they do, they are absolutely lying.) My daughter is two now and I’m still giving myself the permission to shift and change who I am as the mother of a two year old, and most importantly, who I am as the mother of this child, knowing in my heart that I could be a different type of mom to the child that comes next into our family. It also means that I am shifting and evolving my identity of who I want to be as a person in the world. As scary as it can feel at times, it is tremendously liberating to know that I am in the driver’s seat about my mindset and my life.
Bailey Frumen, MSW, LCSW is (not superwoman and anyone who tells you that she is lying, haha) a psychotherapist, author, speaker, and coach mentoring ambitious leaders and entrepreneurs by providing the roadmap that takes them from frustration & overwhelm into action & purpose.
She has been named ‘one of the top 20 life coaches to watch’ by popexpert.com. Bailey is the author of Own Your Power: Your Guide to Feeling Powerful, Fearless, and Free. Her work has been published in Huffington Post, Elephant Journal, Aspire Magazine, Natural Awakenings, Popexpert, and numerous guest blogs. She is also a featured author in the best-selling anthology, Inspiration for a Woman’s Soul: Opening To Gratitude & Grace through Inspired Living Publishing.
Through her Own Your Power Mastery, live events, speaking engagements, and transformational coaching, Bailey helps leaders and entrepreneurs to find clarity and connection to purpose, so that they can take the action. With 10+ years of experience, Bailey guides driven women and men cut through the fog of feeling stuck and overwhelmed by feeling confident to master their mindset and live the life they’ve always wanted. For more from Bailey, check out BaileyFrumen.com or say hello on Facebook and Instagram!