Relationships

Marriage And Motherhood Aren’t A Loss Of Identity, But A New Expression Of Yourself

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner··  6 min read
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Getting married and having kids changes everything. Wives and mothers face new challenges and develop new priorities. Yet through it all, I have never once felt like someone else.

I’ve always been me. When I learned to cook a steak for my husband — just the way he likes it — that was me choosing to do something for someone I love. When I figured out the perfect peanut butter to jelly ratio for my kids’ sandwiches, that was me enjoying my special mom powers. 

Okay, maybe those examples are too food-centric, but honestly, women are exactly who they are no matter what they go through. This concept that “identity” is some kind of badge one wears through the “wilderness of life,” is hilarious and completely unrealistic. I barely have time to do my hair and makeup, much less sit around worrying about my identity, and honestly, that's probably why I’m so happy. I’m not over-examining concepts or worrying about what others think or label me as – I’m busy living my life.

Changing Through Life Is Normal

I remember the first time I rode a bike by myself. My mom told me I could do it. She kept telling me how easy it would be once I finally got my balance, but nothing could explain that sense of freedom and accomplishment that came with actually doing it myself. All successful endeavors in life are like that. 

After I learned to ride my bike, I didn’t feel like someone else, I felt like a better version of me. Just as earning a driver’s license or getting a promotion doesn’t suddenly erase a woman’s identity, neither do other life accomplishments like being a wife or mother. Some women may not see either of these as being accomplishments, but they truly are. Successfully finding someone to grow old with is quite a feat, and conceiving, growing, and birthing a healthy baby takes a lot of work, hope, and care. Adopting a child and giving them a nurturing home is just as trying. Plus there is so much work that goes into sharing a life and being a parent. 

You’re “not the same person” you were when you were in kindergarten or high school, and yet you are.

Progressing through the phases of life – childhood, adolescence, adulthood – is the normal life experience. You’re “not the same person” you were when you were in kindergarten or high school, and yet you are – it’s just a different expression of you. Getting married or having a baby aren’t all that different. 

Sharing a Life with Someone Doesn’t Reduce Your Identity

It’s easy to casually date. It’s fun to meet new people and kiss a new guy, but that’s just surface level interaction. It’s shallow. It lacks the depth needed to offer long-term fulfillment. So many young women learn this as they age. 

Sure, neo-feminism sounds fun when you’re young and just playing around. Plenty of women buy into the idea that objectifying themselves or engaging in hookup culture is empowering, but it takes so much more to seek someone to share everything with. Becoming vulnerable and trusting in a man who will protect and love you as much as you nurture and devote yourself to him takes time and patience. It takes a lot of will. 

Women who seek romance and traditional relationships want to get married, not because they’re looking for a new identity, but because they’re maturing and hoping to express who they are based on what they’ve learned and hope to become. They know who they are and what they want. It’s an element of adulthood that offers dignity and grace.

Marriage is also a wonderful refinery for our identity – it makes us examine who we are, what we want in life, and how we treat others. We’re motivated to grow in maturity and selflessness because we love this man. We’re challenged to tell the truth: about ourselves, about our husband, and about what we want – which is an expression of our identity, not a suppression or a corruption of it.

Creating and Nurturing a Life Doesn’t Diminish You

Women who embrace motherhood change drastically, and maybe that’s why so many people witness this shift and automatically think of identity loss. The change in priorities and the sacrifices required to raise children can look like identity loss from the outside, but sacrifice is not a loss of your identity. It’s a refinement of it, as well as an opportunity to express your values and what’s most important to you. You could even say that sacrifice is the ultimate form of manifesting your identity. Becoming a mother is a journey that helps us to better understand ourselves.

Becoming a mother is a journey that helps us to better understand ourselves.

Facing all the changes of pregnancy or even just the life-altering responsibility for a new life drives us to work harder and emulate the maternal women who came before us. Even women who adopt feel that bond, that shift, that helps them to further explore their instinctual maternal energy. Having a baby doesn’t suddenly make a woman maternal, our feminine nature is always there, but different scenarios can bring it out. It’s within every woman who stops to help a stray animal, every woman who cares for a sick family member, and even every woman who comforts a friend who has a broken heart. When we do these things, we don’t leave ourselves behind. We act based on who we are and how we care.

Caring for a new life is such an important task, that when facing it we explore and express our femininity through new means. We’re in a new situation after all, and that requires that we make new decisions and have new experiences. It’s this new experience and all those little moments with our babies that further enrich our lives and our identity. These events push us to keep learning. Though changes occur, that doesn’t magically erase everything that led us to those special moments. We're more ourselves than ever when fully realizing just what we're capable of. 

Closing Thoughts

Identity may be a hot buzzword, but it’s not something a person can flip on and off like a switch. Becoming a wife and a mother doesn’t take any part of who we are away. In fact, these aspects of life encourage growth and maturity, which lead us to take on new possibilities and give us better opportunities to express ourselves through our actions.  

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