It's frequently said that on becoming a mother, life changes forever. However, does parenting mean everything must change for good?
Defined by the oxford dictionary as 'The characteristics determining who or what a person or thing is:' Identity becomes compromised by the onset of 'Helicopter' parenting, a term first used by Dr Haim Ginott's in his 1969 book 'Parents and Teenagers', referring to "a style of parents who are over focused on their children". An expectant mother shared her concerns via babyandbump.momtastic.com stating 'I'm really afraid of losing my identity as I get swept into the "mom" role.' This got me thinking, is Motherhood in fact the most sneaky thief of a woman's identity?
Maternal Body Image
Pregnancy undoubtably brings with it various physical changes and after giving birth it's common for women to want to engage in exercise and get fit. A Women's Health study published in 2009 stated that 'on average, mothers body dissatisfaction increased significantly from 0 to 9 months postpartum and the results showed a significant association between negative body image and poorer mental health, highlighting the importance of body confidence to women. As a health and fitness enthusiast I certainly felt the urge to focus on my fitness soon after giving birth and was at times criticised for this, however, with all the demands placed on new mothers, I found that taking a little time for myself, not only had physical benefits but allowed me to re-assess my psychological state and further develop a positive association with parenting.
According to a survey taken by BabyCenter.com, 61% of new moms said they expected to be back down to their pre-pregnancy weight by their baby's first birthday and although I completely advocate regaining a fit and healthy lifestyle postpartum, perhaps the focus shouldn't be on how you look, but how the way you look is making you feel? The 2009 Women's Health investigation stresses the importance of 'finding ways to enhance a mother's body image and self esteem after delivery', and I think here is the crucial element. Exercise for mums shouldn't be about dropping a dress size but more about thinking and feeling confident in yourself, inside and out.
Forgoing Work For Family
Many would argue that as the first few years of childhood see the fastest rate of brain development across the entire human life span, staying at home to nurture the development of your child is crucial. Figures released by the European Council in 2015 showed that British women are twice as likely as those in the rest of Europe to be stay-at-home mothers. However, the report sparked outrage as it recommended more must be done to encourage mothers back into employment, with campaigners arguing that the institution had "no right" to "lecture" mothers.
Despite these result, a report released in 2013 by the Office for National Statistics showed that in the 20 years since records were first taken, the percentage of working mothers has increased dramatically. So with the number of working mothers on the rise but evidence from numerous institutions such as Princeton University confirming that 'early personality development show that the relationships a young child shares with caregivers are crucial', the question must be asked, should motherhood be synonymous with ending your career prospects?
What is to become of stay-at-home mums once the children grow up, move out and lead lives of their own? Elizabeth Mcfarlane, describes how after she left her career as a TV directer she regarded herself as having her 'nose pressed up against the window of society, looking in' and often felt 'invisible, without a proper role to play'. This would suggest that the women who opt to remain out of the workplace postpartum are confining themselves to a future where the only option left is to become one of the aforementioned helicopter parents. However in a generation where bloggers, small businesses and working from home has seen a dramatic rise, perhaps technology is offering women an outlet for their individuality, meaning the era of the traditional 'stay at home mum' could fading for good?
A Mothers Freedom
I was reminded regularly during pregnancy of all the things I would never do again. Supposedly, I would never sleep again, never wear a bikini, drink, travel or save money and whilst some of these points may hold an element of truth, no-one informed me of how incredibly liberating motherhood can also be. I wasn't aware that by teaching a child how to sit, stand, walk, talk and explore I would also learn so much more about myself. Actress Idina Menzel, is quoted as saying 'Motherhood has helped me to stop overanalyzing things. It's been liberating because I used to be somewhat neurotic.' Similarly, professor Toni Morrison is quoted as saying about motherhood 'it was the most liberating thing that ever happened to me...Somehow all of the baggage that I had accumulated as a person about what was valuable just fell away.'
Ultimately, motherhood is different for everyone, however being a good mother doesn't need to mean isolating yourself to parenting. There is nothing wrong with wanting to build a career, be the bread winner or build muscle at the gym whilst simultaneously being a good mum to boot.