Do You Have Lower Self-Esteem Since Becoming a Mom? You’re Not Alone
Do you ever feel like you have lower self-esteem after becoming a mom? Let's assess–tell me if you have had any of the following thoughts recently:
I'm not good enough.
None of my clothes ever look right.
I'm not a very good mom.
I'm not as organized as the other moms.
I used to know what I was doing in life, but not anymore.
I'm not good at my job–I'm just fooling everyone and they're going to find out the truth one of these days.
I used to be a lot smarter.
Motherhood has made me feel stupid, like I have no idea what's going on in the world.
If I'm being honest with you, I have had all of those thoughts in the last 24 hours alone. Motherhood has changed me in so many profound ways, from how I feel about my appearance to how I spend my days. And unfortunately, not all of those changes have been incredibly empowering. I often feel like I have a lot lower self-esteem since becoming a mom, simply because I don't always recognize myself anymore. Heck, I am a completely different person than I was when I became a mom almost 10 years ago. It feels like I went straight from being a kid to being middle-aged and I missed out on the whole “finding yourself” piece of adulthood that so many people talk about.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I entered motherhood quickly and had a lot of little kids in a short amount of time, with absolutely no time to catch my breath. But whatever it may be, I have struggled with lower self-esteem since becoming a mom. And if you are like me, you should know that we are not alone.
A study out of the Netherlands confirmed that we're not crazy. Women really do experience having lower self-esteem after becoming a mother. Although the study notes that part of the issue is that parents in general struggle with reclaiming their identities or forging new identities after having children, mothers struggle the most.
The study looked at 84,000 Norwegian women over an almost ten year period, collecting data on them during their pregnancies and at certain points after their children were born. Some of the women had several children during that time as well. What the study found was that women consistently reported having lower self-esteem when they were pregnant.
Then, their self-esteem would increase at six months postpartum, only to fall again after that–and continue falling. By the time their child was three years old, the women had lower self-esteem than before they became mothers. Unfortunately, the researchers were not able to follow the women after that, so the reports are inconclusive if the lower self-esteem levels were permanent or resolved as the children got older.
Along with the women's answers, the researchers associated changes such as body changes, hormonal changes, stress over complications with the baby and baby's health, and concerns about the future as some of the major reasons for the drastic impact on their self-esteem levels. They also found that the more relationship changes (usually negative) that the women reported having after the baby was born, the greater their self-esteem was lowered too.
In short, one could sum up these changes pretty easily. Having a baby changes virtually everything in your life. And that can mean it will take some serious time to re-learn life and who you are as a person who is also a parent. It only makes sense, right?
But, hopefully, this study can help show us all that if we are experiencing lower self-esteem after motherhood, it's not just us and it certainly isn't because we are any less of a person or any less worthy. If anything, we need to be even more kind and forgiving to our own worst critics: Ourselves.
Motherhood is just one change and one season in what will hopefully be one of many in a long life for us. So let's embrace it and not beat ourselves up for changing the process. We may never go “back” to the person we were before. But we can learn to be even better along the way.