Does Motherhood Complete You?

Once you have children, it seems inevitable that you lose a part of who you were before. You make new friends that have absolutely no clue about your past identity, apart from when they do a bit of Facebook stalking through your younger, slimmer photos. You are known as <<insert child’s name>> Mum. Your parents no longer pay you any attention, instead diverting their eyes to the little tiny version of yourself bounding through the door until about half an hour into the visit when they realise that they haven’t actually greeted you yet. I now find myself generally not greeting people any more. This probably looks quite rude when I turn up without a child and just barge my way in.

I was extremely fearful of losing myself before I had children, the great identity that I had built up over 29 years. I have no idea why – I was a massive dick. Opinionated, drunk and mentally unstable. I’m still a massive dick but I actually like being a mum too. I like this new identity. I remember walking down the road for the first time without my new baby and thinking, “people won’t know I have a baby. I want them to know I have a baby.” Like this somehow gave me an automatic VIP ticket into Betterdom.

However, my children don’t complete me. Despite definitely knowing that they make me a better person, and slightly less dickish because I am generally less drunk, they’re not my main purpose in life. Neither is being up to my elbows in disease-infested gums, despite how much I love that too. I want more. Something else.

I made this discovery recently during one of my low moods. I get them frequently. My husband struggles to understand them. Looking from the outside, I can understand why – I have two gorgeous children, a husband who loves me, a nice house, a well paid job, my health – I have absolutely no reason to feel depressed about my life. But I do. It consumes me till I’m numb and joyless, sometimes slowly, gradually like a creeping mist. Other times like a sledgehammer.

I Googled ‘happiness’ and up came various motivational memes and blog articles; “10 Easy Ways to Find Happiness”. After a bit of searching, I found one that spoke to me, helpfully informing me that the true root to happiness is not about having physical things, but having a purpose in life. Give someone a purpose, a reason to be and they will find happiness. 

There have been a few times in recent years when I was doing something outside of work and the home; charity work, volunteering and the like and it felt great. I felt really happy. I was helping other people without any financial agenda. It was purely for the feel good factor and it left me with a bounce in my step. Having a purpose other than my children makes me happy because just my children alone aren’t enough.

Writing that is hard. Reading it must be hard. Now you’re agreeing that I am a massive dick. But let me explain.

I am not ungrateful. I look at my life, my children and know that I am the luckiest person alive. I also know that they are not responsible for my true core happiness – I am. I have to be my own sunshine. I’ve come to realise that I don’t want to live my life vicariously through my children, putting expectations on their shoulders for achievements that I was unable to fulfil. I don’t want to get to old age and feel bitter about the life I could have had, had I not sacrificed my all to my children. I want to show them the true meaning of pride by personally demonstrating it with what I can accomplish. I want them to know happiness isn’t about what you have but about doing something that makes your heart sing. 

I had a taste of the dolce vita and I want it back. I want to feel complete again by doing something more worthwhile. 

Is it selfish to want to feel good by doing good? Is it wrong that my children complete my life but they don’t complete me? Do yours? I’d really like to know.

Saw this quote. Liked it. Stole it.
Saw this quote. Liked it. Stole it.

10 thoughts on “Does Motherhood Complete You?

  1. Hi its absolutely normal to feel this way and trust me you do not need anyone’s approval to feel this way. You have a life beyond your kids and family and trust me its nice to think this way, it will keep u sane to take on many other challenges ahead. So go ahead find a shell for yourself to cocoon in, and do what you feel like at times. We as mothers DESERVE it.
    I wrote a similar article some time back

  2. I totally share your views. I have three kids (all under 5, a bit crazy right now) an husband I love and a job that really makes me happy but still I experience that strange mood of wanting something more. At present I on maternity leave and while I enjoy my newborn I find myself thinking: ” the meaning of life cannot be only this”. Having an happy family is definitively a huge challenge and a great accomplishment but for me is not enough. I think we all need to find a way to make this world a better place, to do good to other people and to feel better. According to me you are not the only one feeling like this, I could have written the post myself! It takes sometime to find something where to invest your energies but it is a positive investment both for you and your children. I always think that if i feel better, i will be a better mother and my children will benefit from it, even if i use some of the time i could spend with them in other activities.

  3. I think your instincts are right and many mothers would agree that their children, no matter how much joy and purpose to life they bring, don’t completely fulfil them. Raising my kids will be the most important and meaningful work I will ever do in my life and I am beyond 100% grateful for them – but no, they are not my whole life.

  4. I have those low days too. Then I sink even lower when I think what an ungrateful cow I am being. I think we need to have a purpose other than bringing up our beautiful children FOR our children. I want to be a good role model, to inspire them to achieve their dreams. I want them to see what it looks like to be happy doing something you love. I am really happy being a mum but frustrated that i cannot be something else too. Something cool. But there is so little time. And energy.

  5. Interesting reading and I tend to agree. I think to put the responsibility of anyone’s happiness on a child is ridiculous. It’s hard enough for them to make themselves happy sometimes. We need to be responsible for our own happiness and that is a mixture of lots of elements. We are all lucky to have our children. They make us happy, sad, proud, frustrated. Sometimes all at the same time. Xx

  6. The volunteering work you did was really worthwhile from my point of view. I came to you with a 6 month-old baby who refused to sleep without me, having managed reasonably well for the first 6 months. I felt like I had done everything ‘wrong’ by allowing her to become so attached to me and feed to sleep etc. and felt I had no choice but to bring her into the parental bed to sleep. But I had heard that co-sleeping was dangerous, so I was still doing the wrong thing. You calmly explained that it was OK to do, and natural and that others do choose this route, recommended checking safety guidelines and reading the brilliant book What Every Parent Needs to Know (Margot Sutherland), and helped me start my own journey of discovery… 18 months on we are still co-sleeping for at least half her night’s sleep, and the help and support I experienced at our wonderful local breastfeeding support group inspired me to train to help other mums.
    I think we all need our personal projects or missions in life to help to inspire our children’s passions whatever they may be, and those missions evolve through our parenting experiences too.

  7. They certainly do not complete me. I love them dearly and they have made my life utterly wonderful., but I would be incomplete if they were all that I thought about.
    This September I now have two of them at school and one in pre school for two days a week. The freedom is rather unbearable right now but also so exciting – what next?!

  8. I completely agree, I felt the same for many years. I have three kids and I was pretty depressed. I thought I should be happier because I have everything I need. When I started painting again and teaching art I came alive again! Before I had kids I was just Sheryl, not mom or wife. I was an artist, a creative free spirit. Well I have found that again and it feels amazing! I am able to love and now live in the moment with my family. Find your passion, it makes life so much sweeter.

  9. I was going to write a post on this very subject but I don’t think I need to as you have covered everything that I feel on the subject. What a brilliant post. I often don’t feel that I do a very good job being a mum and shout way too much at times when i am not coping. This is not because the kids are being naughty most of the time (well not intentionally naughty) but because I am feeling probably abit bored, trapped and desperate for some of the old me pre children. I wrote a post today on the 10 things I miss about Sundays pre kids, it has triggered even more things that I miss. I don’t just miss what I used to do but I miss how I felt. Free, light and more fun. I started a screen printing course last week and already a glimpse of that is back. (currently 3 kids under 5).

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