Be an individual, wife and mother
When a woman becomes a wife and mother, it is often her identity as an individual that suffers. Here's how to regain your sense of self

The roles of wife and mother involve so much caring for others, doing for others and meeting obligations, that busy moms often simply don’t have the time to consider whether their own needs are being fulfilled – until they have a crisis of identity.

The seductiveness of the wife-mother role is that for many – even most – women it is so enriching and fulfilling to be at the heart of a loving family, that it seems needlessly selfish and self-indulgent to bemoan the loss of your standalone self, or even to imagine who you might be without the individuals and activities that define you: children, spouse, job, school run, caring for ageing parents...

In fact, a woman does a disservice not only herself but to her family too when she sacrifices her secret self to their needs. As children grow up and away, they need to know that their parents will be okay without them. It is way too much of a burden for any child – whether toddler, teenager or middle-aged adult – to feel responsible for giving you a purpose in life.

So how do you disengage your elusive individual self from the clamour of demands on your time, space and energy?

Have a purpose

Whether you work in the home or away from home, the work you do should be a source of intellectual and creative stimulation, not simply another drain on your resources.

Alternatively, do something extra-mural that feeds your soul.

Carve out time for yourself

“Me time” is a gooey phrase, but a valid concept. Even if you have to physically leave the house or put double locks on the bathroom door, you have got to have regular time in the day and during the week when your needs are met.

There are 4 main kinds of “me time” to be accommodated:

  • Simple downtime when you have a long bath or read a book.
  • Constructive time when you take art lessons, study for your PhD or go to a Pilates class.
  • “Need-to-do” time when you have a haircut, or catch up on deadlines; and
  • Time alone with your husband and socialising with friends.

Coach your family to see you as an individual

Follow the 3 S’s:

Set boundaries

Structure, discipline and routine help enormously to let your family know where the limits of their demands lie and what your expectations are.

Share responsibilities

If you’re doing everything in the home, you’ll end up feeling like a dogsbody and your children will miss out on learning important lessons about personal responsibility, teamwork and self-discipline.

Support each other

Learn to use your strengths to complement each other as a parenting couple, and as a family. Let your husband take responsibility for looking after the children by himself to give you a break – you’re not the only one who can do it.

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