11 Oct The Identity Shift in Early Parenthood
Back to work — or not? Or, more accurately, return or not to paid employment, because this parenting business is likely some of the hardest work any of you have ever done. The calculus can prove surprisingly complex. It can be a shock to discover just how expensive childcare is. And downstream questions come in cascades: What sort of childcare is best – what are the relative values of socialization in a group childcare setting versus the focused attention and logistical simplicity of a nanny? What back up options exist? If one parent elects to stay home for a time, how does he or she get “me” time and refuel, especially if money is tight with only one income? If family is available, how reliable will they prove to be? Is back up care a privilege for them, or a burden? Will they have the same parenting goals? What if there is no family nearby? These near term quandaries can yield to more fundamental issues of reshaping identity over the longer term. What if, after a young adulthood defined by driven ambition and career focus, you discover that you have no wish to return to your job or to the workforce in general? Or, conversely, what if your lifelong plan to stay at home with your children is nothing at all like you thought it would be, and you find yourself desperate to return to work?
Many of these are practical questions that can be resolved with research, trial and error, and time. But the underlying tension is often subtler and more complex: parenthood can involve an enormous shift in identity, a fundamental redefinition of self. You have added a new role to your persona: you are now a parent. What does it feel like the first time you say – and internalize — “I’m a mother” or “I’m a dad”? After the delirious fog of the first few weeks of parenthood clears, new parents can sense that they are somehow at odds with themselves, without understanding why. These links lead to articles and blogs on this topic of identity shifts for new moms and new dads. Maybe some of them will ring a bell and help with some perspective!