How do I get my self-esteem back as a mom?

What's Covered

It is said that a woman’s self-esteem is high during pregnancy. During this period, many changes occur in her body, bringing her joy. She will soon be a mom! The thought of it is not only exciting but fulfilling. Despite the ups and downs of pregnancy, she has the end in mind; her baby. The hope of finally holding her little one in her arms makes the journey worthwhile.

Why then does she feel blue months after childbirth? Why is she feeling worthless?

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is the general sense of one’s worth or value. It is the ability to accept and love who one is. It is influenced by personal appearance, emotions (positive or negative), and capabilities. It is how a person views themselves, based on their beliefs and opinions which in turn determines one’s success, the quality of relationships they keep, and their overall quality of life.[1]

Giving birth is no mean feat! A woman’s body is subjected to a lot of mental, physical, and emotional pain in the process. It is an intense moment. In just a few moments a new mom is ushered into the world of new adventures and uncertainties. Will she make a good mom? Is she even ready? How will she fulfill the societal expectations of being a good mom? How will she overcome the struggles she will face in her new role? Many women fail to prepare well on how to navigate parenting without losing themselves altogether.

What are the gains of motherhood?

Getting into motherhood is like leaving the world you know, for the unknown. It opens you up to new experiences, with possibilities of deep rewards.[2] A mom’s teacher is their child. Her patience will be tried and tested, her ability to endure will grow, and her capacity to love will soar!  What an incredible journey it is! Some of the gains a new mom will experience include the following.

The privilege of nurturing another human being

Oh, the honor that is! The responsibility of teaching children to be well-mannered, treating others with respect, and value who they are is lifelong. To mold your child and have them grow into a responsible human being is rewarding. It takes a lifetime to raise one, with a lot of self-sacrifices and love a mom did not know was possible to give.

New memories.Motherhood is laden with pleasant memories; toothless grins, the first birthday, bike rides, and swimming lessons, first day at school. Life becomes richer as these memories are made and cherished.

Fresh knowledge

No child comes with a manual. Moms learn on the job. Motherhood grants a mom opportunities to learn skills previously unlearnt. How do I differentiate the cry of hunger and that of fatigue? When is the right time to potty train? How do I homeschool my child? What equates to a balanced diet? It is a learning curve.

Weight!

You are not happy with who you see in the mirror? Your skin feels loose. The postpartum body looks, carries, and feels different.[3] Your body worked hard to grow a baby!

Ability to multitask

Motherhood allows one to think on their feet. So much needs to be done and there’s only so much help. A mom of two or more children will learn to multitask to get the household going. It is a way to manage her time well.

Family

Children bring added joy to the family. With different temperaments and character traits, giftings, and talents, a family experiences warmth and deep connections.

New friendships

There is nothing like connecting with another mom! Knowledge is shared, there is a free flow of grace, and less judgment. New friendships offer comfort and companionship as one journeys along.

Unconditional love

Motherhood brings with it deep affection. Children learn to express themselves lovingly. It is such a joy for mom to have little kisses and written notes from a child. Rocking the baby to sleep and singing lullabies in the middle of the night, makes these moments special.

What does a woman lose in motherhood?

A new mom seldom thinks of what she loses in motherhood because she is consumed by what she has gained; a baby. Here are a few losses that occur.

Identity

Motherhood is a full-time job involving diaper changes, bottle feeding, nursing, doctor visits, sleepless nights to name a few. The process is ongoing as the baby grows from one stage of life to another. Her previous self is soon forgotten as she seeks to meet the daily demands of her family.

With all the giving a mom does, she forgets her identity as a person and simply responds to one title; mom!

Her social life

Moms are women first, with relationships outside of the home. But with the arrival of a child, time is dedicated to taking care of the child. Her social life suffers or simply dies off. She sees her friends less, does not have much time to talk on the phone, she is stretched thin to fit into other roles.

Her interests and passions

She loved to travel, she enjoyed times of solitude, she loved to read or watch movies, but now her privacy is gone! She cannot be in the bathroom without someone banging on the door. The movies she loved to watch are replaced by cartoons.

Control

Before she becomes a mom, a woman has control of her time, what she does when, and with whom. She decides when and what she will eat, or when to sleep, and for how long. That is lost in motherhood. She puts everyone first and forgets herself. What she does with her time revolves around the schedule of her children.

Self-care

There is so much to do and so little time in a mom’s world.

Her identity is tied to her children hence she will place herself bottom of the list of priorities. Before her children were born, she dolled herself up, every strand of hair in its proper place. She might still do that but it is occasional. What matters now is that her body stays covered!

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Her sleep

Her schedule changes drastically. The arrival of a baby brings with it new schedules. A mom will get sleep-deprived the first few months as the child adjusts to normal sleep patterns[4]. Night feeds become normal. These new schedules come with constant fatigue on mom. She becomes more emotionally drained as she learns the ropes of her new role.

Her health

Childbirth takes a toll on the human body. There is the loss of blood, stitches that take time to heal, hormonal imbalances[5], and general fatigue. All of these changes affect mental and physical well-being.[6] A new mom will experience exhaustion the first few months of childbirth as her child settles into normal routines. Her diet is well thought through, and her need for rest is heightened. Getting back to her healthy self takes time.

Low self-esteem

Low self-esteem is a negative opinion of one’s self. One suffering from low self-esteem looks at themselves and life in general, negatively. They are harsh and critical towards themselves and others. Such words as “I am stupid”, “I cannot do anything well”, are some ways they harshly regard and criticize themselves. When faced with challenges, they think themselves incapable of overcoming them. Because they are negative in their thinking of themselves, it affects how they feel and react. Low self esteem affects one’s ability to stand against ills such as bullying, physical or emotional abuse.

The challenges of motherhood will present any mom with a roller coaster of emotions. Hormonal imbalance affects her emotional well-being. Postpartum depression[7] is common. Constant fatigue wears on her mind. The overall dependency of the child on her overwhelms her. Her body carries and feels different. Her emotions are volatile. All of these changes will affect her self-esteem, causing her to sink to an all-time low.

Signs of low self-esteem

Lack of confidence

A mom suffering from low self-esteem lacks confidence in themselves or their abilities. She will appear timid in front of others and often will seek non-recognition. She may dislike her new body and is ashamed of how she looks.

Hesitant

She is indecisive and unsure. She cannot make up her mind on what is important to her, and would rather please others than disappoint them.

Temperamental 

Constant fatigue and the ongoing needs of her home stretch her thin, making her emotional. She gets weepy, moody, or angry at the slightest provocation.

Lacks boundaries

Boundaries protect what we hold dear and keep us from harm.[8] A mom who suffers from low self-esteem cannot say no. She feels she must do everything required of her to keep everyone happy. This opens her up for abuse. She becomes a doormat.

Shame

Feelings of self-pity at who she perceives herself to be and her inadequacies are a result of critical self-talk. She is convinced of her inability to do anything worthwhile. She identifies herself with her failures, letting them own her.

Overcompensate

Overcompensation occurs out of insecurity about herself and her achievements. She will outdo herself to prove her worth to others, to avoid being looked down upon.

Physical and mental health issues

The effects of critical self-talk will often manifest on the outside. This takes shape in certain behavioral changes[9], such as interrupted sleep patterns( too sleepy or insomnia), anorexia or obesity, increased anxiety, or paranoia, alcoholism, or drug abuse. Critical self-talk affecting the mind can lead to suicidal tendencies unless help is quickly sought after.

Unpredictable behavior

A new mom has a lot of adjusting to do. A lot happens to her suddenly and she is expected to cope quickly. However, this does not happen as fast as she would want. Postnatal depression[10] can affect her response to situations. Where previously she seemed to cope well, she now is unable to. She is emotionally unstable and that affects her self-esteem.

Perfectionism

The need to appear to have it all together is a sign of low self-esteem. A mom suffering from low self-esteem will project an image of being perfect. She will have her children behave a certain way, dress a certain way, to get praise and admiration from others. She will use her children’s achievements and giftings to her advantage. How she is regarded by others matters greatly to her.

Narcissistic tendencies

A mom suffering from low self-esteem is highly critical of her children. She is not genuine in her affections towards them, is abusive to them, and lacks empathy. She demands attention from them, will use manipulation tactics to get what she wants, and silent treatment when she does not get her way. She is entitled and selfish.

Isolation

A mom suffering from low self-esteem will often stay away from any social event or gathering. She will seldom attend her child’s ball games, will not network with others, preferring to stay in the shadows.

Causes of low self-esteem

Negative thought patterns

Low self-esteem is a result of constant negative thought patterns. One’s mind becomes cushioned to think negatively all the time. This habitual way of thinking and talking becomes the norm. It is a cycle that goes on and on unless one deliberately breaks it.

Personal image

Becoming a mom is a great achievement. However, society seldom applauds the work done, and the sacrifices made by mothers. Body shaming and cruel remarks on her appearance are painful to bear. When a mom is rarely appreciated and affirmed, self-esteem issues can arise.

Narcissistic relationships

Having relationships, be it friends who disrespect one’s opinion, worth, and value, over time pressures one to comply to fit in. While it is clear whatever is done to you is disrespectful, the fact that most of your friends bring you down with their words or actions makes you think that something is wrong with you. An abusive relationship presents any mom with a partner who looks down on her, demeans, and devalues her.[11] The negative treatment damages her self-image and her sense of worth.

Mental illness

Trauma not handled well can lead to mental illnesses, where the mind fails to recover from traumatic events.[12] Depression, suicidal tendencies, and anxiety are some of the mental illnesses that affect the general well-being of the mind and emotions. Ongoing stress, for example, financial loss, the death of a loved one, or chronic illnesses affects one’s self-esteem.

Stigma

Particular challenges in life, like mental illness, body appearance (obesity, anorexia), or physical disabilities can attract stigma. Ignorance causes people to treat others negatively.[13] While life happens to all of us, being stigmatized affects one negatively, and will damage how they view themselves and the quality of life they lead.

Trauma

Trauma is usually caused by abuse, whether emotional, physical, or sexual. Abuse brings with it feelings of shame and guilt. The one abused may feel it was their fault they were abused, or they deserved it. Their level of self-confidence is eroded, affecting how they view themselves and the quality of life they lead.

Ways of getting your self-esteem back

The journey of motherhood ought to be a joyful one. Watching your baby hit milestones in their growth is exciting. Your willingness to raise your child is commendable. However, you will not always feel like a winner, and that is okay. You are human. Mothers respond to self-esteem issues differently. Low self-esteem can be overcome. Here are ways you can do just that.

Do not compare the ‘new you’ with the ‘old you’

Obvious changes in your body are evident. Your belly is bigger than usual. Difficult as it may be not to think about your body before the baby came, resist the urge to. You are in a new season of life. Getting that body in shape is important and healthy but don’t beat yourself. A lot of hormonal and physical changes happened to bring about your bundle of joy. Positively embrace them.

Deeply connect with your partner

Create time for each other. Have date nights at home. Do not allow the physical changes happening around you to interfere with your relationship. Lean towards him for the support you need. Enjoy intimacy. It is a good exercise for the body and the mind!

Enjoy the process

It is easy to get caught up in what is undone, the laundry, homework, dinners, that you miss the joys of the moment. Enjoy your baby. Go to the ball games. Enjoy bathtimes. Dance with your children. Build sandcastles. The house and chores can wait. Everything does not have to be perfect. Be the present mom your children need.

Be patient with yourself

Raising children is lifelong. You will be needed as they navigate childhood, teenagehood, and adult life. You are in it for the long haul. Slow down when you feel the need to. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Let your children see you are human too. Be proud of your many achievements, and one of them is being a mom!

Take care of yourself

Exercise when you can. Do those things that bring you joy. Wash your hair. Go for a manicure. Change your wardrobe. A better-looking you will equate to a greater feeling you. Read books that enrich who you are. Rest. Speak well of yourself. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you will make on this journey. You will meaningfully minister life to your children when you work on being whole.

Get a plan

Motherhood never gets easier. There’s hardly a free day. Getting a plan of daily routine will help you manage your time as well as get important tasks done. Preparing your wardrobe the night before removes the pressure to do that in the morning when you have a baby to attend to. Being in charge of your time boosts your confidence as you see how much you have accomplished at the end of each day.

Invest in meaningful friendships

Finding moms to do life with is essential to your general well-being. They help you in your journey. They offer a space to talk about common challenges you are facing and how to overcome them. It is a way of getting your social life back.

Shine in your area of strength

What is that one thing you are good at? Keep at it. Learn a new skill. Start a blog. Learn to bake. Working on your skills will give you a sense of significance and boost your confidence.

Seek medical help

There is nothing wrong with admitting your need for medical attention. Speaking with medical experts will help you understand how to deal with mental challenges. Getting proper medication is essential to getting your health back and getting you feeling confident again.

Ask for support

Raising children can overwhelm any mom. Asking for support from your partner does not make you look weak. A single mom can reach out to family members for the support she needs.[14]

Offer support

There will always be someone who can benefit from what you have learned in your journey. Invest in new mothers. Helping them navigate through the changes in their own lives will give you a reason to be thankful for how far you have come. Offering support increases your sense of worth.

Own your journey

The gift of motherhood is priceless, an experience unlike any other. It is a unique journey for every mom, one comprising hard work, seasons of intense joy, and moments of discouragement. As her children grow, so does she. The reward of pouring into a child’s life is a gift that keeps giving.[15]

It is said that the hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world.

Final thoughts

The role of healthy self-esteem in an individual is directly proportional to the quality of life they lead. Unlike inflated self-esteem or low self-esteem, which affects an individual negatively, a healthy regard for oneself will determine their successes, capabilities and the quality of relationships they have in life. Growing and maintaining healthy self-esteem is a daily process, a personal journey that impacts who we are and become every day.


[1]Heatherton, Todd F., and Carrie L. Wyland. “Assessing self-esteem.” (2003).

[2] Rothman, Barbara Katz. Recreating motherhood. Rutgers University Press, 2000.

[3] Kanotra, Sarojini, et al. “Challenges faced by new mothers in the early postpartum period: an analysis of comment data from the 2000 Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) survey.” Maternal and child health journal 11.6 (2007): 549-558

[4] Galland, Barbara C., et al. “Normal sleep patterns in infants and children: a systematic review of observational studies.” Sleep medicine reviews 16.3 (2012): 213-222.

[5] Berggren-Clive, Kathy Lyn. Out of the darkness and into the light: Women’s experiences with depression after childbirth. Diss. University of British Columbia, 1996.

[6]Berggren-Clive, Kathy Lyn. Out of the darkness and into the light: Women’s experiences with depression after childbirth. Diss. University of British Columbia, 1996.

[7] Miller, Laura J. “Postpartum depression.” Jama 287.6 (2002): 762-765.

[8] Whitfield, Charles L. Boundaries and relationships: Knowing, protecting and enjoying the self. Health Communications, Inc., 1993.

[9] Wittchen, Hans‐Ulrich, et al. “The need for a behavioural science focus in research on mental health and mental disorders.” International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research 23.S1 (2014): 28-40.

[10] Whitton, Anna, Rachel Warner, and Louis Appleby. “The pathway to care in post-natal depression: women’s attitudes to post-natal depression and its treatment.” British Journal of General Practice 46.408 (1996): 427-428.

[11]Lempert, Lora Bex. “Women’s strategies for survival: Developing agency in abusive relationships.” Journal of family violence 11.3 (1996): 269-289.

[12] Mueser, Kim T., et al. “Trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder in severe mental illness.” Journal of consulting and clinical psychology 66.3 (1998): 493.

[13] Link, Bruce G., and Jo C. Phelan. “Conceptualizing stigma.” Annual review of Sociology 27.1 (2001): 363-385.

[14] Choi, Jeong-Kyun, and Ho-Soon Pyun. “Nonresident fathers’ financial support, informal instrumental support, mothers’ parenting, and child development in single-mother families with low income.” Journal of Family Issues 35.4 (2014): 526-546.

[15] Mock, Melanie Springer. “God’s Gift of Motherhood Comes in Different Ways.” (2009).

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Author

Vivian Perry

Vivian Perry

Mother of 3 kids. Enjoy reading parenting books and studied child care degree. Vivian loves to learn and write about parenting tips and help her kids to grow positively with grit mindset.
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