I Have No Idea What I Am Doing: On Motherhood and Self-Esteem


I became a mom a year and a half ago, and while it has been an amazing and wonderful experience, I am still struggling to find balance in my new life. The transition to motherhood is a big one to say the least. The excitement of pregnancy (or the excitement of an upcoming adoption) is followed by the arrival of a new family member. To say that everything changes when one becomes a mother is a gross understatement.

The joy and love a new mother feels for her child is often accompanied by much more rarely discussed feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. This is a time when we face challenges as we never have before, from temporarily losing our sense of self as an individual, to the myriad advice people like to give (much of it contradictory and laden with judgment), to the mental and physical exhaustion. We realize that there is only so much we can control, and that for all the preparation and reading we do, nothing can truly prepare us for the realities of motherhood. The kicker is, just when you think you have things figured out, your child moves into a new phase, leaving you off kilter once again.

As it turns out, for many women, this time of transition can also result in correlating waves of decreased self-esteem. A new study confirms what many women likely have experienced: that motherhood leaves them doubting themselves in all aspects of life. Examining data from over 84,000 women in Norway, researchers from the University of Tilburg in the Netherlands found that with a small rebound six-months after birth, women’s self-esteem declined with motherhood. After three years, many women’s self-esteem was still lower than it had been before they had a child. For me, this rings true. I scrutinize every decision I make much more than I ever did before. I belabor decisions and have become ridiculously indecisive in all areas of my life. And this inability to make decisions only further frustrates me.

As I sit right in the middle of the three-year study length, there is at least some comfort in knowing that I am not alone. What were your experiences? Did you also struggle with insecurity and low self-esteem after having a baby or welcoming a child into your life?

Read more about the study in Quartz.