Maintaining a sense of self while being a stay-at-home mom

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Many mothers who are stay-at-home parents lose their sense of self in the process of caretaking for their children. A woman`s natural instinct to “protect her flock” may come into direct conflict with developing a strong self-identity

Many mothers who are stay-at-home parents
lose their sense of self in the process of caretaking for their children.  A woman`s natural instinct to “protect her flock”
may come into direct conflict with developing a strong self-identity. 

Often, mother`s “lose themselves” by giving
their power away in relationships, particularly with their children.  They may develop a connection with their
children, but it may be established in an unhealthy manner.  One of my parental slogans is, “Never do for
a child what she can do for herself.” Mothers may overfunction on behalf on
their children, giving away their sense of self while inhibiting their kids`
opportunity to become self directed.

In order to create a positive self-image,
stay-at home mothers need to learn to set personal boundaries.  Sometimes, parents unknowingly become an
extension of their children.  They may
vicariously live through their children and meet their needs in this
manner.  An example is the parent who
becomes overly enmeshed in their child`s activities.  They may inadvertently put pressure on a
child to perform admirably to compensate for their own perceived shortcomings. 

A confident stay-at-home mother needs to be
able to distinguish herself from her children. Personal boundaries should not be blurred.  A mother must be able to step back and
evaluate her behavior.  Are my feelings
separate from those of my children, or do I get swallowed up in the burden of
how they experience life?  Are most of my
needs tied up in the caretaking process for my children?  Do I have separate wants, desires and needs
apart from those of my children? 

I think an empowered mother must learn what
I call “detached identification.”  Mothers
are responsible to their children,
not for them.  Understanding this distinction determines
whether a stay-at-home mother will cultivate a vital sense of self.  Often parents are unable to distinguish their
thoughts, feelings, and behavior from the pattern of their children.  They may worry endlessly about their children
instead of demonstrating appropriate concern. Worrying erodes confidence. Appropriate concern empowers a mother to problem-solve new ways of
assisting their children in managing problems. 

Some mother`s groups advocate what I call
“extreme parenting.”  The parental
process does not take into consideration the mother`s well-being and
personal identity.  There are groups that
advocate that the stay-at-home co-sleep with her children on a regular nightly
basis as a connecting experience.  In my
opinion, this practice is unhealthy for the child as well as the mother.   

At times, a mother will pursue her children
when it would be better to fight that urge. Recently, my daughter visited me along with her toddler.  We were walking down the street during a
shopping trip and my granddaughter fell down at one point. I reached over to
pick her up and my daughter intervened.  “Dad, leave her alone.  Let her
handle this by herself.”  My daughter was
right.  Malia was not hurt and was
capable of getting up on her own.  Step
back, fight the urge to pursue and let children handle their journey to learn
new skills.

It is imperative that stay-at-home moms
create a life apart from their children. Developing a business from home, joining parenting support groups,
spending time with adult friends and volunteering a small amount of one`s time
are important ways of refocusing one`s energy and validating personal
identity.  Finding someone to caretake
for the children may be difficult, but necessary.  Hopefully, a partner is a team player in this
regard and provides the mom with time away from her children.  This is in the best interest of the adult relationship
as well as the adult-child relationship.  Mothers may make excuses as to why a baby-sitter doesn`t meet their expectations.  Part of maintaining a self-identity for the
mother is learning to let go of the children and allowing the children to be
“raised by the village.”  If a
stay-at-home mother desires to create a healthy sense of self, she needs to
learn to entrust her children to significant others.

Suggestions to assist stay-at-home moms in
creating and maintaining a strong self-image are:

  • Don`t be an overly-possessive mother.  In doing so, you give your power away to
    your children.
  • Listen and respond to your own needs.  This is not being selfish but honest and
  • Always trying to please your children will backfire. They will
    not respect you and you will not respect yourself.
  • If your children make mistakes it is not a reflection on
    you.  Remember you are ok as long as
    you allow children to become self-directed through learning from their own
  • Create a life for yourself apart from your children.  Involve family, friends and significant
    others to support you in your self-rewarding activities.
  • Eradicate the words “selfish” and “guilty” from your
    vocabulary.  They are words that
    diminish your worth and keep you from developing confidence.
  • Recognize the harsh reality that your children don`t always
    need you.  It`s amazing what they
    can do for themselves.
  • Let go of the illusion of being the perfect mother.  Parenting is an art.  Having to be perfect puts an
    unreasonable burden on you.


Stay-at-home moms can develop confidence
and feel empowered if they can learn to meet their own needs apart from their
children.  Setting appropriate
boundaries, being assertive, and giving your children appropriate space with
encouragement will enhance a mother`s sense of self-determination and

P. Krehbiel, Ed.S., LPC is an author, freelance writer and nationally certified
cognitive-behavioral therapist practicing in

.  His book, Stepping Out of the Bubble is
available at   He can
be reached at (480) 664-6665

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