There can be a multitude of reasons why your confidence might be knocked once you have children, all of which are understandable, but the big question is, what can you do about it? This article explores some of the main reasons why this might have happened and provides you with practical tips on how to get unstuck and back to your blossoming confident self.
Your physical appearance
Weight gain, fatigue, not enough time for self-care, no need to go to work, a diminishing social life may all have a contribution to your physical appearance once you have children. Even if you fit back in your clothes, you may not feel like putting on make-up, fixing up your hair, pampering yourself with a massage, boosting those endorphin levels by exercising, to name just a few examples of where your self-care may slip.
You may no longer feel like the powerful sassy confident woman you used to be when you look in the mirror. One study found that in the 20% of women who retain excessive weight after giving birth, the key factors were those who gained the most weight in the last trimester and did not feel attractive during the first year after giving birth. Other factors such as levels of depression, stress, anxiety, and body image also had an effect, but the greatest was how attractive you felt in that first year.
Interestingly a study conducted in Norway showed that relationship satisfaction did not alter during pregnancy despite weight gain in the late stages of pregnancy, but the confidence of the mother was significantly affected after giving birth, more so after having their first child and to a lesser extent after having more children, but continued to deteriorate over the following years. This may be because the mother felt a lack of support or the focus and emphasis of the relationship shifts to the child rather than the partner, and so it is not surprising that the relationship can come under significant stress.
When you first have a baby, you are thrown out of your comfort zone. There is a multitude of new skills to master and knowledge to attain. The hope of breastfeeding and routine may not be realised, lack of sleep will only add to the stress, and comparing yourself to other mothers who seem to be coping better than you can push you down the confidence slide even further.
If you then have a second or third child, the demands differ but increase and come with their own complications, as well as benefits of course. You may have gone from being super-organised or a whizz and highly respected in the office to finding yourself overwhelmed with what you thought was going to be easy. It’s not surprising that your confidence in your abilities may become compromised. This may be exacerbated further if your baby is deemed more difficult due to feeding issues or temperament for example.
No doubt about it, having a child has huge financial implications. The initial outlay when you want everything to be perfect is just the tip of the iceberg. You then have to factor in childcare if you want to get back to work, perhaps a bigger home down the line as you eat into the space you have, and of course a reduced income at least in the short term, if not forever. You may find yourself having to budget significantly and on occasion, this can be overwhelming if you start to project into the future and are either planning to return to work only part-time or perhaps not at all.
Perhaps you have worked all your life and been highly independent. Stopping work and finding yourself dependent on someone else can play havoc with your self-esteem. You may have been incredibly able and confident at work, only to find yourself feeling vulnerable and inadequate as a mother, no longer in control. Trying to create the balance between who you were, who you are now, and who you wish to be and needing to re-establish yourself are significant issues that can impact on your confidence levels once you have children. This can become harder still once you return to work, perhaps with different priorities than those of the woman who went on maternity leave. If you work in an environment with lots of men, it would hardly be surprising if you didn’t want to come across as weak or inferior by using motherhood as an excuse not to stay working in the office until 8 pm. Navigating all this can be a challenge for sure.
What can you do to boost your confidence?
Having explained and hopefully made you feel better in realising that it is totally understandable and normal to experience reduced confidence, let’s get proactive and start doing something about it! These are some fast-working suggestions for you to try:
1. Practice self-care
Make yourself a promise to practice one act of self-care a day. This can be as simple as ensuring you eat a proper healthy meal, do something with your hair, or put some make-up on. Ask someone to hold you accountable to ensure you do it or add it to your daily to-do list to remind you it’s important.
2. Exercise and body posture
Holding yourself upright, head up shoulders back, as well as any form of activity will help to release endorphins and improve your mood. It doesn’t have to be a long-drawn-out painful trip to the gym if that’s not your thing. Try watching you-tube for exercise ideas, and even some restorative yoga can be a wonderful way to start.
3. Master needs-based communication
It’s too easy to assume others know what we are thinking and need. Learn and practice asking for help by expressing the underlying need. More information on this is in my book, along with some useful exercises you can try to perfect this.
4. Plan ahead and create joint expectations
Spend some time with your partner defining what each other’s expectations are both in terms of how you hope to support each other with your children and what you both require from each other in a relationship. I call it creating your relationship rule-book which you can keep adding to and adapting over time.
5. Build a support network
Simply understanding that you are not alone and that parenting is not easy can help you feel better. Also understanding that like social media, people tend to publicly portray their successes rather than their vulnerabilities may also help you. Join other groups of mothers either online or in-person and support each other.
6. Eliminate negative people from your life
In the same vein as surrounding yourself with positivity and supportive people, you may want to consider ridding yourself of negativity. If there are people around you who you find knock your confidence or drain you, then it may be time to distance yourself from them.
7. Financial planning
There is nothing like being prepared! Sometimes the thoughts and subsequent feeling of being powerless to do anything about it can create a sense of overwhelm. Spend some time planning your finances down on paper, both short and medium-term. Just being able to refer back to it when you are doubting yourself and reassuring yourself you have a plan in place can eliminate the worry.
8. Abundant thinking
When we worry about money, our thoughts go to a place of lack, which creates worry and concern. Having an attitude of abundance and a positive money mindset will instantly help you feel confident about your bank balance. Gratitude and affirmations can be part of this practice, believing what you desire is already here in your present moment.
9. Remain in the present moment
It is all too easy to start worrying about the future and reminiscing in the past, all of which have a psychological impact on us. Any time you find yourself feeling blue, bring yourself back to the present. Mindfulness practice, meditation, and expressing gratitude for you have at this moment in time are all things that can help you do this more easily.
10. Be a leader
Knowing who you are, what your values are, what your beliefs are, how amazing you are as a person, how loved you are, and how good you are at what you do will all help you to avoid self-doubt and empower you to be sparkling confident self, no matter who or what challenges you face. Spend some time reflecting on these and take ownership of them. You will exude the energy created by them the more you embody them.
Discover how to carry out these practices as well as a wealth more information on parenting and communication ideas in Dr. Rana Al-Falaki’s #1 best-selling book Women Who Want More: How To Create A Balanced & Fulfilled Life. Additional free resources and exercises can be downloaded from www.lightchangescoaching.com.
Dr. Rana Al-Falaki is a multi-award winning leader in her field, a core-energy coach, international speaker, host of Be Free, Be Fun Fearless video and podcast series, and best-selling author. She is also a mother of three, tea-lover, adventurer, and believes everything in our lives has be balanced with choice and fun. She can be contacted via her website.