The Search Is On: Finding Yourself After Motherhood (part one)

November 22, 2022

I am—yet what I am none cares or knows;
My friends forsake me like a memory lost:
I am the self-consumer of my woes—
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shadows in love’s frenzied stifled throes
And yet I am, and live …
- John Clare

A lot of my ideas around identity come from this instilled sense of “having a title.” Like you are either a lawyer, or a teacher, or an accountant, or a nurse. There is very little talk about being a marketing manager, or a team lead, or a creative director, or even working in HR! What do those titles even mean, and do they matter as an identifier to the person who holds those positions? My husband is a programer, but a very specialized one with an expanse of knowledge for his industry, but like how does that define him as a person? I’m not sure it really matters, because in the end being a good human to others and to yourself is what really matters. So here is a timeline of my identity, which is always changing, as I like to describe my journey as “self under construction.”

Who was I?

Since a very young age, I was told I would be a teacher. I would be like my grandmother and my father, and it would be great because I’m smart and good with kids and, “OH! you’ll get your summers off with a pension!” It was all the rage. So I dutifully went to university and became a teacher. From the age of 19 till 26, I taught, in every grade level, and I worked in special education as well, so I got my fair share of the system – in multiple school boards, both public and private, as well as in London, England for a while. And even though I adored my students, I loved creating lessons and sharing information, and watching their interests peak in my class, but my heart wasn’t in it. I was so anxious every day waking up because it felt restricting like my chest was caving in and I was an imposter. I knew I wouldn’t retire as a teacher, so I had to find something that really made my heart sing.

After finishing my career as a teacher and deciding that it wasn’t for me, I started to look for something new – because I can’t seem to find satisfaction in just one thing. I went back to school for interior design, and I fell in love with it. I have always enjoyed design; it’s something that I’ve loved doing for as long as I can remember; I would draw floor plans of dream houses that I wanted to build or these mansions that were also barns that I could build for my mom. I remember using graph paper to scale out floor plans, but I didn’t even know the concept of “scale” at that age. I just wanted each square to be one foot in real life, and I would take my dad’s measuring tape to find the dimensions of a room in our house for reference for my designs… It’s a fond memory of little me sitting on the couch trying to draw straight lines with a pen and adjusting the size of these massive houses I wanted to create. At the age of 12, I repainted my entire room and did these vertical stripes to look like wallpaper using a laser level. It took me almost a week, but I was so passionate about finding the right combination of colours and painting these stripes! I remember looking for inspiration in the wallpaper books in the paint aisle at the local hardware store because, at the time, Pinterest didn’t exist! Dad would go shopping for supplies, and there I was, sitting on the floor surrounded by wallpaper books and paint swatches! It’s a wonder I didn’t decide to go into design sooner!

So after school, I started working as a designer with a company, and we designed luxury condo towers in and around the Montreal area; I got to design 3500 sq. ft penthouses and work with luxury materials, and help such lovely clients make their dream homes a reality. I felt like I was living out all of my dreams; waking up early to get dressed up, traveling downtown to the office, and seeing multiple clients a day to help make their selections for their condos. But I got married right before I started working, and almost immediately, I became pregnant. So my tenure with this company was going to be short-lived, with all the intention of going back to work after my one-year maternity leave. Well, at the one-year mark, it was June 2020, and we were in the middle of preparing to sell our condo and move into our house… so going back to work just was not an option for me. We had no care service for my son, nor could I sign up for waiting lists in our new neighbourhood because we didn’t live there yet! So I changed titles again and became a stay-at-home mom.

I never thought I would get married and have kids and actually decided as a teen that I didn’t want kids, but I met my husband, and all of that changed, so obviously, I was so excited to become a mom. I just was not ready for what that was going to do for my concept about the self and title-ship. All the self-doubting questions rolled through my head, and still do. We’re working on it, slowly with a ton of thought work – hearing that voice start to go off, stopping it, and forcing it to change directions. Because if I let the doubt creep in too much, I become so irritable, sad, heavy, and at a base level, angry. These fears of not having a described title (or control over how people perceive me – which is the real issue here!) take hold, and it can be really crippling mentally. Those days I know I could have done better as a mom and a wife, and a friend, but sometimes those days, all I can do is survive. And that’s just one issue I have, my ever-changing identity – imagine all the other trauma issues I’m working through and breaking in therapy! Haha, it is laughable, but it’s necessary! I guess that’s part of the beauty, that our identities are always changing.

Who am I right now?

I no longer want to hold onto labels and associations, but if I had to pick, I want to be a good mom, a happy person, someone who enjoys the hobbies and jobs they do. I want to be a creative person, whether that’s in interior design, teaching, making blogs or exploring other creative avenues. I want to stay true to myself but grow into a better version of her. I hope to look back in 10 years and see 30-year-old me as an explorer of her world and life. And for 40-year-old me to be proud of those 10 years spent creating and loving and sharing with others.

If I am going to put a title to myself, I guess it’s homemaker. It’s the term I came across recently that felt like it best describes what I’m currently doing, which is making a home. It feels all-encompassing; a mom, a wife, a manager, an accountant, a gardener, a cleaner, a taxi, a teacher, a parent, a friend. It helps me narrow and generalizes my identity. In one sense, I know what my purpose is for this season of life; to grow and cultivate my family and home to the best of my ability. In the other sense, I can generalize those tasks and not feel any animosity towards them. (There’s a whole issue around chores and consequences that I have to get over). So I can do the dishes first thing in the morning and not feel resentment that I can’t “do something for me.” I have the coffee pot going and my morning music playing, but having clean dishes and starting the day with a clean kitchen to cook in creates a safe space for my family to live – so this is my title. This is where I belong right now, and it brings insurmountable value to the people I love most, and really finding fulfillment in helping and caring for others is something I’m learning to love. This doesn’t account for my identity as it stands outside of motherhood and being a wife, but that’s a whole other conversation which will be in part two.

Thanks for coming along on this introspective little journey. I’m sure a lot of people feel like they’ve lost themselves in the chaos of being a parent, so just know that it is not a rare phenomenon; I think we all lose ourselves, it’s finding either the old or the new version of ourselves that is the real journey! As Confucius said, “we have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.”

Till next time,

Julie Brisebois,


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Get early access to upcoming podcast guests, solo episode topics, what to expect on the blog, merch drops, and anything else I think you’d enjoy. 

Expect the unexpected.