On May 31st, Anastasia, who writes on the Facebook page In all your spare time, wrote a poignant Facebook post that resonated with so many mothers across the world.
Soon after my son was born I felt like I became invisible.
One day I started wearing 1 earring. Now anyone that knows…
She described how as a new mom she felt like she was invisible. To prove a point, she decided one day to take out one earring and only wear one. She took note to see when someone would notice this change, which is something she says was out of character for her.
It took seven months.
Think about that.
Seven. Whole. Months.
Now, I agree that it is quite possible that someone noticed the missing earring over the course of those weeks and months. However, even if they did, no one was motivated or concerned enough to speak up to let her know for whatever reason.
Anastasia went on to describe that this social experiment confirmed what she had already been feeling. She says, “It sort of cemented to me that as mum of then two children under two who was always out and about, who “just stayed at home” or “didn’t work” I had just about become invisible; not just to society (who may not notice or be curious why just one earring), but to my family, to my friends and really maybe if I am truly honest – even to myself.”
It is easy to imagine this happening if you think about it. As Anastasia writes in her post, friends and family are most often asking about how the new baby was and, “very rarely did anyone ask how I was.” This is so common. In fact, it is the natural first and most common question we all tend to ask after a new baby is born. It wasn’t until I became a mother myself that I understood the importance of always asking a new mom how she is doing.
I remember experiencing the feeling that Anastasia described so well in her post. It hit me hard. The realization came shortly after we brought my daughter home from the hospital. I – Mia as a person – was no longer a priority. It all seemed very clear. I was a mom now. No more taking care of what I needed. It was now time to take care of the new little person that I grew inside me. She was the priority now. She was sole my reason for being. I felt everything else fall away, and it felt scary and lonely and isolating.
I expected many things to change when I became a mother. I knew that I would be lacking for sleep and would be the main caregiver for my new baby 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I knew it would be harder than anything I had ever experienced and I knew it would test me. I did not know that I would begin to feel like I didn’t matter anymore and that, like Anastasia, I would essentially feel invisible.
I felt invisible
Maybe it was the stark contrast between the gushing attention I received during my pregnancy to the complete shift of everything being about the baby. Maybe it was the fact that I now had no time or energy to do anything but take care of my little girl. I remember also feeling selfish that I was upset about this change. I told myself that I just had to grow up. It was a normal part of life to not matter anymore once you had children, and I should just “suck it up”. Maybe losing yourself is just what it meant to be a mom, I thought. I now know that I was wrong.
In her Facebook post, Anastasia went on to talk about how during the seven months of the earring experiment she made a conscious decision that she did not want to be invisible and worked to learn how to transition into the role of being a mother without letting it consume her. It seems she was able to do just that with the help of other mothers around her. “We have to let the thread that unites us as mothers be strong enough to be the rope that catches us when we are falling.”
I think one of the main reasons that this post struck a chord with so many moms is the fact that this feeling is so common, and yet we don’t talk about it. Yes, we talk often about how difficult it is to adjust to your new normal after a baby, but rarely have I heard the feeling of being “invisible” tied to this postpartum period or even to motherhood in general. I think just putting into words a feeling that so many experience has a healing effect all on its own.
Like Anastasia, I learned to find myself again as I settled into mommyhood and to value the person I am in addition to being a mother. “Mom” may be the most amazing and important title I will ever carry, but it is not the only one. Acknowledging this in each other and ourselves will only strengthen our mama tribe as a whole and make us all better moms.
Thank you, Anastasia, for reminding us all that we are not invisible.