Gisele Bundchen’s life (much like her face and body) looks flawless — but she has parenting struggles just like the rest of us. The supermodel says that when she first became a mom, she completely lost her identity.
Married to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, they share two children, Benjamin, 8, and Vivian Lake, 5. She is also stepmom to Brady’s son John with actress Bridget Moynahan.
Describing motherhood after the birth of her son, Gisele writes in her new book, Lessons: My Path to a Meaningful Life, "When I became a mom, I kind of lost myself. It was like a part of me died."
It was a shock to the system she didn’t see coming. Her years of traveling the world for work led her to become very independent, and when she realized she couldn’t just pick up and go, she was hit with the reality of being a mom. “Now I had this little being, and I suddenly felt l couldn’t do other things and that was very hard for me,” she writes.
When she would leave for work, she was overcome with guilt for going, even if it was for a short time. She didn’t want to bring them with her because the hardcore travel would wreak havoc on their lives, not to mention disturb everyone on their flights. She still wanted to work, even though Brady has a lucrative career, and reveals the struggle took a toll on their marriage. She suffered from depression and anxiety trying to balance it all but says meditation and a healthy diet led her to love motherhood.
New York-based parenting expert Lyss Stern tells Personal Space that new moms should always try to remember they are not alone.
"When a new mom feels lost, alone, and/or losing herself, there are many things that she can do and she has to remember she is not alone! Gisele is not alone and I applaud her for being so open and honest," Stern says.
She says one of the reasons she started her mom-centric business DivaLysscious Moms 15 years ago was to try to find a way to get her groove back after giving birth to her first child and to help other mothers find themselves post-baby. "I also recognized that mothers want to keep in touch with themselves after their children are born, which is a feeling that many mothers everywhere can share. A Divalysscious mom is strong, sexy and confident. Stilettos, sippy cups, strollers, and Starbuck lattes go hand-in-hand with this modern group of moms everywhere. Some are career moms and some stay at home, but regardless they maintain their individuality."
Her book Motherhood is a B#tch! actually tackles this very topic; the book explains how women lose their sense of self once they have children and why it’s so important to reclaim it.
Nicole Avena, PhD, assistant professor of neuroscience, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, tells us that nothing can fully prepare you for becoming a new parent.
"There are so many emotions involved, and those feelings change often (starting once you come off of the adrenaline rush of giving birth). Becoming a new mom means taking on a new role in life, in addition to the ones you already have. For some, this can be a challenge, as you feel pulled in many directions. Even if you have the resources (money and personal support), there is still the guilt of not feeling like you are being there for your child if you travel for work, or spend time on the other things in your life — like working out or meeting with friends," she says.
She adds that it's very common for new moms to feel like they are “lost."
"Trying to figure out how to manage their feelings and life, with this new, majorly important role of mom thrown into the mix...There are a few things moms can do to make the transition easier. First, remember that the new baby is a part of your life, and doesn’t take over your life. Of course, they are your first priority, but you also need to make your marriage/relationships/other things that define who you are, next on the priorities list. Babies are happy when their mom is happy, and if that means spending alone time with your partner or going to a yoga class, then do it.
"Second, let go of the guilt. If you travel for your job, you aren’t 'leaving' your baby — you are providing for them and showing them that it is important to have meaningful work in one’s life. Redirect guilt to be more about what you are actually teaching your baby. Lastly, have an honest conversation about what is working and not working in your life. There may be small changes you can make to your life (even if they are temporary), to make things more manageable and allow you to feel like you are still you. Maybe hiring someone to clean once per week so you can have more free time. Or getting a babysitter so you can meet up with friends for coffee or a drink after work. Don’t think you need to do it all by yourself, and ask for help when you are feeling overwhelmed. And always talk to your doctor if you aren’t feeling right for a while. Postpartum depression and anxiety are very real conditions that are common and can be treated, so you can get back to enjoying yourself and your new baby."
Andrea Syrtash, relationship expert and author of Cheat On Your Husband (With Your Husband) says the lost feelings arise because motherhood that completely changes your life. "While the rewards of parenthood are great, it's so normal to go through a period of adjustment stepping into this new role," she says, adding, "We have to stop thinking in terms of all or nothing when it comes to self-care. Sure, you can't pick up and go like you used to; but even finding a few minutes to do something small for yourself every week — a three-minute meditation, taking a warm bath, calling a friend to quickly check in — may help you feel like you haven't completely lost yourself."
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