Having an identity crisis identity as a parent

Asked by a new dad about whether he would lose his identity as a dad, I was honest. I said it could be an issue. Do you , however, lose it, or does it simply change?

“What about the loss of identity when you become a dad?” This question was posed to me by a chap who was just about to become a father. I was flummoxed by the question at first. There were all manner of issues he could have asked, but whether he’d have an identity crisis was not top of my list.

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Asked by a new dad about loss of identity as a parent, I was honest and said it could be an issue. Do you, however, lose your identity, or does it change?

I was expecting to be asked about loss of sleep, what it was like changing nappies or maybe, just maybe, how having young kids impacts on your sex life. Oh no, he went straight for the jugular and asked me about loss of identity.

As an aside, I should add the question was very well timed. Just a few hours later this chap did indeed become a father. I shall have to catch up with him soon and see how he is getting on.

Identity is a thorny issue.  I recall one of my in-laws saying to Mrs Adams and I: “You’ll no longer be John And Gill, you’ll be Helen and Izzy’s parents.”

It wasn’t that bad, it’s not like John Adams disappeared completely into a thick, opaque, fug of fatherhood and parenting. I didn’t melt into a gigantic blob that was inseparable from my kids and I can’t tell you I had an identity crisis.

That said, I was honest with the guy that asked me about loss of identity. I said that loss of identity could be an issue.

I thought about my own life. I used to be very sociable, but I don’t get out and socialise as much as I once did.

My friendship groups have changed. They revolve more around my children and their social lives or the ability to get a babysitter. The number of child-free friends I have can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

When younger, I could afford to be silly with my money. I once spent £70 on a pair of gold shoes to wear to an award ceremony just because it seemed liked a funny thing to do. By contrast, this week I am marking all our outgoings on an Excel spreadsheet to see where we can cut down our outgoings.

Once upon a time I was a great traveller. While I still get to go overseas occasionally, it’s rare and holidays are restricted by school term times. I long ago accepted my days of undertaking regular long-haul travel are over. Simply trying to organise a weekend away with Mrs Adams is difficult enough.

When both my kids started school, I started calling myself a school run dad. It’s quite an apt name for me. I was a stay at home dad, indeed I still am the at home parent in this household. I combine this with working at home while my kids are at school and my day revolves around the school drop off in the morning and collection in the afternoon.

I don’t look at any changes to my life and identity as bad developments. I was once a bit brash, a bit of a clown (many would say I still am a clown), selfish even. I would identify myself by my occupation, either as a journalist or someone working the arts of public relations.

It’s not so much a loss of identity I’ve experienced as a change of identity. I’m not as reckless with my money as I used to be. I don’t have to stay up until two AM just because all my friends are. If anything, I am more confident in who I am and whatever decisions I make, my kids are at the centre of them. Fatherhood has made me think of other people more and that’s no bad thing.

There are those people I have known who have thrown themselves entirely into the role of Tiger Dad or Earth Mother. I’ve always felt that’s a risky strategy as one day your kids will leave home. Without children to pin your identity on, such individuals will be a bit lost.

You need to keep some aspect of your identity, but that identity will change when you become mum or dad. If it doesn’t, you need to take a long, hard look at your priorities.

Where do you stand on this? Do you think you experience a loss of identity when you become a parent or is it a change of identity? I’d love to know your thoughts so feel free to pop a comment down below.

9 thoughts on “Having an identity crisis identity as a parent”

  1. I would very much see it is a change of identity … different, of course, but I’m still me. I am freelance so I both spend large periods at home and significant periods in town, at work, so I am still me!!! Does that make sense? Cool graphic, though!

    1. It certainly does make sense Enda. I’d kinda say that was my position as well making money by blogging. I spend most of my time at home but I do deal with people on a professional basis and get out the house. Thanks for your thoughts on the graphic. I have been brushing up my Photoshop skills!

  2. Hi John, this is an interesting topic. There was a time when I did feel that I’d lost my identity and as strange as this may sound I felt (for about the first 6 years or so of parenting) that I couldn’t relate to my former self. It was only when I started working again that I sort of bumped into myself again. I could only work a few hours a week, but for those hours I was Debs and not Mum. It wasn’t long before I could relate to my former self again. Now the children have all grown up I feel I have evolved, but my essence has remained wholly untouched (if you know what I mean?). And for that I am thankful.


    1. Isn’t it fascinating, Debs, how getting out the house and doing something away from home forms such a part of our identity? I don’t honestly know how I would see myself if I wasn’t also a blogger. It does give me something to discuss when I meet people and I get out the house and meet people. I guessin some respects it is possibly worse for a woman because there is almost an expectation that you will be “mum” for several years. Really thoughtful comment.

  3. Hi John, when I first became a father I did suffer a bit of an identity crisis as suddenly a lot of my ambitions and interests had to be shelved because of the change and I did suffer a bit at first as I couldn’t get the time for these.

    I think I am more on the change in identity side though as I began to adapt I started to work out the balance as well as appreciating the free time I did have.

    In many ways my interests have evolved to incorporate or involve my daughter.

    1. A very common story I think. To be honest, a period of reflection and change is to be expected….although I say that with the benefit of hindsight!

  4. I find the wording you use about your friend becoming a father interesting. You make it sound as if he became a father all at once, when the baby is born. Do guys not consider themselves father’s before the baby is born? As it’s growing inside mom? I would think he is a dad long before the baby is actually born. It doesn’t happen all at once. Maybe this isn’t how it’s seen for men?

  5. This is a fight for me. I love myself as a single person. When I am on a solo trip for a week, my identity starts to come back and I start to really love life and really having a blast enjoying the little and big things in life. As soon as the family joins or I go home, its all over.
    Don’t get me wrong I love being a dad on the one hand and I love my son like nothing else, but I am much more sleepwalking trough life as a parent. When I was alone I had tons of friends and I was inmensly social and having unplanned adventures. This was my identity, I was the vagabond, the adventurer.
    I sometimes get to be that person on a 10 day vacation, but then its back to boring average Joe without an identity life. I would not want to have missed being a father, but knowing that I’m missing out on TONS of adventures still hurts after 7 years.

  6. So HOW do you keep that bit of yourself when your whole life is getting up at 6am after fitful sleep to go to work to come home to get your kids into bed to do chores and projects until 11pm and that’s still not enough to even make a dent in everything that needs to be done? I don’t even get a chance to listen to one song a day that I even enjoy any more much less keep up any of my hobbies.

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