I honestly don’t think society truly appreciates just how much Motherhood takes its toll on a woman, – in that we completely give all of us, in our absolute entirety to our children (as any loving mother would and should) but in doing so, unconsciously and undeliberately – we often lose our sense of self, our individualism, us minus the children, us without the dishes and nappies. Every waking hour, minute and moment, including the very air we breath is for our kids. It’s hard to fathom what it means to give everything possible – physically and emotionally to a little person who depends on you for absolutely everything, nobody except other mothers themselves will get what I mean by this.
We spend 10-12 years of our adolescence trying to figure out who we are. By puberty, it begins to look appealing to stand out, be unique, to find yourself amongst the crowd of other teens who all look the same in uniform. To figure out what’s going to make you, well…you! In order to get noticed, be popular, attract the attention of potential boyfriends/girlfriends – it’s important to get involved in the chosen areas you saw yourself in and find a sense of self. Whether that be watching a million YouTube make-up tutorials to get good at doing your make-up to build your self-confidence or you really enjoyed the “art” side of it – perhaps you saw yourself doing Cosmetology in college and wanted to make a serious career out of it. Maybe it was music, you learnt to play an instrument because you discovered it therapeutic, perhaps you REALLY did aspire to start a rock band or simply it was your common interest with friends that made for many a good night. Maybe you started with a diary, going onto writing short stories and saw yourself writing the next big thing since Harry Potter. Whatever your findings were – the hobbies and interests that built up what makes you – you, you’d assume would stay with you for life. I never once imagined I’d lose myself amongst Motherhood. That I’d become so immersed in the notion of being a “Good Mum” (whatever one of those is) that bit by bit “I,” Fell. Away.
I was the teenage girl who was insanely shy, who became fashion conscious in my late teens and took great pride in my appearance. I felt more confident, stronger, ready to face the world with make-up on my face and a well-coordinated outfit – that I wouldn’t leave the house without seeing to either. I was the girl who never bailed on meeting up with friends whether it be to go to the cinema, shopping or out for lunch. I said “Yes!” to everyone, for an opportunity to venture out to make up for my incredibly sheltered childhood years. Britain of the 90s when I grew up wasn’t built for wheelchair users the way it is today, as soon as it was becoming more and more accessible – I was out there, ready to live my life! I was the girl who had a crazy obsession with Westlife, Boyzone and Ronan Keating and always had music playing, you knew when I was in my “happy place” as I’d actually sing out loud. I was the girl who set up the first charity for my rare condition here in the UK because I didn’t want anybody else to feel as isolated as I did. Between make-up, fashion, music, socializing and bringing people with my condition together, that was what made me – ME.
When I became pregnant, amongst all the fear and excitement that accompanied the changing circumstances and responsibilities – I vowed to myself I’d continue with my charity, that I wouldn’t let family life be all-consuming to the point I left people high and dry, forgetting the whole reason I created that support network in the first place. As far as the rest of my hobbies and interests, I didn’t give it a second thought. OK, I wasn’t that naive that I thought I’d still have all the time in the world but I thought being the sensible me, I’d find time for myself somewhere – even if I had to pencil it on the wall calendar. I went into Motherhood knowing how important it was for a mothers mental well-being to find time for herself, so she is better equipped in her role. Self-care is incredibly important and not enough people practice it (especially parents) and I hold up my hands and openly admit I didn’t even realise as a Mum I’d need to learn and practice this myself. Like many first-time Mums, I thought I had it all figured out.
Until I actually had a baby in my arms that was!
I remember it vividly, Abbie was around 6 months old and I couldn’t remember the last time I left the house or made the effort to wear actual clothes, instead of throwing on my comfy, Mummy practical pyjamas – as they’d just get sicked on anyway. I couldn’t remember the last time I sang along to the radio and all my nail polishes had solidified in their jars from being buried deep in my bedside drawer. I took out my phone to look at myself in the camera lens, compact mirror long disappeared and what I saw made me so deeply sad. The person staring back was unrecognisable, a shadow of my former self. Hair unkempt, bags under my eyes, chapped lips, pale and sad-looking. Where did I go?
What happened to me? I quickly scrolled through my texts and there was nothing. Friends had drifted away as I moved to a new area just before my eldest was born, nobody even bothered to check-up or visit. A few days later I realised I hadn’t updated my charity’s website for over half a year. I felt like a failure. Motherhood had taken all of me and there was simply nothing left of me for anything else. I wept.
It wasn’t until 4 years later that I actually did anything about it. I was aware there was a huge issue here, but Mummy guilt prevented me from taking action. It got so bad that I squeezed myself into pre-maternity clothes as if I was the same size 8 I’d always been, I felt too guilty to buy myself a new top or pair of pants. I knew I drastically needed a wardrobe overhaul – pregnancy changes you inside and out after all. Yet I’d stare at a top I liked in Asda for a mere £6 and couldn’t bring myself to purchase it. I convinced myself it would be selfish of me – the girls could have a new this or that (that honestly, they didn’t need as they always had everything and more). I look back now and it saddens me that I let myself get to the point I thought I wasn’t worth £6!
Another child later and both needing me less and less for every little thing the more they grew into independent little people, I thankfully slowly started to shed the guilt, the feeling of being selfish for thinking of myself sometimes and began to search for the new me. The “Me” after Motherhood. I knew it was unrealistic to go back in time, but I could adapt what I used to enjoy and make it work alongside motherhood. Slowly I started listening to the latest hits while I washed those dishes and I started buying myself 2nd hand clothing – in a bigger size to accommodate the mum-tum my muscle condition meant I’d never realistically shed. Working my way up to buying some earphones and subscribing to Spotify. It’d been so long since I kept up with music, it took me a while to even grasp how Spotify worked!
The best things I did for myself after sacrificing 5 years solely and entirely to my two beautiful young girls, was becoming a Mummy blogger and disability rights campaigner. It allows me to continue to spend the time with my family, balance my health issues but quench that need to do something productive in the community. All at the same time! The crazy thing is, I feel more accomplished and satisfied with my life now than I actually did before children. All this time I’d been missing myself, instead of re-creating myself. Mummy guilt is crippling and can take you to some pretty dark places, the thing is about parenting is there’s no right or wrong way to be a good one. The fear of failing is beyond anything else because childhood is the stepping stone to a successful future.
Although those negative thoughts and worries over whether I’m doing the right thing by my little ones plague my thought process from time to time still, I’m trying to be confident in the knowledge that all I’ve taken on for myself – in addition to being their Mummy – is showing them first hand how to strive for what you believe in and want out of life, as well as the fact a happier me makes for a much better Mum for them.
If you can relate, I want you to know it is not selfish to look out and after yourself as well, you should not feel guilty for needing some you time (aside from mothering). It is ESSENTIAL that you look after yourself, to be better equipped for your little ones each and every day.