Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Motherhood; Losing My Identity


Becoming a mother has been the most drastic lifestyle change I've ever experienced. I'm sure that's quite a common feeling amongst first time mothers. I don't get up at 7am for work anymore. I get up at 1am, and 3am, and 6am if I'm lucky. I don't get to eat my lunch on my own whilst browsing news sites and texting my sister about her hot boss (#lunchgoals). I eat when my son is done eating and has decided to have a nap. It's not all "woe is me" though. I get to lie in bed snuggling my baby whilst my poor husband heads off to work in the rain. I get to have Tuesday afternoon lunch dates on the riverside with old friends. I get to spend the afternoon shopping for baby clothes and drinking Starbucks. I get to go on morning walks with the buggy, even if it is to buy inhuman quantities of chocolate. I absolutely love motherhood, but it is totally and utterly all consuming.

Before I got pregnant I often thought about new mums and their lifestyles. It was terrifying to me that becoming a mum suddenly meant that every conversation would be about babies. These women had to diarize every social event and plan for every weekend away. They couldn't spend their mornings hungover eating pizza in bed. They attended "Toddle Tot" afternoons with other mums and talked about weaning and toilet training. They couldn't wear nice clothes because they'd be ruined by messy baby juices. I perceived these changes as such a loss of identity. Did they still have career ambitions and passions outside of their #mumlife? Did they have any parts of their personality that were left unaffected by motherhood?

I recovered from the birth quickly and got off to an organised start. In the first weeks of "being mum" I spent literally hours making plans with people and filling out my new and extremely ugly leather diary. I allowed myself one weekday to spend in bed or on the sofa with my son. I tasked myself with making sure that I left the house, even for 15 minutes, on all four of the remaining weekdays. I think I was anxious that I would get too comfortable on my own with no adult social interaction and that I would start putting too much of that pressure onto my husband who still had to go to work and try to maintain cohesive conversation with his colleagues after broken sleep. I was worried that I didn't have any "mum friends" who had children of their own and that my "normal friends" would soon get over the novelty of a baby present at every coffee catch up and lunch date. Babies aren't always great company. The idea is romantic: a cooing baby sleeping peacefully next to you as you sip wine and laugh with your friends. Full face of makeup, of course. Sometimes the reality is that your baby is tired, or hungry, or has managed to do a shit so powerful that it reaches the nape of his neck and the restaurant you're in has no baby changing facilities. I was nervous to be out of the house but also nervous to be inside it.

My first proper expedition alone with my son was to meet a friend for lunch. I rammed my changing bag full of spare outfits, muslins, dummies and blankets and set out. Within minutes of sitting down at the table I realised that I had left my purse on the kitchen counter at home. I had been defeated by a rookie mistake. I practically begged the waiter to believe that I was old enough to buy a glass of wine before ramming my food down and legging it back home, leaving my friend to pay the bill. Do you know what though? It got easier.

I learned that not everyone I met up with would be super interested in my baby. Some had babies themselves and mine was old news. We talked about other stuff. We caught up on work gossip or bitched about our lovely husbands. I found that I had far more going on than I realised and I hadn't suddenly lost all sense of who I am and replaced it with stories about dirty nappies and baby bath mishaps. I hadn't suddenly become this strange new person. It eventually hit me that I hadn't lost my identity as a new mum, but rather that I'd gained one.

I had the perfect excuse; the Get Out of Jail Free card for every scenario. I could get out of overdue catch ups with people I didn't want to see. I could even skip long lines in shops if my baby screamed loud enough. That one is a joke. Sort of. I didn't need to worry about whether my friends would be bored of me talking about babies and drift away from me. It didn't happen. I don't know why I worried about that anyway- I have the kindest, most generous group of girls around me and if anything they are more obsessed with my boy than I am some days. We still talk about all the sex, drugs and rock & roll. That still exists (even if I'm just a spectator these days!).

The best part of my new "Mumdentity" was that I made some amazing new friends. I suddenly had something in common with people that I wouldn't usually have ever met. I met a girl who issues absolutely no judgement when I say "I just nearly stabbed my husband because he left a bowl in the sink" or "I just accidentally dropped my phone onto my baby midway through a ferocious Twitter rant about mother and baby parking spaces". Somehow I feel more confident than I ever have done. I can meet up with someone without making a mental list of emergency talking points (tell me I'm not the only person who does this?!). My son hasn't cost me my identity as a woman; instead he has become part of my new identity as a mum. I love him dearly for it.

To all those women battling babylife every hour of every day: you are incredible and I'm proud to be in your club.

🛁 #FridayNight

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