One of the lovely things about blogging and our local Twitter community is meeting other mums who I wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to meet. Kirsty is one of these mums and I now consider her a friend who I can go to to discuss parenting issues and for a good old chat. Recently I asked her how she came to set up her fab website The Mummysphere and asked her to write a post for me. I think her experience makes a really valuable read for lots of mums;
What is a good mum? How do you do it? I had always wanted to be a mum and I don’t think that I would be alone in admitting that I want to be really good at it but it has taken me a while to understand and accept what being a good mum means to me.
So what’s the secret? You will be disappointed to read that if there is a magic formula I haven’t found it but I can share how I have come to find peace of mind. When I was pregnant I imagined that I was going to be a Supermum. I was going to ‘breathe my baby out’, then continue my career whilst being a great wife, housekeeper, gardener, chef and I would be able to tack being a great mum onto my existing life and still have time for family, friends and hobbies. When you are pregnant one of the things people always say to you is, “Oh everything changes when you have a baby,” but when you ask them what they mean they smugly sneer, “You’ll see,” usually accompanied by some sort of ‘I’m glad I’m not you’ laugh. It is the adult equivalent of a child whining ‘I know something you don’t know, ner ner ne ner ner’. It is neither helpful, informative nor supportive. So what do they mean?
In my case many things have changed. Immediately after the birth of my wonderful son I went from being a fit and healthy person who never went to the doctor to being very unwell and I even ended up having to go back into hospital when my son was three months old. By that time I thought I would be worrying about nappies, feeding and sleeping and I was worried about those things but I hadn’t bargained on also having to learn how to rest and sit still and allow people to help and look after me (something I am still not any good at) otherwise I wasn’t ever going to be able to have enough energy to get better and be the mum I had imagined I was going to be.
Once I recovered physically I started to notice other changes. The largest change was my decision not to return to my job but many of the changes were small: I was going to bed at about 7.30pm, as soon as I put my son to bed, so that I could get a good block of sleep before he would wake up wanting a feed at night but this meant I didn’t get any time in the evening to relax and get some time on my own; I missed my favourite radio programmes; I had no time to go out with other adults and even if I did I had nothing to wear; I put on weight; I missed adult conversations with colleagues and friends; I still haven’t had my hair cut since my son was born 15 months ago.
All these things sound very insignificant but all these small things added up to me feeling like ‘I’ was being lost. I had grown up in a world where I was told that I could have everything and do anything and I had always assumed that this meant that I could have a career, a marriage, children, hobbies and that everything would be fabulous. However, when these small things combined I felt that ‘I’ was being swallowed up. When you have a very small baby they need you all the time, for everything and it is a physically and mentally demanding job, particularly when you don’t live near family or close friends. I was so happy to be a mum and doing a great job, even if I say so myself, but everything that I used to do that made me feel like ‘me’ was falling away, the person I used to be was not just changing completely it was fading into nothing and I didn’t like it.
Members of my NCT group started going back to work and I felt that in their eyes I was just ‘sitting at home’. I felt like I had gone from being a professional, valued and respected member of society to being completely insignificant. I mentioned to a neighbour one day that I found being a mum really hard work because although I love it I do find it physically, emotionally, mentally demanding and they kicked my confidence completely with comments about how working ‘at that level’ really isn’t that hard. It appeared to me that everyone around me now saw me as some brain dead jelly who had nothing to contribute to society and I did not feel like ‘me’. I was enjoying being a mum but I had to admit to myself that there was something missing.
I wanted to be my son’s main carer but I knew I needed to do something to make me feel like myself. I wanted to help other mums and so I decided to build a business around my personality. I love finding great places to visit with my son and getting out and about and I know that there are many parents like me who want to know what is going on locally so my idea for themummysphere.co.uk was born. I organised childcare for my son one day a week and I set up my own company so I could be in control of my own destiny and do something for me and other mums.
I now know that you really can’t have it all but you do have choices and we should respect everyone’s choices, whatever they may be. No one person’s path is the right one. Each path is right for that person and that family and everyone is working hard and juggling different demands on their time. It took me a while to have the health, strength and confidence to sit down and work out what was right for me but now I have made my choices I am much happier and able to be a better mother, wife and women in my own right. Much has changed but I wouldn’t be without my amazing son who challenges and delights me every single day.
So what is the answer? What is a good mum? Being a good mum is different for everyone, what I had to realise is that I can be a great mum and still do some things for myself too. In many ways being a mum has been the easy bit for me and working out how that fits in with who I am has been harder but after 15 months I am content with the balance I have achieved. I don’t feel like the old me, that person is long gone but I am a new, improved version.