I love being a Mum. I have three children who are brilliant, beautiful, funny and delicious. At least five times a day, I almost lose my breath just looking at them, so taken by surprise am I by their perfect little humaness and ‘of-me-ness.’ Privileged doesn’t even begin to cover how I feel to have been able to have spent so much of their lives with them – being there for first laughs, first words, first steps, first day at pre-school, first day at school and everything in between. But gosh, I haven’t found the last 5 years easy. Not at all!
I am sure that everyone finds parenting hard – it is a crazy responsibility after all (You’re not supposed to operate machinery when drowsy, but be responsible for actual real life tiny humans when chronically sleep deprived? Go for it!), but some people make it look easier than others. And I know a whole host of people who are perfectly capable of managing their family alongside grown up world responsibilities – people who can achieve inside and outside the home. I am not one of those people. I am quite sure that no one looks at me trying to get my little posse from a to b, and comments ‘hey darling, let’s have 3 kids. Doesn’t it look easy and not to mention FUN!’ Oh no.
Over the last (one week less than) 5 years, I have done very little other than parent. I can’t remember when I last read something that wasn’t Harry Potter (for the 17th time). I’ve just been too tired. I’ve tried to get involved with things, take on projects, work freelance, volunteer and some of it has gone ok but mostly it’s just been really hard to keep up, and I’ve dropped the ball. In some ways I don’t think this is the end of the world. People more capable than me have been able to help pick up the pieces or I’ve managed to cobble something together. I’m able to contribute to conversations based on the snippets of news I’ve caught or things I read pre-children. But it’s had a fairly heavy impact on how I feel about myself , on how I define myself.
I feel like I’ve been going through some second phase puberty. My hormones have raged, sometimes out of control (PND was beaten with time and drugs), I’m coming to terms with a very different shaped and feeling body, and it’s almost like I don’t know who I am anymore.
Pre-tinies, so much of my identity was wrapped up with what I did. I worked hard. I did a good job. I achieved goals. I was invited to do fun things. People thanked me for what I did, congratulated me on being good at it, encouraged my potential, helped me dream big dreams and I thrived. Now, ‘achievement’ feels elusive and I’m too tired to dream.
Last week I missed out on meeting with a bunch of women leaders who were gathering to start/continue a conversation on gender, leadership and more. I was so pleased to have been invited. I’d thought that maybe after baby 3 I was on the shelf. I’d thought that because I’d stepped down from a bunch of things just before having Ro, no one was ever going to ask me to step up again. Yet here it was – this precious, precious invite – validating me. Look at the amazing other women invited! I could be like them for the day! And then the sickness came. The last couple of months have been full on and my body had had enough. I was very sick and I slept and slept. And I couldn’t go to London. I cried. That’s me back on the shelf. There I go letting people down again. I am never going to be anything other than a Mummy ever again. I was gutted to my core.
But a week on, I have realised some things. They are these.
1) I need to not say yes to things that put me under more pressure than I can take – no matter how important they are going to make me feel. Going to London, a week after moving from London, a few weeks into a new job, on the same day as I’ve committed to leading an event my Mother-in-law has organised, when it’s the first free day I can explore my new home with my husband and children, who are also dealing with the upheaval of a move….. Even without sickness it would have been a push. And had I said no, I would have been sad to not be there but I wouldn’t have had to deal with the awful sense of letting people down – again.
2) 32 is not the end of the road (I know! Of course it’s not! Idiot.). I have got a lot of life left, and plenty of time to achieve and dream.
3) It’s time to get past Harry Potter. I need to push myself, stretch myself. Read, write, think. I want to have a voice but right now, I don’t really know what I want to say. If I’m ever again given the opportunity to speak, I want to have something to say!
4) I need be ok with not being the kind of woman that I think I should be. I know an extraordinary number of extraordinary women. This is a privilege. I am going to choose to allow these women inspire me rather than make me feel bad about myself.
I’m still figuring this out. I don’t know how to fix this question of ‘identity.’ I do know that I love my life. I love my tinies. Injustice pains me. Seeing young women fulfil their potential excites me. I will muddle through to find a balance and find out what I’m for!