For me, being a Mum is the best job in the World and I wouldn’t trade it for anything! However, one of the not-so-great things about becoming a parent is that you quickly loose your identity. You may have gone from a professional with an awesome career to suddenly just another full time Mum. People almost say it in distain. They put no value on it and make it sound like you’re swanning around having lunch with friends all the time or going to the gym or doing what you fancy all day. This is far from the truth, although it is awesome when you can catch up with friends in between dirty nappies!
Often when we bump into somebody they will ask about the baby, “aren’t they cute” and completely forget to acknowledge us and how we are feeling. Often people will just assume we’re not getting any sleep or we’re too preoccupied rather than asking how we are actually feeling.
All of a sudden, we can lose our name and be known only as Mumma. I found this particularly hard as I had number two and three. I had gone from being Jo, a busy, fun person to constantly hearing Mumma, Mumma, Mumma! Some days I felt that nobody even said my name. It was just Mumma. Don’t get me wrong, the first time they say Mumma it’s the best feeling in the World. But when it is constant and is the first thing you hear in the morning and the last thing you hear at night it can be draining. Sometimes I felt like they were literally sucking the life from me every time they said Mumma!
You have gone from being able to make decisions about what and when you do things, to now when your friend asks you out for a coffee, your brain immediately goes to thinking about what your baby’s needs are – will they need a feed, sleep, are they going to be grumpy or will they just chill out and let you drink a hot cup of coffee – no not coffee you’ve already had 2 today and that’s your limit because you’re breastfeeding! Will you get to have a complete conversation before your baby needs you!
I got to a stage where I hated getting invited out to social events with my husband for work. Not because I couldn’t find anything to hide my postnatal body in, although that was also tricky, but more because I had nothing to say to strangers. I didn’t want that look of pity when I said I was a full time Mum, but I didn’t know how to hold a conversation with someone who was getting eight hours sleep a night and was going out into the real world. My life consisted of dirty nappies, feeding baby and feeding me. Washing, washing and more washing. I didn’t know what to say to somebody else. The anxiety about upcoming parties was terrible and I was secretly pleased if the babysitter pulled out so I couldn’t go!
The number of forms or questionnaires that I filled in and you had to put your occupation and I resented putting Housewife. The reason behind this is because I was, like so many of you, way more than a housewife. My husband was great and would put down Head of Household or Household Manager. When you are at home looking after little people it is a full-time job which is why I never look down on it. It is definitely a personal choice whether you stay home and work looking after your family and home or you go back into the workforce. Both are incredibly hard to juggle and manage and it is more to do with personality as to which suits you best although some have their hand forced due to financial constraints.
So, what can we do to claim our identities back? To being more than JUST a Mum. Make some time for yourself – I know it’s easier said than done, but parenting is a two-person job. Even if you are breastfeeding go out afterwards with a friend for a walk, go for lunch, do something that makes you happy. Change your breastfeeding top for your favourite one so you feel more like you if that helps! Catch up with work colleagues. Start going to a yoga class or a class specifically for postnatal exercises. Go for a drive on your own! Read a book if you can stay awake long enough! Whatever it may be try and carve out some time for yourself either in the evening (I know this can be trickier especially if baby is cluster feeding in those early days), or at the weekend. One of the things I often get Mum’s to do is write down a list of things that fill their emotional bucket and make them happy. This is a great place to start.
You may be a Mum, but you also have a different name that you were given. Don’t loose yourself in the depths of parenthood!