Growing up, I didn’t have career goals or much of an idea what I wanted to be, other than a mother. I discarded the notion of being a journalist after a summer’s work experience at the local rag and beyond that, all I truly knew was that I would one day be a mummy.
Then I became one.
I had fully expected sleepless nights, poo explosions, crying, puke. I wouldn’t say I was in any way naive about the challenges of parenthood. I didn’t expect Toby.
I didn’t expect silent reflux, 10 hours a day of him screaming – not crying – for 6 solid months while we went from pillar to post getting his reflux under control. Breastfeeding issues, a baby for whom comfort absolutely did not come in the form of cuddles. 18 months before our talkative son even had a word for me. I adore that kid: He is brilliant, gorgeous, funny, so clever. But raising him has been the hardest challenge I’ve ever known – and I used to work with young adults who beat me up.
Then Martha. A tough pregnancy, horrid labour, amazing birth. Some feeding issues but overall she fed and slept like a dream. The sleeping went wrong between months 4 and 12 but we got there and always with a dimply smile from our Pops. In the midst of that, though, PND cast an ugly shadow over me.
Postnatal depression with the ‘easy’ baby? Yes. It hit me just how hard we’d had it with Toby. Months of CBT sessions and I feel like a mostly functioning human again.
There is nothing I wouldn’t do for Toby and Martha. I adore them, I cherish every hair on their heads and every millimetre of skin over their precious bodies. I love them with the fierceness of a mama bear who would kill for her cubs. This is why I’ve found a full time job.
I don’t thrive as a stay-at-home mum and in fact since Toby was about 9 months old I’ve actually been a work-at-home mum. Freelance writing and social media management, then opening Apples & Pips 8 months ago, has meant I’ve certainly carved a new career for myself while raising the babies. I’m ready to take that career further now and it’s for the good of all of us.
It’s taken me nearly 3 years to accept that I’m not the mum I thought I would be. I’ve shattered my own illusions because while the breastfeeding and baby wearing may give off ‘Earth Mother’ vibes to the outside world, inside it’s not that simple. I find it so hard to do stimulating and fun activities at home. Messy play or art and craft inevitably turn hideously stressful after 2 minutes. I tried cooking with them but Martha just went ballistic at not being physically attached to me. Baking means one of them crying while the other one is mixing. Sharing is, it would seem, not an option. I struggle to keep the house even slightly clean and I went on a cooking strike months ago that’s resulted in us mostly eating bung in the oven stuff with sides of veg. I feel okay as long as there’s veg.
I’m not a bad mum, I’m just not a naturally creative one and trying to keep them both happy without constantly utilising the TV and plastic crap toys, is apparently not my fortè.
Then there’s me, because I do still exist. Isn’t it hard to remember that? The woman before the kids, or even with them. I am not just a vessel for human life, a milking machine, a transportation device to various play parks, hellish toddler groups and even more hellish soft play centres. I am a woman with talents and aspirations.
I’ve longed to be a writer since childhood but when neither journalism nor novel writing were shown to be my ‘thing’, I wrote it all off (pun intended). Then blogging. The diary of my pregnancy that turned into so much more. And through blogging I have written for various publications, been on live TV, featured in online and TV advertorials, had Carol Smillie on my sofa chatting about period pants on Facebook Live! My blog is so much to me and it has become my CV, which is in turn how I got my new job.
I was never going to put the kids in full time childcare for a job I didn’t give two hoots about. This is the job I want to do and the fire is well and truly burning in my belly. With a week until I officially start my new role as a Content Manager, I am so excited and energised. I am being me.
Nothing will ever be more important to me than Phil and our children. Nothing. They are my world but I am in that world too and I matter. This job will give me so much purpose and self-worth and that’s something I’ve struggled with for my entire life. Please don’t read that and think that I don’t see the value in being a stay at home parent because I can tell you that I take my hat off to those who freaking rock it. I’ve envied them for 3 years, wishing that I could achieve what so many others do with their kids. But that’s the point, I’m not them and they are not me. As humans and as parents we are all built differently.
I’m not built to be a stay-at-home mummy. I’m built to have this career, to create and to write. To have wonderful days out and holidays with the family I love with every beat of my heart, but to have a career that I can rock from Monday to Friday. Wherever you are on that great spectrum of life, embrace it. You are built a certain way and living that way will show you to be the best version of yourself; a strong and wonderful person who can be amazing on your own personal path in life.