Before I was pregnant, before I’d even met Phil, I had a vision of myself. I was pregnant and sitting on a rocking chair doing a Peter Rabbit cross stitch, ready to finish off with the details of my baby’s name, birth date and weight. Phil even bought me the kit to make on the Christmas I was pregnant with Toby – I looked at the instructions, felt instantly stupid and never even threaded the needle.
That should have been the first clue.
I have often said to Phil, my mum, friends, that I’m not the mum I thought I would be and on some days that hurts right to the very core of my being. It’s not that I ever thought that parenthood would be easy, but I had certain illusions that included baby snuggles for hours on end, pure happiness amongst the sleep deprivation, being a fulfilled and engaged stay-at-home mum, sensory boxes, baking, exploring nature on long walks.
Toby didn’t do much snuggling as a baby. Martha does, but I have a toddler, a blog, a business, so my hours aren’t devoted purely to her. I love my children but PND and stress has at times robbed me of happiness. The stay-at-home life I’d imagined suffocated me when I quickly became overwhelmed by Toby’s screaming, by the loss (or change?) of my self identity. My brain loses so much power so quickly when it’s not stimulated intellectually and parenthood is a blessing but it doesn’t feed my brain.
I think I’ve cooked and baked with Toby 3 times, that’s it. He gets bored, I get stressed, he won’t listen, I snap. Copy and paste for crafting, painting, nature trails. Martha doesn’t like my attention to deviate from her so whenever I dare to try a new activity it ends up with me being pulled in two different directions and not managing to navigate either very successfully. I’ve cried more than I wish to acknowledge.
On the good days I tell myself that I am showing my kids that women can choose their destiny; stay-at-home mum, career woman, somewhere in between. I’ve made the choice to do freelance writing, to start my own business and to stay at home whilst I do so, all with Phil’s support. On the good days I tell myself that not being the mum I thought I’d be doesn’t mean not being a good mum, just different to the one I’d imagined.
I want to bake with my toddler. I want to do stimulating sensory play with my baby. I want to keep the house clean. I want to cook tasty meals. I don’t want to shout. I don’t want to cry. I don’t want to live in a pig sty because I’m not organised enough to juggle it all.
I’m doing the best that I can right now, but not the best that I’m ultimately capable of. The CBT sessions I had after accepting I was suffering with postnatal depression have helped but there is still a fog over the logical, ordered part of my brain. I get overwhelmed far more quickly than I used to and in that overwhelm I shut down. I stare at my phone, the TV or the kids instead of thinking of fun stuff to do, or cleaning, or just bundling them up and going for a walk.
I’m not the mum I thought I’d be. That’s okay, it really is, but I do want to do better. They deserve the best version of me, even if that doesn’t match the dream I used to have.