There are times in our lives that are turning points. Some we notice right away, some we don’t until well after the event. Becoming a mum for the first time is often considered THE biggest and most significant experience in a woman’s life. It turns your life on its head. And with that huge life event is bound to come some different feelings.
I think it was in the birth suite that it hit me – my life just wouldn’t be the same. Put bluntly, ‘sh*t got real’. Putting aside the amazing wonderment and immense amounts of love that you feel when looking at your little bundle of joy, and all the new mummy tasks you have to get your head around, today’s post is about us as women and what affect having a baby has on our identity. How do we feel about and define ourselves after having a baby?
I’ve thought lots about my transition from full time workaholic to full time mummy, and how I’m feeling about it. I know a lot of new mums who think they’re losing their identity, and I’ve definitely felt that. Yes, it’s amazing being a mum and deciding to stay home with my little man was, in the end, a no brainer. There are a multitude of mind-boggling and beautiful reasons to stay home. But there is a part of me (however small) that misses the corporate life.
I miss using my brain in a work capacity, surrounded by like-minded people striving towards a common goal. I miss kicking goals (figuratively, not literally – I can’t kick a ball to save myself ;)), arguing a point, briefing colleagues or giving presentations. I miss running a team, working in one and gaining respect for a job well done.
I know some mums who feel so strongly about creating a new identity that they go about it with vigour. For others, they just go with the flow and it happens naturally. I’m the first to admit I love a good project, so I guess I approached motherhood like one of those projects.
We followed a routine for our baby Harry from around six weeks of age. I was addicted to making sure the routine was working, problem-solving as I went and stressing about every little detail. I even kept a diary (old habits die hard) of every ‘number 2’, feed, sleep (down to the minute), you name it…. It wasn’t until our little guy was around five months old that I relaxed a little bit. He was sleeping through the night, his naps during the day were fairly regular and I knew he was happy and healthy.
I worried a lot during pregnancy about how I’d know what to do after I’d given birth. I’d never babysat a baby, or even a young child, so I literally didn’t know a single thing about looking after one. How would I change a nappy (we practiced on a stuffed toy rabbit, not even kidding), how do I know when he’s hungry, when will he sleep, what if…. But that thing called ‘motherly instinct’ really did just kick in. It was awesome. For others, I know it takes longer to develop and that’s okay too. Whether we set out to or not, each and every daily task and new discovery is helping us create our mummy identities.
It’s been a big year for me. On top of having a baby and quitting my job, my husband and I moved cities and got married. With the wedding done and dusted, and nothing to plan anymore, I find myself a bit antsy. Yes there’s Harry, and he’s amazing, don’t get me wrong. If I feel even slightly discontent and contemplate going back to work, I just have to take a brief glance at him to know that if I’m lucky enough to be able to stay with him then I’d be mad not to. He’s my centre, my balance, my even keel and my world. But my brain needs stimulation.
I’ve come to realize that I’m not losing my identity, I’m redefining it. As new mothers and ex-career women – for those who don’t go back to work after bub is born – we go from being a busy professional woman to just plain next-level busy. Our role is as a strong, loving and empowered woman wearing many ‘hats’ – a mother, carer, bum-wiper, dresser, cook, organizer, educator, play buddy, (fierce) protector, disciplinarian, and lover to our partners.
If we manage to develop a good mummy network, we can still be surrounded by like-minded people working together on a common goal. We are also still kicking goals – but this time in the baby-raising department. We’re arguing a point when feeding or disciplining (more often than not being met with a cheeky gurgle or smile), running a household, briefing people (usually our husbands or partners!) and more. The gossip around the office water cooler has been replaced with mothers’ group meet-ups where we talk mummy products or routines. Our homes are our workspaces, and run how we like them. Yes, the tasks may not be the same, but in my book the end goal is more important.
It can be hard. Ok, it IS hard. Some days it feels like there’s always something different going on with your child. You have to learn to deal with lack of sleep. And the term ‘time poor’ is an understatement. Some days you don’t even have time to take a decent shower and the other day I didn’t even have time to do a ‘number 2’ without interruption. I’ve completely lost the knack of applying eyeliner due to lack of practice. And I sat there two weeks ago on Melbourne cup day, the biggest day on Australia’s racing calendar for the ‘race that stops the nation’, with the most exciting item on my agenda being a supermarket trip. In previous years, I was in a pretty frock attending a work event, networking and enjoying myself.
Until that little (or in my case, not so little) baby pops out, you literally have no idea how much your life will change. You can read all the books and get all the advice in the world but nothing will prepare you for it. But the last six months have taught me that I should embrace my role as a mother and mesh all the ‘mummy tasks’ into the ‘previous me’. I believe strongly in empowering mothers to cherish their new lives because they are, without a doubt, performing miracles.
So here’s to all the mums out there that are sitting at home in their sweats (or PJs, guilty as charged). You deserve a huge congrats. We’re all together in our confusion. We’re not alone in feeling a little lost, overwhelmed and questioning who we are. We’re blending all the old parts of ourselves with the new ‘mummy’ parts – and creating redefined identities.
For me now, stimulating my brain is the key to feeling completely fulfilled. Raising my little guy while going back to what I love – writing – is what my redefined identity is about. I feel like I’m doing literally the most important job in the world. There is honestly nothing better.