Oli and I started trying for a baby when I was 20. I got pregnant when I was 21 and gave birth to my beautiful first son Leo when I was 22. That was six years ago. I now have over half a decade of parenting experience in my back pocket, plus two more children to keep me busy. I have spent my twenties in the mum bubble, my days full of nappy changes, feeds, cuddles, crying, playing games and battling to get tiny humans to eat and go to sleep. I’ve watched friends study, travel, have careers and party through their twenties while every time I think I might be clawing some time back for myself, I am faced with another positive pregnancy test and all the joy and fear that comes with that second pink line. I love my babies and I wouldn’t change them for the world but as far as life plans go, it was never mine to have three kids before thirty with no career to my name. I guess, since Tilly has been born and I became a mum of three, I just feel a bit lost
I feel a bit lost – when motherhood takes over
Ask any mum, ‘does motherhood steal your identity?’ and if she is being completely honest with you (and herself) the answer will be yes. Motherhood can’t not take over, it’s not sort of a take it or leave it kind of deal. When you have a baby they need you for everything and, sometimes reluctantly but often gladly, you give them everything you have to help them be healthy and happy. Mothers sacrifice their bodies, their sleep, their time, sometimes even their mental wellbeing when growing, birthing and raising a child. Being a parent is hard and all consuming at times.
It is totally possible to love your kids with every part of you and still want to have times where you don’t feel like ‘just mum’. Some women reclaim themselves by going back to work, by progressing in their careers alongside being a mum too. Others take up new hobbies or improve on old ones. Side hustles, volunteering, joining the PTA, going to the gym, there’s loads of things mums do to try and feel like an actual person again and not just someone whose only purpose is to keep the kids alive.
But what happens to us mums who didn’t have a career to start with? The ones who have no job waiting for them to go back to, the ones who have no time for a hobby as they are stuck in a cycle of change, feed, burp, sleep that takes up their whole day? The mums who are too busy helping their kids with their spelling and their reading to have no more than 5 minutes to sit down and read a few pages of their own book? The mums who are just so sleep deprived and exhausted by the end of the day that they can barely stay awake to spend an hour of quality time with their husband, let alone have the brain power to start a small successful business from home?
Some women manage to do it all, they have smashed the work/life balance or are completely in their element as a stay at home mum. There are other mums like me though, mums feeling a bit caught in the middle, a bit directionless, a bit lost. It goes without saying that I adore my kids, I love being their mummy and feel incredibly lucky to have them and to be at home with them. I love the security that must give them as the grow, the knowledge that mummy is always there when they need them. Ever since Tilly has been born though, I’ve started to feel a bit trapped. This is my third time around doing the baby thing and whilst I love it (I genuinely do) I feel like I have added another three years of exhaustion and of days just stuck ‘doing the mum thing’ before my daughter will qualify for some free childcare and I will be able to get a job outside the home – at last.
I do work, I fit in social media/web content writing work around the kids but it’s a struggle. I feel like I can’t give my job my all as I’m either busy with the kids or exhausted at the end of the day. I don’t want to be a lacklustre employee and a distracted mum, I want to find a way to thrive at both. In an ideal world, I want a job. Just something part time but something that gets me out of the baby bubble, gets me interacting with other adults that aren’t necessarily parents too, something that will stop my brain from turning to absolute mush. Because that’s what my brain feels like, mush. A foggy swamp where thoughts move slowly and incoherently, where ideas occasionally pop up to the surface but are quickly pulled back down to the bottom. Want to pitch an article to a magazine? As if love, Leo needs help with his times tables and Alex isn’t going to make his own lunch. Want to help your mum set up her business website? Not going to happen mama, Tilly needs a feed and have you seen that mountain of washing that needs doing?
I used to feel like I could hold my own in a conversation, I had opinions and although I’ve always been quiet, I had stuff to say. Now I get the fear if someone wants to talk about what they read in a paper or saw in the news. My brain is too tired to think about these things, to form an opinion or create anything remotely interesting to add to a conversation. I could bore you (and myself) with mindless mum chat all day long though. I fear that at age 28 I haven’t nothing interesting to say and that a pretty miserable place to be at mentally, to feel like you having nothing worth anyone’s time to bring to the table, like the only thing you have to talk about is your kids and how they are doing.
Motherhood has taken over my sense of self so much that I don’t even know what I like anymore. When it comes to clothes I look for cheap, practical, comfortable and now also something that’s breastfeeding friendly. I wouldn’t say I hate the clothes in my wardrobe but I often wonder if they’ve been selected because they are what I think I should be wearing as a mum, rather than clothes I actually love. I mean, I don’t think I ever owned a pair of dungarees before I was a parent but now, three kids in, I have loads of them! Breton striped tops, do I have so many because I like them or because social media has made me believe they are a staple of the ‘mum uniform’? Truth be told, I have no confidence in my body and I just don’t know what looks good on me anymore – that’s a whole different blog post for another day though.
My hobbies are loitering on the sidelines too, my exhaustion and busy mum life stopping me from indulging in them. I have half a crochet blanket that I started when I was pregnant that now lives, probably never to be finished, in a bag on the Welsh dresser. My pile of books to be read is almost as tall as my toddler and I’ve racked up a small fortune in library fines where I’ve optimistically borrowed books and never had chance to read them (or return them, hence the fines). I want to write a book – ha! – and start writing regularly on this blog again. I can’t though. This blog post has been in my head for months but only now have I managed to write it. I have written all of this on my phone, it’s taken hours as I had to stop to feed Tilly, stop to change Tilly, go downstairs and get the boys breakfast, take Alex to use the potty and coach Leo down from a meltdown over what film was going on the TV. Did I mention we are also on holiday? That’s the only reason I’ve managed to find this time to write because we are away and I’m not letting myself feel guilty over the boys watching tv, Tilly playing on her mat and me just hiding in the bed next to her, speed typing on my phone, trying to get this written before one of them needs me again.
Before I get slammed by someone, which has happened when I’ve dared to complain about motherhood in previous blog posts, I LOVE my children, ok? I am so proud to be their mum, I had them all because I wanted them all. My feelings now, of being lost and like I’m ‘just mum’ , they are temporary. My love for my kids will be forever and I’d rather this life of juggling and struggling through a few years while they are small than having any other life where they are not in it. I shouldn’t have to say all that but trolls will be trolls and they have darkened my comments section on posts like this before and I hope none of you think after reading this that I don’t love my kids.
I may feel lost now but I’m also quietly confident too. I know the sleep deprivation won’t last, I know the exhaustion will slowly ebb away and I also know that the years fly by. I will have time for myself again, I will discover who I am outside of ‘just mum’ and I know there will be a day when I don’t feel lost anymore. Today is not that day but I know that day is coming and, for now, that knowledge alone is enough.