I don’t know how to write this. I’ve tried many times and each time it has just become a tangled web of words, emotions and guilt. If I’m being completely honest , I’ve actually deleted every attempt I’ve ever made to write this. The reason? Well, I didn’t know if anyone else shared my selfish thoughts on losing my identity and so I hid my words in order to protect myself from the backlash. As has anyone else who wanted to say something about this but felt too strange about sharing it. And because no one is sharing it, new mothers continue to feel guilt and sadness in those early days. So now, I’m pressing publish. Yes, I may get criticised. But if just one new mum reads this and thinks ‘thank goodness’ then it will have been totally worth it.
Let me back-track to 2009 in order to give you some context here. This was pretty much the happiest year of my life, to date. Nothing to this day tops it. 2009 was the first year that I lived and experienced completely on my own. I was living in my own space for the first (and only time) in my life. I’d survived a divorce and property settlements and for the first time ever, was in control of my OWN LIFE. It was such an amazing and free time for me. I literally woke up every single day with that warm, inspiring feeling of excitement that my newfound independence brought me, and that was something I had never experienced before. Although I didn’t recognise it at the time, 2009 was the new foundation on which I would build the life I know today. Pivotal.
In the short 3 years that followed this, I had created a life that I truly loved. One that was designed 100% by me. I was running two successful businesses and teaching part time. When I woke up in the morning, I would feel inspired and full of purpose and direction. In comparison to the life I was living before (where my whole future seemed to have been mapped out for me and decisions were made on my behalf without having much of a say) I was living freely for the first time in my life. Things were good. No, things were great.
I had formed an identity that fit my values, lifestyle and wildest dreams. For the first time in my life, I felt connected to who I was and why I was supposed to be doing what I was doing. I felt empowered and reassured that I was ‘on track’. In late 2010 we decided to have a baby and by early 2012 we were holding our precious little bundle. The day of her arrival was an eventful premonition and orientation into how one tiny little being can turn everything on its head. She arrived on bridal fair day (aka, the biggest marketing opportunity of the year for our business). Somehow, I managed to get everything set up the day before (even though my waters had broken) and organise 10 staff to work the day through a solid, iron clad roster (which also set us back a crap-load in wages) while I contracted, dilated and pushed.
The months that followed her birth were some of the toughest I’d ever experienced. On one hand, I had this amazing, healthy little baby girl; and on the other, I felt my life as I knew it slipping further and further out of reach and out of sight. Everywhere I turned in real life and on social media, the messages about motherhood were overwhelmingly positive. People spoke of the amazing bond you have with your baby and that overwhelming feeling of love, purpose and completion. Others talked about their babies sleeping, and how motherhood was the best experience of their lives.
Me? Well I was fudging my way through these early months as best I could.
Not only was I suffering a relapse of Graves Disease, if she wasn’t attached to my breast, she would usually be screaming. And if she wasn’t screaming she would be power napping for 15 minutes at a time. Intertwined into all of this was a business that had enquiries coming in daily, staffing issues to resolve, limited time for myself and a sinking feeling that I was becoming a nothing. I was merely getting out of bed to exist. Exist for everyone else. Clearly, I remember thinking, there is something wrong with me because no one else felt this way. I mean, look around me! The proof was everywhere. Motherhood was supposed to be an amazing, glowing experience.
I was prepared and able to put my social life on hold for a while. Being a homebody at heart, I loved my own company and loved being at home. I wasn’t a big fan of going out. So that was okay. It was just my willingness to sacrifice myself that I was struggling with. There was one occasion where I was reduced to tears because it took 10 hours for me to get the clothes hung on the line.
It had become clear to me that I had gone from being a ‘do-er’ and somewhat progressive in the way in which I lived my life, to becoming a stagnant, action-less person with no direction. I had completely lost my identity. I had the drive and passion to do more (as I always had), and was doing the basics, but lacking the time and self-given permission to be true to myself. Society told me that there was only one way to be a mother. Total selflessness and sacrifice, and the ability to accept this completely and without doubt; personal identity aside and doing it all with a big smile on my face and gratitude for every moment of this amazing experience. When I attempted to just be myself, the guilt was unbearable.
Eventually, I called bullshit.
I was miserable. I had no idea who I was anymore. I wanted to have that special connection with my baby that I saw everyone else having. But I wanted to be true to myself too. I wanted to get ‘me’ back. So I did, and I didn’t fuck around.Within a matter of a few days I had arranged to go back to work 2 days a week, automated business systems and got myself a self-care routine that rocked. The day I went back to work, was the day I felt like myself again. I was in full control again.
Going back to work literally saved my butt… and my relationship with my baby. After taking this big step, the little steps became visible and achievable. I felt more confident about getting out and about with the baby to socialise and also to accept help from family and friends by delegating tasks and allowing them to look after her while I did an hour here and an hour there of work. I scheduled in time to go out to networking events and be in the company of other like-minded, focused, passionate business women.
I could literally feel the multi-faceted demands life, business, motherhood blending together to create a beautiful harmony.
And it all started by making the decision to do what I really wanted, for myself. To be true to myself and authentic in the decisions I made for myself and my family. Had I persisted in giving everything to everyone else and taking nothing for myself, I fear that I may have lost my identity altogether. My choices may have been perceived as ‘selfish’ but to be completely honest, the more I spoke about this to others, the more I began hearing that others were feeling the same. This literally saved me and my relationship with my child. So why was no one ever talking???
As I prepare for the birth of my second child, I’m already making some conscious decisions about how I will design my life around the impending change; starting with this blog. I’m opening this conversation now. So, tell me about your experience…..