I wanted to be THAT mum, I really did. You know, the mum who baked cookies from scratch and provided endless days full of fun hands-on craft activities and limited screen time. Actually, up until I got divorced and the idea of having a baby was off the radar, I really thought that that was the kind of mum I was going to be. I was watching other mums do it all around me. I was going to stay home, not work and be at the beck and call of my beautiful children, 24/7. We were going to spend our days playing, snuggling, cooking, crafting and going to play-dates. Most of all, I was going to love every minute of it.
Fast forward eight years…
and here I sit, a 32 year old mother who so desperately seeks to wear more than just the ‘mum’ hat and I have no guilt about it whatsoever.
It came as quite a shock to me that I wasn’t overly maternal. As a teenager and young adult, I wanted nothing more than to hold babies, play with them and dream of having one of my own someday. Neither my mother nor grandmother were maternal either. My grandmother owned her own farm and property, which her and my grandfather worked on. My mother went back to work when I was a baby and my dad was a stay-at-home dad for many years. Somehow, I thought that I may have been different. I was so very wrong.
It took me quite a while to bond when she was born. Yes, I loved her more than anything. But no, I wasn’t cut out to spend all day, every day smothering myself in her and that smacked me in the face harder than anything. After quite a wait to fall pregnant, I really thought I would have been different, but I wasn’t. My entrepreneurial spirit was overloading with ideas and my business was gaining momentum. When I could, I would lock myself away for an hour at a time to work or work while I was breastfeeding her *this is where you insert your judgement and I say pffft.’
The final moment came when one day, she cried all day. Like, alllll daaayyyyy. I broke down into tears. I hadn’t even managed to get the washing on the line… of all things! It completely broke me. How could a tiny little person prohibit me from getting anything done in my life? Even the things that I disliked doing, like the washing!
I could do better. This wasn’t working.
She deserved better than this. She needed to be with someone patient, and I needed to feel like myself again. I often wonder how much of what I felt was post-natal depression, how much of it was my relapse into Graves Disease and the ‘thyroid storm’ and how much of it was just my selfishness of not wanting to let go of my aspirations. I don’t think I’ll ever know. At four months old, I rearranged my partner’s work schedule and we swapped places. I went back to work as a teacher a couple of days a week and he stayed home. My first day back was such a blessing. I felt the best I’d felt in a long time. I felt like myself again (but with a breast pump attached to me every two hours)!
The strange thing about this is that once I went back to work, my conflicting feelings about suppressing my aspirations, meant that I finally bonded with her. I could look her in the eyes and feel all of those amazing feelings that everyone said I’d have. In the times before and after work (and on my days off) my willingness to become THAT mum became stronger. It was finally clear to me that I wasn’t cut out to be one or the other, I had to have it both ways and balanced out.
Through all this, I still desired so much for her have THAT mum every moment of the day. The mum I really wanted to be, but couldn’t.
So I repackaged the way I thought about what ‘THAT mum’ really meant.
I realised I could still give her ‘THAT mum’ and provide her with everything I’d dreamt of giving her. I just had to let go of what I thought it was going to look like and redesign it to fit our lives. We have been so blessed to have two amazing Family Day Care mums and I have no doubt that this choice was 100% the right setting for her. I know that when we drop her to Luci’s in the morning, I am handing her over to the best person that I can, which is to be me in my absence. Luci plays, nurtures, develops and educates my little girl. Luci provides the perfect balance between play and more than just play and in turn, I go to work feeling calm and worry-free, knowing that she is being cared for by someone so wonderful, and that she is experiencing the magic of having THAT mum while I’m not with her.
This is just as much about her life and all about her, as it is about my life and all about me. I know that for her to grow up and chase her dreams and be happy (because that’s what we all want for our kids, right?) then I had to model it first. I might have wanted to be THAT mum, but it took me a long while to recognise and accept that I’m pretty happy to settle for my real self and my amazing network of support. After all, it takes a village to raise a child.
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