What is the one thing you wish people had told you before you had kids? Perhaps you wish you'd known just how physically exhausted you'd be? Or maybe been made aware of the never-ending washing pile that finds solace in every corner of your home. Breasts that squirt further than a water gun? Bedtime battles?
I know I'm not exactly selling this motherhood thing to you, but quite frankly, I'm not trying to. This blog is about the raw realities of being a mum, the good, the bad, and the ugly. It may not be the most glamorous job, but cliche as it sounds, it's the best one on my CV.
I have two sons, and identify as a member of the '2 under 2' club. My second was born in March 2016, and if having one child was comparable to a storm, two has been near enough a full blown tornado. Daily activities like changing nappies and bedtime prep have become a conveyor belt system, and proven a woman's ability to multitask cannot be underestimated.
I am on maternity leave from work at the moment, and the change in pace has been absolutely crazy! The boys definitely keep me on my toes, whilst the last few weeks have been a period of major change. Since the baby was born, we've attempted potty training, the dreaded cot to bed manoeuvre, and switched nurseries. Not the best combo when seeking the increasingly unattainable G.N.S (Good night sleep!). It's actually got to the point now where I am grateful for any shut-eye I can grab, and will think no way about turning down a night out for a night in front of the TV. Having said that, the boys are generally OK sleepers, and breastfeeding helps significantly. When the littlest one stirs, there's no faffing around boiling kettles, though I do sometimes feel my breasts are attached more frequently to him than they are me!
Me and the Mr were young when we started our family, and in all honesty I don't think either of us would have foreseen ourselves as parents of two at the tender age of 24. We were both born into ambitious families, and our mothers had encouraged us both to establish a strong relationship before having kids. I remember when i first told people I was expecting, the number one question being 'Was it planned'? A huge part of me wanted to say yes just to avoid the judging, the disapproving looks, the eye rolls etc. But instead I just hung my head low and meekly responded 'No'. How could I, an unmarried, newly employed, law graduate, living at home with mum, possibly have desired to have a baby now? A time of my life that should have been filled with excitement and congratulations was instead replaced with second guesses and scrutiny. My relationship wasn't in the best place at the time, and even though we had been together for 5+ years the cracks were beginning to show. Couple all this with nearly 9 months of hormones, bad skin, and Braxton hicks, and I was seriously questioning the sanity of our decision.
Then my son was born. 37 weeks gestation, 7 lbs of pure innocence. I literally could of eaten him. When I saw him and held him close, all the worry and pain fell away. I saw a future much greater than I'd ever thought possible, and a new chapter of my life began. Nearly 2 years later, and 2 kids down the line, I am finally beginning to understand why everyone was so pre-occupied with whether it was planned or not. Once you have a child, particularly as a woman, your sense of self tends to fade. Suddenly you're a mother, and your children's needs supersede your own. Day to day plans revolve around what is best for your child, and it is easy to get lost in the torrent of baby advice thrown at you.
The crux for me came when a friend I hadn't seen for a good while asked me what I had been up to since having the baby. I felt myself clam up, as I struggled to deviate from typical day-to-day mummy duties. Where had the old me gone? The me that was a complete film junkie, who went for lunch dates, had lie-ins and loved dressing up for a night out. I hadn't had a 'cheeky nandos' in more than a month and the closest I'd gotten to getting dressed up was a slick of lip gloss before a supermarket shop. In fact, when I really thought about it, I struggled to hold a conversation that didn't centre around my babies. I'd completely lost sight of who I was past being a mum, and had been left in the dust by friends talking of hangovers and dissertations. That evening it dawned on me. The reason those closest to me wanted to know if the pregnancy was planned wasn't because they were out to discourage, it was because they wanted to be sure I had a strong idea of what I was letting myself in for, and how it would fit in with my lifestyle. And to be fair to them, they were right. I hadn't fully thought it through, and needless to say I had let my social life, career goals, and my routine manicure go to the backseat whilst modelling myself on what I thought the perfect mother should be.
Which takes us back to my initial question. I wish that people had told me that it is possible to have your own identity separate from being a mum. That being a mum is only one part of who you are, and it doesn't define you, nor preclude you from achieving other things. Whatever gets you fired up, be it singing or sports, take it and run with it. You'll be thankful you did.
Published by Olivia May