A new colleague asked me the other day to tell them a bit about myself, and for the first time in my life I was at a bit of a loss. I shared about how I’m a mum to a 13 month old and talked about our little family. And that was it. I mean, that’s heaps and it’s wonderful but it’s also very different to before. Prior to becoming a mum I had hobbies and interests that I could quickly and enthusiastically identify. Not any more. I get the impression I’m not alone in feeling this way. We become parents and lose ourselves in the magic, privilege and responsibility and all the trappings it brings.
M.U.M. Brain (My Unique Magnificent Brain)
I once considered myself quite a sociable and outgoing person, but now I’m coming terms with the fact that I’m a crap conversationalist because I’m perpetually tired and can’t quite concentrate on one particular train of thought. It’s hard to concentrate on tv shows and I can’t say that I’ve been able to concentrate on a full game of sports in more than 18 months (former sports nut here). People might helpfully label that as “baby brain” which I find appallingly condescending. I’ve come to learn that my brain (ie the brain of a parent) is actually a pretty amazing asset, capable of getting us through the first 6 months to a year on minimal sleep. Despite not having any previous relevant experience at this gig, my brain has helped me to wade through a myriad of advice, instructions and articles, and weighed it all up with maternal instinct to ensure that my child is doing well.
How I Feel About Myself
My self esteem peaks and dips but overall I’m at a point now where I’ve learned how resilient I am, and I look to other mums and dads with utter empathy and admiration. I can even be more forgiving of myself when I don’t live up to my self-imposed lofty maternal goals. I loved my body best of all when I was pregnant and I look at myself now with more awe than ever. Overlooking soft, saggy, stretchy bits to marvel at the creation I grew, nurtured and gave birth to. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my blah days where I lament my clothing size being somewhere in no-mans land between beautiful pregnancy curves and peak physical fitness when we conceived.
Back to the mental side of things, the first 6 months post partum was when this feeling of a lack of “me-ness” was the most intense. Where I longed to be back at work to grasp even a tiny bit of my former self. Or perhaps to escape the relentless loneliness and stress of caring for a newborn. I’ve been back at work 5 weeks now and I catch glimpses of the old me. But my current mum-state prevails. It feels like I’m complaining but I’m not. I’m just finding this identity shift quite confusing.
Who Am I? What Just Happened?
When I talk to other mums in a similar circumstance, they feel the same but it’s hard to put a finger on what this feeling is. Here’s part of the equation: we tend to be professional women who maybe thought that through preparation, desire and education we could equip ourselves for parenthood. We’ve navigated through plenty of personal and professional challenges to be able to face any crises that parenting could throw at us. And how could anything parenting-related be possibly considered a crisis? If this is the one thing we’ve been looking forward to, wishing for and planning towards for so long? Cue parenthood, where ante-natal classes failed to prepare us for anything beyond the first few days. Where the midwife says “see ya” and the Plunket visits are too few. Where the guidelines say that baby blues should only last a week and any crying beyond is probably PND. Where sleep is so fleeting, that of course the tears are abundant as you regularly feel like you’re reaching breaking point. Perhaps I carry a bit of post traumatic stress. Perhaps a lot of us do. I don’t see it mentioned too much.
My Dynamic Self Image
I’m not sure what the answer is, in trying to adjust to the new me. I love being a mum, but I loved having hobbies and interests too. This is my current life stage and I know that how I see myself will continue to change from here onwards. Everything is more high stakes now, including how I choose to spend my time. For example, I’ve always been interested in various causes and have given my time to different organisations. Now more than ever I want to make a positive impact on our society for myself and for my family. But it’s bad timing for me right now. Working fulltime means I want to spend any free time I have with my family.
Over To You
Now that I’m back into the groove of work, I’m squeezing a couple of lunchtime exercise sessions in. It’s so liberating to have that freedom of losing myself in a run or a game of indoor soccer, where I don’t have my mum hat or work hat on.
How have you found the transition into motherhood? What do you do in your “spare” time? Would love to hear your thoughts.