Mumhood is a long going, on-growing business. I should know; mine are twenty plus and I’m still learning how to deal with it!
It’s a lovely business though, uplifting, inspirational to see how little ones develop, a business full of love. New challenges come our way constantly (yep – even when they’re twenty), but challenges can have beautiful outcomes.
As mums, we are growing too. But that sometimes gets forgotten as we attend to our children.
‘MUMHOOD. How to handle it. Why it matters’ is my attempt to readdress that balance. To try and give all mums a helping hand.
So here’s a little taster from the last chapter especially for you:
………On-growing through mumhood is a life’s journey – you are of course a mum for life.
But it’s an amazing wondrous journey which you are only really at the start of when you first give birth. As you journey through it, the experiences you encounter along the way will transform and enlighten you, teach and develop many skills and talents you never even knew you were capable of. Your sense of responsibility and care, commitment and respect will probably double, treble even. You grow and mature in ways that are inconceivable.
I can quite shock myself when I think how irresponsible and disrespectful I might have been pre-mumhood. But we learn as we go…
Growing as a person, learning and changing, being happy or sad, is all part of anyone’s journey, parent or not. Your life as a parent, and as a person, needs within it the same elements as anyone else’s, parent or not, in order for it to be enjoyable.
The pitfall for many women is that, as soon as they become mothers, they forget this simple fact. Forget to pay attention to other elements especially if they’re giving up the work they did before as they devote themselves to their mumhood, their new baby, or are busy with a whirlwind toddler or a challenging pre-schooler.
Having a new baby in the house is such a celebratory, joyous time. Like having a birthday every day of the week. You just want to attend to this miraculous being that’s now in your life and forego everything else. And that’s great. It feels great – it’s good to do.
But sometimes you can get so absorbed in doing that, so attentive to the needs of your child, even years on, that you can forget that you need attention too, completely forget your own needs. And it gets even more complicated when those needs have changed while your back was turned and you’re not sure what you need any more. What you want to do. Or even what makes you feel good now.
Recognising what’s happening
My needs changed dramatically and regularly during those first few years that my babies grew. I changed dramatically, although it took a while for me to recognise what was happening to me. Especially since I was so absorbed by my beautiful baby.
Being a mum can be an all-consuming, overwhelming life’s work. It is certainly a life’s commitment. It will take up enormous amounts of time and energy.
But not all of it – it is important that it doesn’t.
As you can think about and choose your role and your work as a parent, you can also choose to bring other elements into your life besides your mum tasks. And how happy you are while you are a mum is very much dependent on these choices.
Being happy is a choice – so I’ve read. I have often thought I bet it wasn’t a mother who wrote it! It certainly feels as if the circumstances and commitments you have as a parent take away your choice.
I have also read that people succumb to depression because they feel that their world, as they know it, is falling apart. That the meaning they attached to their world has completely altered. When I read that I felt as if they were exactly talking about mums. Because that is exactly what happens to you when you become a mum. Your world, as it was before, falls apart. That’s not necessarily in a bad way. But everything changes.
It’s bound to. It has to really. To maintain that it doesn’t, or fight for it not to, is to deny an opportunity for your own personal development, learning and growth.
But handling those changes, and the choices you make as a consequence of them, will also influence how happy you feel with what you’re doing. And to handle them you have to actually understand them and accept that they are happening to you in the first place.
The reality is that all experiences change us. However big or small those experiences are. Whether they are as traumatic as moving house, having someone die, breaking off a partnership, changing jobs, or as seemingly small and insignificant as going to the theatre, reading the work of an author you haven’t come across before, buying a new style, networking with someone new online.
These new experiences all will have an impact, even if you’re not aware of it at the time. So acknowledge that this is true.
However, even knowing this, most of us are completely unprepared for the dynamic change and impact that having a baby makes to us. To us personally, and to our lives.
Becoming a mother does change us enormously. This may not be apparent at first. You may not want to accept that at all – ever. But there’s no getting away from the stark, staggering truth; having a baby changes a girl.
And with change there are two things you have to face.
The first: you are losing some of what you once were.
The second: you are growing into someone new.
And these are two big issues you need to come to terms with and handle if you want to be happy. If you want to keep happy even though you are going through the falling apart of your world as you knew it. If you want to continue to be the best mum you can be it matters that you acknowledge this and learn how to adapt to a new and different contentment.
It is well recognised that there are two huge transitions in a woman’s life; puberty and menopause. I would say there’s another huge transition in between those two; the transition that takes place as a woman becomes a mother.
Just like with puberty and menopause this transition takes time, it’s very emotive, very unsettling, and yet you have to get on with living and coping and managing life as if it wasn’t. But unlike puberty and menopause, which are expected and accepted – in society too, you are pretty unprepared for this particular personal transition into mumhood. And you’ve also got another draw on your reserves – your lovely child.
Many of us find it really hard to adapt to change. We cling to old ways like a drowning man clinging to a log. Many parents do this subconsciously making it even harder to adapt to the changes having children inevitably bring.
For women it is particularly hard because it is their world on which it has the greatest impact. It is women who make the greatest personal sacrifices. It is your life’s plan that suffers the biggest disruption.
However fighting change is futile. To handle it you need to give yourself plenty of understanding and sympathy. Understand that these changes are going to affect you emotionally. Accept it’s going to take some adapting to and go with the flow, because you will need to adapt.
The great thing about change is that it is about growing. Change is a positive, life enhancing progress. It’s not just the children who are doing the growing – it’s you too. Just because you’ve reached adulthood doesn’t mean to say you’ve stopped growing or learning or changing. You, like with your child, are never finished. As you nurture the growth of your child, appreciate the same is happening to you.
Trying to stay the same is unhealthy. You will stagnate. You will become dull and down and frustrated. However much you try to ‘go back’ it will not feel the same as it did before and those feelings can be horrible. It’s not good for you or for the people around you. Or for your child. Maintaining that you, and life, are the same as before you had a child also disrespects the duty you have now as a parent who is responsible for the growth and wellbeing of another living being.
How could that not change you?
Instead of trying to keep everything the same as it was before allow yourself to swim with the changes. Allow yourself to grow. Look after yourself as you weather these changes. Go with your feelings and your intuition. Do what you want. Accept yourself as you are now. Be brave about forging ahead into unknown territory, even if it is something or some way of being you’d never normally associate with you. Liberate yourself from old expectations.
The exciting thing is you never know what you might discover, but do allow yourself to learn and discover. It’s totally uplifting.
Having a child, making the transition to being a mum, usually means sacrifice. You gain enormously, but you sacrifice too.
In fact, you make a huge amount of sacrifices when you become a mum. That’s inevitable. It’s also tough – especially if you were unprepared and I don’t think there is anything that could prepare you unless you’ve been closely involved with others who’ve become mums before you. Even so, you are different.
It’s quite tough to endure the sacrifice of your time, your energy, your personal needs, your previous relationships, your previous confidence, your independence, and a spontaneity about life. All that can disappear.
Personal needs are the greatest sacrifice. That’s an area that seems to readily go and which mums tend to forget to pay attention to. It takes a while to handle it.
Some mums become so engrossed in the needs of their child they completely forget to pay attention to their own wants and desires. And some to such an extent they even forget what those needs are.
That’s why I’ve kept on repeating throughout this book; ‘look after yourself’.
Staying in touch with yourself as a mum now is so important. It is your personal needs and wants not being attended to that can easily steal away that happy feeling. And now I’m not only talking about your needs for a rest or sleep or good food. Those needs usually make themselves known quite readily. I’m talking about your other needs, the less apparent ones, that make you fulfilled as a person not only a mother.
These might include your need for adult company. Your need to go to the gym, or a walk, or a swim, or a dance. Your need to do some other activity besides mother your child, that is personal to you. Your need to have time for other work. Your need to meet adult friends. Your need to have some time alone. Your need to have time for a personal pursuit, creative activity, a course or a class. And lastly to recognise that your tastes will have changed and you will have a need to do new things.
These needs are just as important as your need to rest. They must be met too. They are as much of a priority as anyone else’s. For you to grow as a person these things need addressing. You must never completely sacrifice all your needs to those of your children or wider family. If you don’t respect your needs no one else will. Your development is just as important.
Sacrificing all of yourself up to the needs of others doesn’t make you a good mum either. It’s not good for your child. It isn’t good parenting.
Sometimes though, that’s how mums make their life fulfilling. I have seen mums who try to satisfy their need for happiness through their children’s lives. By making their whole life an attendance to their children. They follow the doctrine that if they make their children happy then they are happy.
Now we are all happy if our kids are happy – we all want our children to be happy. Of course we do. But our own happiness is our own responsibility too; it falls to us to make our own lives happy outside of our children as well as through them. Placing all our capacity for our happiness at their door is putting an awful lot of pressure on them. It will soon burden them.
Your happiness is something you’re in charge of independent of your child’s happiness. And finding it will come from attending to your personal needs too. Not only those of your child.
Your life as a parent and another person too
A little story
My mum friends and I now recognise how our personal needs have changed gradually over our years of being a mum, as we have changed in ourselves and grown up a bit more. Although we didn’t believe at the start that becoming a mum changed us. Neither did we understand, when we did acknowledge it, in what way.
We have changed and grown dramatically. We’ve talked about it much and we decided that the idea that we might not have changed in all these years of parenting would be a pretty repulsive thought. Because that would mean we hadn’t learnt anything. You have to change in order to learn, you have to let go of old ideas in order to embrace new ones.
Through all that time there has been much about being a mum I absolutely loved (being with my gorgeous children) and other things about being a mum I loathed (definitely the domestic side of it). But my mum friends and I found that there were certain less obvious needs that required fulfilling in order for us to feel whole, happy, balanced, and satisfied with our life and work and role as a mother and another person too. It’s these we wanted to share.
Some of these less obvious needs lay in having: –
- a balance between everything
- personal pursuits
- personal time, without the children sometimes
- choices, instead of staying stuck in an old habit
When we felt unhappy with life it was often because one or some of these needs weren’t being met. They’d got shifted down the list of priorities. It didn’t seem to matter that our attention to them was only quite small sometimes while other things took over, as long as they got back in balance in the end we felt better.
To keep them in balance you need to be aware of them in the first place. So, to make sure you’re fully aware of these less obvious needs, let me show you what they mean in a little more depth……
….I’m afraid you’ll have to read the book for the rest! See details on the ‘Mumhood‘ page