To what extent are we defined by motherhood? And to what extent should we be? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I don’t want to be known only as a Mum, and quite frankly I shouldn’t have to be.
It doesn’t really matter how long you have been a mother for, how long, or how difficult the journey has been. At one point or another there will be the sudden realisation;
“Shit. I’m a Mum now.”
I’m a Mum now. It kind of sounds like that’s the only thing you are, or can be, doesn’t it? And for a while, it might even feel like that. Whether you’re in the throes of those first weeks with a newborn, or they are long behind you, most of us remember what it felt like to suddenly be thrust into the life of motherhood for the first time. And if you’re not quite there yet, at the very least some of this might prepare you slightly.
Not microwaved hot coffee…
FRESH hot coffee!!
— Aleena 🤷🏻♀️ (@Mummy_Mama_Mum) January 21, 2018
The Defining Moments
One minute you’re in a hospital bed with a baby in your arms, waves of physical and emotional relief at finally having got it out of you, kind of amazed that you actually did it. You created a human, your body came through when you needed it most. The wounds are most definitely there, but you did not die. Yes, it stings like a bitch when you pee, and even the mere thought of taking a dump has you terrified that your entire insides will come out with it, but somehow your body both grew and birthed a tiny human.
Then, in a flash of car seat panic and first size outfits that are definitely too big, you’re at home. And you are a Mum now. Whether you’re alone or surrounded by people, it can somehow feel like the most isolating experience. No one else could ever begin to understand your inner monologue (or so you think). This baby, this miniature human, your child, is dependant entirely upon you. And there’s a chance that you are the only person who really understands its needs. The only person who can do all the things your baby needs in exactly the right way.
But here’s the thing, mama; you’re probably not. There, I said it. Yes of course your baby needs and wants you for certain things, but the reality is that the world nor your baby will end if you are absent from its tiny life for more than five minutes.
But What If..?
I remember all too well the uncertainty that gripped me the first time I needed to go to the bathroom after my daughter was born. We were still in the hospital, and I stood by the horrible plastic crib for about five minutes wondering what on earth I was supposed to do with her. Do I wheel the crib into the toilet with me? Is that even sanitary? The toilet is right next to me, should I just leave her here? What if she wakes up? Or cries? The longer I stood there the more I needed to go, and my ability to pee slowly (to reduce the sting, in case you wanted to know) rapidly diminishing. So I left her there.
It might sound ridiculous, but when I look back it almost feels as though that pee was a defining moment in my motherhood. I made a decision and the world didn’t end. More importantly, I made a decision that other mums might not have made, or might even deign to tell me was wrong. But I made that decision, I’ve never apologised for it, and it felt right. It worked for me (and my peeing needs) at the time. By the time I had my son I didn’t even question it, I just went to the loo.
I Just Need Coffee
My point is, yes I’m a Mum but I’m still a person (who needs to pee) in my own right, an individual with unique needs outside of my kids and motherhood. My needs range from the essentials for survival such as food and water, plus the semi-essentials like sleep and showering, to the essentials for my well-being like time to myself, reading books, and drinking all the coffee the universe has to offer. Those things aren’t essential to keep me alive, but they are essential to my sanity. Your well-being essentials are more than likely completely different to mine, but we all have them.
What is it about motherhood that turns so many of us into martyrs, denying ourselves the very things in life which have always made us happy, or at the very least kept us sane? Modern parenting is a minefield of social expectations, and quite frankly more than half the time you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. It’s these social expectations which wind up making us feel as though we have to give ourselves up entirely to our children.
And They Just Need Love
Four play groups a week, hours spent preparing fresh, organic, colourful meals set out on a plate to look like a dinosaur in a forest (ever tried making pureed vegetables look colourful?) Sing and rhyme time at the local library, epic days out with picnics to match, perfectly coiffured hair do’s for 2-year-olds, and the latest innovation in dummies which double up as thermometers (or some other ridiculous invention) so we can manage their every 0.2 degree internal body temperature fluctuation. Whatever happened to just chucking them in a field and letting them get on with it?
Trying to do all the stuff leaves us exhausted, too tired to even pretend we care when the last time we showered was. If you don’t at least look as though you’re trying to fit it all in, you’re a lazy Mum. But if you do somehow manage to fit it all in, and still have your hair done and a have decent outfit on, you’re a try-hard. Either way, a label is slapped on your forehead which tells the world exactly how socially unacceptable your parenting is.
I’m Not Defined By Motherhood
I’m not defined by motherhood, in the same way as I’m not defined by my career (or lack of), my relationship, who my friends are, or what music I happen to like. This isn’t the playground anymore, but it sure as hell feels like it sometimes.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, and whether you feel defined by motherhood. Tweet me, or leave a comment below. x
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