Finding happiness in motherhood is something I think about a lot. It really has been a huge journey of self discovery, and I’ve realised that there is no right or wrong way to find true contentment as a mum. It all comes down to your personality – who you are. What is right for me, won’t be right for everyone else. We are all so different – something so beautiful and so important to remember.
I remember the exact moment I decided to enjoy motherhood. It certainly wasn’t the moment my eldest son Winston was born. It was a conversation and a moment I remember vividly – suddenly everything made sense. I hate to make it sound simplistic, but for me it was.
When Winston was about 10 months old I was struggling to make sense of such a huge change in my life and (like I do with everything) I talked to Jared about it. Jared is incredibly pragmatic and someone who really understands people. He knows how to ask the right questions and it is something I am thankful for every single day. We discussed all the options at length – part time work, full time work and staying at home full time. I decided to stop thinking about how things should be, and accept the here and now.
I didn’t feel comfortable about grandparents looking after them regularly – I wanted time with grandparents to be on their terms, not ours. After all, we chose to have children, not them. It didn’t make sense financially to pay for childcare, or to go back to my old job. I knew I would be happiest at home. I didn’t want to feel guilty every day and I wanted to keep our lives as simple as possible – to find a slower pace and spend lots of time together.
It was clear by the end of the conversation that the only way I would be truly happy as a mum, was if I stayed at home full time. I don’t function well if I feel pulled in different directions, and it was up to me to embrace this new phase of life. For lots of women, I know this decision isn’t quite so straightforward and I know how lucky I was (and still am) to be in a position of choice.
I’ve heard lots of women say that when they became a mother they lost themselves and didn’t know who they were any more. I knew even before I got pregnant that I couldn’t feel like that. I would lose my confidence and my sense of direction at a time I needed it the most. Finding confidence as a mum was my number one personal priority when Win was born. I knew I had to feel good about myself and find the things that make me (and me only) happy.
I can honestly say that since becoming a parent I feel like I’ve found myself, not lost myself. ‘Me time’ has become more precious so I use it much more wisely, I’ve discovered new hobbies as I’ve tried new things (with and without the children) and I’ve found patience, love and meaning that I didn’t know existed. I’ve also realised a few things about myself:
- I’ve realised that the way I operate best is if the day is completely theirs, and the evening is completely mine. This means that Jared and I work hard to establish a feeding and sleeping routine early on (much easier with Rufus as Winston taught us a lot). I also have a rule of no housework in the evening – the evenings truly are mine and spent doing what I enjoy – making things, being with friends, relaxing and blogging. I’ve worked out what crafts I can do with the kids, and the ones that I have to save for myself.
- I’ve realised I favour smaller age gaps between children. I work much better if I’m focussed and busy. I know having big age gaps would interfere with my flow. I may retract this comment in a few months time!
- The two main things that make me feel guilty as a parent are screen time and unhealthy eating. These are things I really keep on top of and have clear boundaries about, so guilt doesn’t creep in very easily.
- I’ve realised that a breast pump is my best friend in those first few weeks and months. I’ve written about my love of breast pump before – they’re brilliant.
- I’ve realised that our decision to live as close to Jared’s work as possible and living within walking distance of a town centre was one of the best choices we’ve ever made. I’d love to live in the countryside one day, but not now.
- I’ve realised that the more time I spend with my children, the more I enjoy it. Obviously this isn’t the case every single day (if only), but that is my overall feeling.
- I’ve realised that making new friends takes longer than expected.
- I’ve realised that children will go through stages of preferring one parent over the other, but it is so important that at any time they can be comforted by either of us. Otherwise it puts too much pressure on one of us.
- I’ve realised that family time, just the four of us, is so precious. Saturdays are so precious.
I want to emphasise that this is my story and my thoughts only, however; I do think women need to be more honest with each other. Mums do not need to feel guilty if they enjoy working, if they work to keep a part of their ‘old self’ alive, if they work so they can live in a bigger house, buy nice things or go on more holidays. It’s nothing to hide. I know stay at home mums that budget the brains out of everything (things I didn’t even know you could), mums who child mind, mums who do a weekly ‘baby exchange’ with a friend and mums who run successful online businesses, all so they can stay at home. The only important thing is that you are happy and content as a parent, with happy and content children. How you achieve that is nothing to do with anyone else.
I know there will be mums who absolutely have to work and are so unhappy doing so. I also know there will be mums who don’t have supportive partners, lack confidence, feel lost, are lonely or are trapped in circumstances that are so challenging. I also know there are mums who are at home full time, but crave variety and fulfilment. I think you are all amazing.
I don’t find parenthood easy. It’s non stop and unbelievably overwhelming at times – the responsibility is huge, and it has forced me to get to know sides of myself that I prefer to hide (from myself and from Jared). I also know that the greatest adventures, heartaches and challenges lie ahead – I am sure of it, but I can’t believe I get to call these two little people my own, every single day.