Sometimes I feel completely overwhelmed with balancing life, relationships, work and being a good Mother to my two children. Imagine trying to carry six bags full of Tesco shopping, whilst walking a tightrope and reciting the 8 times tables backwards; that’s how I feel most days. I often think back to my younger self and compare her to who I am now. I view myself then and myself now as two entirely different people, sometimes wishing I could be more like her again even though when I was, I wasn’t too fond of her.
I remember my Mum saying to me when I was a teenager that she had a dream that she was free. She had no ties or responsibility and the feeling was amazing and one that she had forgotten. It stuck with me because I had no idea what she meant at the time. Now, I understand just how possible it can sometimes be to miss that freedom from responsibility.
People used to say (before children) that I was selfish…and I was, because I could be. Don’t get me wrong, if a friend or family member needed me, I would of course be there for them, but if I wanted to do something then I did it; regardless of consequences. If my parents asked me to babysit my younger brother on the same night of a huge party, then I would be politely declining. I used to put my own needs first, sometimes to a fault. I’m not bitter about the fact I can no longer do that anymore (I couldn’t think of anything worse than gracing a nightclub until the early hours) and being a mother is my biggest achievement to date, but how do I be a good mum and partner AND look after myself at the same time? That is the bit I find difficult. And where along the way did I lose my ability to be even remotely selfish?
The love I have for my little family is too strong to not prioritise them, I want them all to be happy first and foremost. Consequently, self-care falls by the wayside. I truly find it to be one of the most challenging parts of parenting. When is it ok to put yourself first? Are you even supposed to ever again?
I used to tell myself that I needed to be less selfish, but I always ended up making the decision that suited me best. People would pull me up on it; ‘You must think about others Hayley’, ‘It isn’t all about you,’ ‘Here she goes, talking about herself again’, were things I heard often. At the time, I was always really miffed when someone mentioned just how self-absorbed I could be. I would instantly jump to my own defence and justify myself into continuing to put myself first. In hindsight, I’m glad I did. And if I could go back, I would tell myself that from the age of 30 I won’t be able to be selfish, so it’s worth enjoying it. A quality I used to think was my weakness I now miss and wish I still had to a degree as it is now engrained in my mind that I MUST do it all, so my selfish side, or the ability to prioritise my wellbeing, always takes a back seat.
The issue is that my brain thinks I am failing as a mum if everyone else is not happy, fed, clean and clothed; it just seems that I don’t fit into that equation. I am sometimes so focussed on making my children and partner happy; making sure their lunch is made and clothes are washed, only to realise I have no clean clothes and I forgot to make my own lunch.
My partner works very long hours, so without hesitation I will sit up with the children if they won’t sleep, same story if they get up early, I always insist on giving up my lay in even when he hasn’t had a long shift. Whether this is habit I do not know, but it is the only way I feel I’m doing my job properly. Just for the record, my partner asks to take over all the time and is more than willing to do his share. This issue lies with me, and the fact that ever since I became a mum, I seem to accumulate an immense amount of guilt if I accept a hand and don’t complete everything myself, even if I don’t want to. My capacity to allow others to take the reins appears to have been left in my hospital room the day I brought my son home.
Maybe the way I feel is a common feeling amongst mothers, or maybe it is a consequence of my own experiences. Either way, I do sometimes wonder if the traditional ‘man/woman’ role is more engrained in us than we are aware. Maybe, as women, we subconsciously think it is our job alone to satisfy everyone else’s needs. The trouble is, times have changed and commonly, women now contribute financially, me included. Despite this, there still seems to be an immense societal pressure for women to take on the majority of the household and childcare duties. I know of at least seven other mothers who feel the same way. I know of a few who also don’t of course, but it appears to be more common than not, when talking with others mums. I am not saying it is the fault of husbands or partners at all, and this isn’t a feminist debate, I am simply stating that I think women feel as though need to do it all and end up feeling guilty if they don’t, even when help is offered.
I’ve previously confided to my partner about how I feel which makes him frustrated. He asks why I do not just let him take over sometimes and why I decline his help. And he is right. How can I be so stressed and in need of a helping hand, whilst insisting I’m completely fine and don’t need said helping hand? It isn’t fair on him and it isn’t fair on me. I want to say ‘yes please do it this time’, but I just can’t seem to allow myself.
A natural progression in life is to mature, and with that comes responsibility. I don’t miss living recklessly and partying in Ibiza; in fact I don’t miss that at all. What I do miss is how much I cared for me.
There are plenty of qualities I have accumulated over the years as I have grown up which I am truly thankful for. For one, I am far wiser and a lot calmer in a crisis, but the thing I miss most is the raw ability to not care what anyone thinks. I used to speak my mind, shout my opinions and not let anyone walk over me. I rejected a lot of people’s opinions and justified that I was who I was and if someone thought I was odd or had said something unkind about me then that was their issue. I laughed at myself and I laughed at the negative opinions’ others may have had of me. Now, one negative opinion can ruin my week, and I don’t know why. I am so conscious of other people since becoming a parent, and I don’t like it.
I feel remorseful for sometimes wanting to sit in a room on my own and read a book when my little boy wants me to watch him play a game or my daughter wants to show me a new dance, and I assume this is quite a natural feeling, but it is also one I should be listening to. You only have to look at the conflicting messages society gives to mums to understand why it can be so confusing.
Have a break/Don’t miss the special moments. Look after and have time for yourself/ You will have plenty of time to yourself later
I just need a little moment to myself. It’s the little moments with your children that you will remember.
It becomes exhausting.
If I sit down and start to relax I can guarantee I will suddenly remember an article I read which told me the years ‘fly by’ and how before I know it I will be a lonely old woman sat at home crying because my children won’t come around for tea. I am then unable and completely unwilling to have a bit of time to myself.
Usually, I’d conclude my writing with some advice. But this time I have none. Prioritising myself is a work in progress. I need to retrain my mind so that I can reach a happy medium; a bit of my younger selves’ attitude would not be a bad thing and I hope to meet that girl again soon and come to a nice compromise.
I can only speak for myself and my situation and I am utterly blessed to have my two children; I wouldn’t change it for the world. But sometimes I do miss the old me. I sometimes grieve the girl I used to be.
This article is why I named this blog ‘Who’s Looking After Mum’. Because sometimes I wonder, who is?