'If only I had known'
7 weeks ago I returned to work, as a first time mum.
And I am drowning.
In realisation. In guilt. In regret. In exhaustion. In uncertainty. In judgement.
Before returning, I looked forward to finding the old me again. To wearing nice clothes and having a reason to look in the mirror. To having a clear and calculated purpose.
And that’s exactly what I loved about my first week back. I looked nice. I smelt nice. I had a routine that was mine, rather than one that revolved around naps and baby sensory classes. Days were different and exciting.
And then the honeymoon ended. And reality set in. This is my life now. The rushed mornings where breakfast is eaten in the car and readying my toddler and myself happens in military fashion. The day-care drop offs where my heart is pulled a little more each time. The days on my feet where my thoughts rarely stray from her for long. The night time clean-up, packing, prepping and calculating.
The week planner on the fridge. The endless reminders and calendar alerts.
The tug as I struggle to come to terms with my new role as part time mum.
It took me two years to find myself as a full time one, and to battle the guilt, the sense of identity, and the huge change in my life. And now, again, I am questioning my role as mother. The guilt has multiplied. Guilt at being too tired to play with her at the end of the day. Guilt at sometimes not actually wanting to. Guilt that I have admitted that to myself. Guilt at saying no each morning as she begs me to sit and read with her. Guilt as my head swims in anxious, irrational, and repetitive thoughts.
Rides in the car are strained. Heavy heart. Heavy mind.
Before work, I had fallen into a routine of classes, outings, and playdates. For so long it seemed so simple, and at times, mind numbing. My world revolved entirely around my daughter.
Today, I ache in wishing I had known just how precious those days were.
That that simplicity, was in fact what we both needed.
It is an absolute revelation to me that our days together of butterfly catching, sand castle building and dancing to the Wiggles was exactly what I needed.
I always thought it was all for her. But now, I see it was for the both of us. For me to get to know not only her, but myself as a mother, in the everchanging nature of parenthood.
So, what now?
Over the last few days I have begun to confront these thoughts and emotions. I have headed some advice, but this washing machine of emotion I am experiencing is not one that goes away overnight.
Frantically searching the web for situations that mirror my own, I came across a list of ideas to share responsibilities in the household (if you are not a single parent) and the strong recommendation to stay organised.
But what about the hormonal tornado we feel as mothers during this transition? Do we just shelve this and write a list on who does the washing on what day?
Mental health and motherhood go hand in hand. It is scientifically proven that the hormones we experience in these early years alter our state of mind. Statistics for post-natal complications lasting years rather than months continue to climb. Young marriages are breaking. Mothers are melting under the pressure to successfully wear both hats of working and caring for a home.
Pressure is climbing alongside the dirty laundry piles at home, and these struggles continue to unfold in solidarity.
Because, well, we just get on with it.
This is life.
But what about those who can’t just get on with it.
Are they a bad mother? Wife? Employee?
Or are they simply human, made to feel like the exception, rather than the rule. After all, Suzy So put together on Instagram has three kids, runs her own business, is a solo parent, and metaphorically rules the world.
And then there is me. I don’t run a business. I only have one child. I am not a solo parent. I don’t work night shifts and I live in a first world country.
And yet, I am not okay. I am swimming in a multi-tasking tsunami of nappies and emails. I am, like so many other mums out there, coming to terms with the fact that I am running on autopilot in order to ignore the storm brewing inside me.
And that’s ok. I am not superwoman. I am still dealing with the aftermath of my post-natal struggles. I am still navigating a world two years ago I had no idea of.
I am not perfect.
So, let’s stop pretending we should be. Let’s stop listening to or acknowledging those public figures who fool us into thinking they are.
And let’s speak honestly about the incredible load that comes with being a working mum. Let’s spell out the difficulties of this emotional transition and be honest about the emotions that come hand and in hand in this.
Let’s set a precedent that failure is ok.
Admitting that you are struggling, is ok.
Perhaps, If I knew I wasn’t alone in battling these emotions I would be stronger in working through them.
Now, for you to know that you are not alone, I offer you my honest admission.
Please, ask for help.
Acknowledge how bloody amazing you are, for being so many different things to so many different people.
And don’t ever let anyone tell you what you are experiencing is abnormal, or something you should be ashamed of.
It is those who paint false pictures, or who make us feel like we are failing, that should be ashamed.
Normal, and perfect do not exist.
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