Who am I? Do you lose your identity as a parent?

This post comes from a real mixture of feelings both that I felt in the first few months of being a new Mum and in the last few days.

My husband and I have come for a few days away. Just the two of us. Without our seven month old. Weird.

Due to a mix up of dates and bookings, our two night jaunt away turned into three and I am lucky enough to have a wonderful Mum and Dad who, although somewhat rabbit-in-headlight style, agreed to look after little man for a few days.

Of course I am missing the little guy. I’ve found myself wistfully staring at other babies and talking to new parents as well as looking at photos and videos of my boy a few times a day. But I’m secure enough with my love for my son to admit that it has been relatively easy to step back in being husband and wife away rather than Mummy and Daddy. I thought I would feel more lost, I wondered if I would rush back to him after a night but I feel stronger, more empowered, a bit more me after having precious hours back to spend as I wish to rather than being slightly governed by something else. I’m sure there will be people reading this stating that they could never leave their child so young and that this experience should be shared as a family, but my little man will get someone back who isn’t as tired, is fresher faced and someone who is really looking forward to seeing his little face. Not having to base decisions around ‘will I get the buggy in that shop easily for a browse, or are there stairs’, ‘where is likely to have baby change’ or checking the clock to make informed judgements as to how close feeding and milk times are likely to be is less alien than I thought it would be.

From my About Me, you might have guessed that I work in a school and have done for many years. Teaching is a profession that takes a lot from you. In all ways. Time, energy, freedom but of course those who do it are rewarded in countless ways which make up for it. When I started maternity leave and my husband returned to work after two weeks of our boy being born, I have a stand out memory of standing in the kitchen with silent fat tears rolling down my cheeks as I faced a mountain of bottles and washing up. I wasn’t a fan of the daily chore routine that now faced me as a new Mum compared to the buzz and pace of school. I also remember wailing to my partner that ‘I didn’t want to someone who does housework all day’. In reality, now I’m able to assimilate what that time all meant; when you took away teaching – I didn’t like how little was left of me.

Teaching had taken at least 60 hours of my life a week (term time at least) for 12 years and apart from a hobby of archery, a well-formed relationship with my phone and a penchant for an hour or two of crap TV a day, there wasn’t much left when teaching suddenly didn’t make up the majority of my awake time.

Now I’ve adjusted more to this new life and formed a little team with my boy as we face each day together, I am more secure with who I am and having the scare of taking teaching away meant that I faced a few home truths and could verbalise and understand them enough to make a few changes. I’ve returned to work now (well, for a few weeks before the holidays) and now approach work differently. I’m working to give and provide my family different things to before:

  1. More money that statutory maternity leave brought in to be able to have the days out and activities I want to do with my man cub
  2. The ability to maintain perspective on my new Mummy role as someone who is hopefully able to juggle work and home life better than before
  3. Being a role model to my little boy as someone who works blimmin hard 3.5 days a week in a noble profession

So, to go back to the title of this blog. I was always going to change a bit when I became a Mum. Do you lose your identify as a parent? Well, that depends on how much fulfillment you got out of your previous life. I thought I was happy but things have been brought to the forefront more now and I’ve begun to address these to establish a more harmonious headspace. Yes, it is also a question of confidence in yourself and your decisions and I don’t expect things to ever ‘settle down’ enough for what I think is time enough needed to fully address my identify issue, but with each passing day, I try and stop and find positivity in my choices for that day that will lead through to the next. I can’t say the half empty glass of red wine in front of me now will enlighten me particularly for tomorrow, but taking time to remember who I want to be without the appreciated and gratefully tinged rigmarole of having a seven month old will.

It feels like I should end this blog with a cheesy quote but instead I will press publish and take a big swig. Cheers.

Please say I’m doing “a good job”

Work is a cycle of performance management reviews, targets and catch up meetings. Simply setting three or four targets for an employee to structure their year around and if at the end, the targets are met or even partially met, they could be in line for a reward.

What’s the equivalent for a new parent? That the baby meets the milestones suggested by Apps or best-selling books? Communication seems to confirm the baby is satisfied? The parent feels like they can function adequately? New Mum’s don’t trigger alarm bells with the points-scoring questions asked by their Health Visitor? There isn’t a clear cut answer.

It’s the little daily triumphs. Myself and one of my closest friends had babies within 11 weeks of each other. We live in different parts of the country but made efforts to see each other before we dropped and when our little ones were about one month old. In the blur of the first few weeks of me being a Mum, the comments from other Mums were what I clung onto when I was feeling fragile – “You’re a natural”, “You’re doing so well”, “He’s a happy baby”, “I’m so impressed” were said by friends and my Mum. I’m sure they meant these but, deep down, I’m sure all of these comments were said by Mums as they know the power of these little nuggets.

When I went to visit my friend with her little one, we had a wonderful time. Harking back to how light my son must have been at the same point as I was having a cuddle, sharing gems of what to look forward to, enjoying listening to the sounds little newborns make and when the time came to leave, I gave my friend a huge hug and made sure I looked her in the eye as I said my little praise nugget. She didn’t need me to say this, she was trying to be a Mummy for unfairly too long and I like to think I would have said something if I was a Mum or not.

Whatsapping later on, and I echoed the sentiments. My friend replied that she was delighted I thought so. She didn’t need any verification but if she was anything like me, I understood the vital necessity to hear it from anyone in particular other parents. .

I wonder if all new parents feel like this?