Sally MacLeod lives in Brighton with her husband and son, and is part of the Mummyshock team. Here she shares some more of her own experiences as a new Mum...
I thought I would write a little bit about some of the things I feel like I’ve gained through becoming a mum as I feel like when I’ve written before I’ve tended to focus on the losses or negatives.
So here they are:
I have gained access to an inner circle.
I realised quite early on that there is a secret look mothers give each other when they pass each other...have you noticed it? It’s a knowing look, a smile exchanged that says, “I get it, this is hard work, we’re part of the same thing.” It doesn’t happen every time I pass a mother, and depending on my state of mind and current state of exhaustion I can easily mis-read it as, “Your buggy looks a bit rubbish…your toddler is crying sooo loudly…you look a bit rough.” But on a good day that acknowledgement reminds me that I’m part of a community, that I’m not alone even if it feels it sometimes, and that there’s a whole load of mums who get it! And that definitely feels like a positive gain.
I have gained RESILIENCE.
I remember when my little boy was a new-born he was demanding in terms of breast feeding, for several weeks he would feed for 8 hour blocks at night (I know now that it was more to do with comfort sucking than needing to feed but as a first time mum I had no idea!) And I remember during that time feeling like I couldn’t keep doing it (not just breast feeding but the whole being a mum thing), that I couldn’t cope with the lack of sleep and the physical drain…but when you have a baby giving up isn’t really an option is it? And I look back on those early days and can recognise how flipping tough it was, and what a strain it put on me emotionally, mentally and physically. But I also look back on it and feel proud that I did get through it! That I found a new strength to keep going, that has had to be drawn on again and again – and each time I’m faced with a situation that feels impossible I try to remember that I can get through it.
I have gained an excuse to wear my favourite item of clothing for an extra day!!
This might make me sound like a bit of a scummy mummy but I am perfectly prepared to embrace that. We all have a top or a pair of jeans that make us feel more confident, more beautiful, more ready for the world don’t we?? Well there have been days where I’ve felt like I’ve needed that extra boost from my favourite outfit only to find that it was stuffed in the laundry basket the day before…I have on occasion maybe retrieved said outfit, examined it and noticed a few marks but still determined that it’s wearability could be stretched another day. BECAUSE I have a toddler who can be blamed for any marks that may get noticed…”Oh no I hadn’t noticed that mark, Milo must have wiped his hands on me without realising.” And, HURRAH, I get to wear my confidence boosting outfit for an extra day without judgement…until I wrote this!
I have gained a new love of cuteness.
Has anyone else felt this? I don’t even just mean other people’s babies. I mean things like walking past people’s dogs and being unable to resist the urge to tell them how cute their dog is. Or having to watch the youtube clip someone posted on Facebook of the cute sloth, and then spending even more time finding even cuter animals on the internet! I never used to be quite as bad as I am now – I’m definitely even more sentimental since having my little boy.
I have gained a new found love and respect for women.
I think I am far more of a feminist now then I ever have been. Women are just amazing! I think one of the privileges of being part of Mummyshock is being invited to hear other women’s stories of motherhood; hearing how brave, resourceful and heroic women are in labour, how resilient women are in adapting to motherhood and seeing how supportive women can be of each other is inspiring. And I know I gain a lot just from spending time with other women, sharing experiences, comfort and wisdom. It’s definitely something I lean in to more and more on this crazy journey of mum-hood.
I have gained a heap load of guilt.
There is something every day that makes me feel guilty, usually several things. And this isn’t positive but I think it’s really important to recognise it because it can feel really heavy sometimes. I think when you’re handed your baby the day they are born it can feel like you are also given an imaginary rucksack to carry around with you at all times, and that must be constantly filled with guilt about every decision you make as a parent. And even when I feel strong enough not to put anything in that rucksack, there are opinions and articles in the media or from family and friends that do it for me. But I am trying to learn to be kind to myself and to push back on some of those opinions and arguments, and to let some of the “I should be doing this/I shoudn’t be doing…” phrases to drop and instead say to myself, “I’m doing the best I can with the energy and resources I have in this moment.” Isn’t that all any of us can do as parents?
I have gained an excuse for the mess!
I saw a great picture on Facebook the other day which was a sign that read, “Please excuse the mess, my children are making memories, I’m a shit housewife.” It made me laugh but it also rang true! I have never kept our flat immaculate but now I can use the whole, “my child is making memories” excuse…perfect! In the early days I would exhaust myself trying to get as much done as possible during my little boy’s brief, sporadic nap times and would feel like I could never keep on top of it all. But now if he falls asleep and we’re at home I use that time wisely…by which I mean I put This Morning on and do nothing. If the washing isn’t done, or the floor isn’t swept so be it, I’ve realised I can’t be a “good enough” mum to my boy if I’m trying to be a perfect housewife as well – which has never been part of who I am anyway so why should it be now just because I’m a mum.
I could go on and write a whole long list of other gains which have come to me as I’ve been writing this list. And I could write another list about the losses involved in becoming a mum (this would involve loss of sanity, loss of ability to remember any useful information, and loss of privacy to name a few!)
But I think I’ll stop there, and I’d love to hear what you feel you have gained or lost on your motherhood journey- please feel free to comment below.