Having children changes you.
One minute you’re a person, with your own identity, a job – which you either love or hate – and a life you take for granted as your own.
The next minute (well, nine months later, obviously) you’re a mum. People lavish you with attention, everything is new and fun and wonderful (and also really hard at times), and if you’re lucky, you get to spend those precious initial months with your firstborn. I was blessed with this opportunity. I basked in the baby-moon, until it was time for me to return to the workplace, and place my daughter in childcare while I went back to work full-time. It was HARD. My baby was being looked after by another (I will say ‘awesome’ here; because she is) woman, and I was traipsing into work day after day, then coming home and feeding my <1-year-old before putting her to bed, and being woken up 3 or 4 times a night from teething, thirst, separation anxiety, hunger, nightmares. It was a guessing game to decipher the problem, and with a night-shift working husband, it wasn’t easy. Physically and emotionally, (of course, let’s not forget the hormones that come hand-in-hand with having a baby), I was a wreck. I was knackered, and I missed my daughter.
After much thought and consideration, my husband and I made the decision that I would quit my job and bring my daughter up in the traditional sense of being a ‘stay at home mum’. I relished the idea, I loved it, in fact. My daughter and I got to go to playgroup together, we went window shopping in Ikea once a week, and we developed an absolutely wonderful bond, which I will cherish to this day. When she slept (twice a day – what a blessing!), I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote. I churned out two novels (and several different drafts), and loved the 1k1hr stints with my writing girls on Twitter. They were wonderful times, and I miss those.
But, like all good things, it must come to an end. I went on to have another baby, who we sadly lost at 27 weeks gestation. That was a devastating time, and I lost the will and the desire to lose myself in writing – and reading – fiction. I chose instead to focus on interior decor and soft furnishings, on turning my home into a haven; somewhere I could heal the hurt of losing a child and hide from the world. I don’t think I ever really got over that. We went on to have another baby a few months later, and since then, life has been pretty chaotic. You think it’s hard work with one child, and then you have another. I know there are women out there who have three, four, five – and more – and I salute you. Being a parent is one of the most difficult, and yet rewarding, jobs there are.
I realised quite quickly that I needed to continue to do something for myself, but I couldn’t quite figure out where the problem lay. I advertised my services as a Virtual Assistant, which worked for a while. But something was still lacking. I needed to write – I was born to write. So I did what I should have done all along, and built my own website, advertising my services as a Freelance Writer. I’ve had a number of contracts, and I really enjoy the work, but still something was lacking.
It took my Facebook memories, a very deep and profound Facebook status and a few conversations and comments between friends, for me to realise that I had lost my identity. I had lost the person I had been before I became ‘Mummy’. Before being Mum, I’d had banter, I’d had opinions, I’d had a voice. I’d had a life that was mine and mine alone. One that didn’t involve an audience every time I wanted to visit the bathroom. A life where I got to eat all of my own lunch without the little bullies taking it off my plate or out of my mouth. I realised – with a moment of clarity – that I’d gone from being an extrovert, to an introvert. A few pointed out that this wasn’t a problem, as I was still me, but for me, it was a problem. I didn’t want to be an introvert, hiding behind everyone else’s shadow.
It’s been four years since I made the decision to stop work and be a stay at home mum, following my dream of becoming a writer and making a living from it. I can say for definite that I am a writer, as I write, but it’s not enough for me. I need to be a part of something, to have a sense of belonging. I need to be among grown-up people, in a real, non-virtual environment (I still love my online friends, you are all one in a million and quite possibly some of the nicest people I have ever met).
The novels are still in me, and I’ll apply the ink to the page when they’re ready to spill forth. The writing will always be there, and I can write anytime. But my youngest will be old enough to start preschool next year, and the cabin fever has well and truly set in. Four years is a long time. So I’m going back out into the world, to be something much more than ‘just a mum’. To tap into my creative side within a physical team environment.
Yes, being a parent does change you, but that doesn’t mean you have to just accept it if you’re not happy with who you’ve become.
After all, if you can dare to dream, you can live whatever life you want to.