Reclaiming your pre-mum identity.
Identity is something which I talk about a lot since having Eva home and was something I massively struggled with at first. I used to rather cruelly give Eva the nickname of ‘The Identity Thief’, because to me that is what she was at first…this tiny thing calling all the shots, taking my sleep, my body, my sanity, all of my time and attention, every hour of every day. And what was I? A mere milk machine, a big aching bag of emotional messiness (plus a nice helping of raw grief), with a scruffy top knot and old pyjamas to match. Not exactly what they sell you in the fairytales is it??
Amongst all these feelings, I experienced the standard spouse envy; ‘he gets to go to work and see other humans, socialise, go to the gym, how come its me who sacrifices everything?’ I won’t be the first mum to moan about feeling very jealous that whilst the husband suffers the sleepless nights and poonamis with you, by definition he simply does not sacrifice as much – he has not given up his body and his entire identity. By all accounts, most dad’s continue their lives as they were before….and when you’re sat at home covered in baby sick, crying because you cant remember what it was like to laugh, have fun, and be you, that’s a hard pill to swallow. ‘Bloody bastard’ gets mumbled quite often…
This is not a man-bashing post by the way…it’s just an observation that as women and mums, I think we have a much bigger hurdle to climb to reclaim ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, if I wasn’t willing to sacrifice and change for a gorgeous little person I wouldn’t have decided to try for a baby in the first place, and I am proud and excited at who I’ve turned into as amum. But I never wanted to be a ‘mumsy’ mum who loses all sense of personality. I always say in any relationship – whether this be a new child, a friend, or a partner, that it should ADD to you, not take you away.
I never wanted the old me back entirely – I’ve embraced the new life I have, with its new mum friends, new baby groups, new priorities and most significantly a whole new fulfilment in life I’ve never known before now. But that is being said in perspective, with the newborn days behind us, and a more confident grasp on parenting. But when you’re in the thick of it, you can’t see any of the old you ever reemerging to join the new, and you wonder when you will see her again - if ever!
I can’t be the only mum who has found it an uphill struggle to not let ‘mum’ be your only identity. It took me a while to remember that I am more than that. Months were spent wearing the ‘mum wardrobe’ of leggings and maternity bras, making little to no effort on appearance, and going out in a state I wouldn’t have been seen dead in before. Before Eva, I was a baker, a cook, a lover of books and meditation, an exercise class goer, a wine sipper, and last but not least a fan of getting low to 90’s and 00’s R&B in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. I loved make up, and clothes, and adult conversation. I was a friend and a sister, a daughter, a wife. That woman still existed somewhere – and whilst it shouldn’t have been a mission to bring her back, it bloody was.
But I did it. There was a ruthless wardrobe audit and a realisation of the enormous sense of ‘yaaaay’ that descends when you take even a smidgen of pride in your appearance again (it is worth it and it isn’t self-indulgent). And yes – I did cry after my 30th night out that whilst I had managed to fit into a size 10 petite Miss Selfridge dress, I didn’t look like I did in it 10 years ago – totally rational meltdown I feel! (The lesson here is you do not, and should not want to, dress as you did 10 years ago, its ok to find a new wardrobe that isn’t mumsy and takes away your personality). I bake and cook again, I hop on spin bikes and don a bit of spandex, I read, and I dance inappropriately whilst staying out too late with my friends. I’ve now also got a work from home job as a string to add to my ‘identity reclaim’ bow. I am a mum, and I am still Louise. My point is this : if you are sat as a new mum thinking ‘what the bloody hell have I done and who is that woman in the mirror’ – it gets better. I promise. For me it crept back until I suddenly recognized myself again, whilst embracing the ‘mum’ part of me and reclaiming the best bits from the old Louise, I got my perfect mix. Whilst its taken work, tears, tantrums and struggles, its been so incredibly rewarding to look back and see that I’ve achieved it. Keep going mama – the old you is never lost, she just went away for a while!