The Old ‘Me’
Carefree, commitment-shy and fun lovin’. That was the ‘old me’. I ‘did’ university, partied hard in Ibiza and traveled the world, extending stays in Australia and Hong Kong. Everything fuelled my wanderlust ideas about becoming a travel writer and more than once, a romantic notion to write novels. I flitted from job to job and boyfriend to boyfriend. My social diary buzzed. I didn’t want to grow up or grow old.
Concurrently, friends were coupling off, buying houses and getting hitched. Babies began to arrive and with it, god-motherly duties. I hit my 30s and experienced the sudden realization that things had somehow changed. Over time, my mindset began to shift. Then I met someone, we moved in together, bought a house and got married. Life was no longer just about ‘me’. I had a husband to think of, bills and a mortgage to pay and mutual dreams to follow. This meant swapping night-clubs for a night on the sofa with my husband, the dog and a glass of wine.
The dream of becoming a writer slowly faded further from my mind. Instead, opting for an easier route, I took a job with a large health and fitness chain. A later promotion meant longer hours as well as a whole new vocabulary. By the end of the day, my brain felt like mush, indoctrinated by the corporate machine. My role involved taking decisions, managing people and holding difficult conversations. My work persona became far removed from the old/real fun lovin’, responsibility- hating ‘me’. And then, later still, children came along.
Motherhood Stole My Identity…
I know, I know. It’s an attention-grabbing headline. Is it true? In part, yes because it was the final nail in the coffin for the ‘old me’. But the change in identity evolved over time and due to many changes that took place. And I allowed it to. Of course, we’re all evolving humans and it simply wouldn’t be normal, if we didn’t ‘evolve’. But deep down, we all need to understand our identity, otherwise, we’re unsettled and unfulfilled. I stopped nurturing myself a while back. I got caught up in life, then became ‘mummy’ and experienced an identity crisis of sorts.
Don’t get me wrong – having a child is the most incredible thing in the world. I only have to think of the tiny, exploring fingers of a baby or the enthusiasm of toddlers for butterflies, chocolate and tractors (amongst other things). Then, there’s serenity, that all parents will identify with, that comes from watching your beautiful children sleeping peacefully. I wouldn’t be without them.
We all know that it’s not like that all of the time. Motherhood changes you forever. It changes your body. It changes your mind. It changes your priorities. Sometimes in good ways. Sometimes in bad. But it always always changes you.
With my first daughter, I embraced motherhood, enjoying the time off from a career that was sapping my energy and happiness. I frequented lots of baby groups, met a circle of yummy mummies, many of which are now lifelong friends. My days were filled with charting every milestone that my daughter hit, changing nappies, breastfeeding and eating cake. Life felt good, one child felt manageable most of the time and I enjoyed the elongated break. Nap-times even allowed me to write a novel.
After 2 years of ‘maternity’, a part-time customer service role back at my old company came up. I took it, safe in the knowledge that it would only be until the next one came along, Still, in the back of my mind, it niggled. It was the easy route again. Sure I knew the job inside out, the staff were great and the environment, exciting, but the job bored me. I found myself repeating terms and conditions day in, day out. What I really needed was to do something different. What I was doing was the same old thing. Pushing the thought and resentments away, I plowed on stoically.
Then the obvious question came up, ‘shall we go for another?’ We did and a year later, our second daughter came along. Right from the start, things were more difficult and not because of her. She was, after all, a truly delightful baby and still is (although not a baby any longer!)
Recovery was far more difficult, especially with a bout of appendicitis, undiagnosed by the hospital. This resulted in a mad dash to A & E with a newborn in tow. Not long after, my father passed away from cancer. The months after felt dark and depressing. I realized life would never quite be the same again.
So I filled my time with another round of baby activities. Again I met a lovely circle of mums, fantastic support and something I’d recommend for any new mum. As far as the baby activities were concerned, they were still cute and relatively fun. I took lots of photos but in truth, it just didn’t feel enough anymore. With so much going on in my life, it was hard to get excited. It was important for my new daughter to socialize and develop though so I continued on. Another aspect that became more apparent was the increased difficulty in managing 2 children, both different ages and with different needs. I yearned for more. I needed creativity. But let’s be honest, having kids around is not great for creativity. I pushed the thought away like before. After 8 months of maternity, I re-entered the world of work again, a far cry from the previous 2-year maternity break.
Life must get easier when they go to preschool and school right? Well, that’s what I thought. But no!
No longer am I just mum. No, the following roles have now also been assigned to me: homework persuader, chauffeur to school and after school clubs, social secretary for play-dates, organiser of school holiday activities, packed lunch maker, healthcare coordinator, room tidier, disciplinarian & reward chard monitor, shopper, school liaison, educator of IT safety, stranger danger, good hygiene, emotions, road safety etc. etc. Oh and that’s before I do anything for my husband or myself. Well, you had them I can hear you saying. And you’d be right. I’m not complaining. Just pointing out all the extra responsibilities that come with having kids these days. Mix that with tiredness, unstable hormones, demanding kids, finances, health, work, social life, a recent bereavement, a husband starting a new business and its probably no wonder, that from dawn to dusk, my mind was completely overloaded. I no longer knew what my identity was, other than making sure everyone was fed, dropped off at the right time to the right place and with the correct attire and juggling everyone’s social/school/ preschool diaries.
Life felt busy, but in respect to my higher level needs, unfulfilled. I’d stopped nurturing myself. I felt harassed and under pressure all of the time. The one that was ‘carefree’ and fun lovin’, well she was no-where to be seen. At. All.
I saw a local job at a preschool advertised, applied and got it. It was nice, the staff, friendly and it provided the much-needed adult conversation. It gave some semblance of a routine and structure. And I needed a damn good cup of tea every morning at 9.30am without the interference of someone crying, pooing or wanting something from me.
For a while, it was great. It stuck a plaster over what I needed: to regain my identity, to nurture myself and to do something that accessed the creative part of my brain rather than just the organizing part. The job gave me an identity of sorts, albeit a work persona. Soon though, I was working in the evenings at home instead of unwinding. I could only think of paperwork and Ofsted. Old habits were creeping back. I’d repeated the same pattern again: taking the easy route and doing a similar job. I knew it wasn’t right. I still wasn’t feeling fulfilled. And still, I plodded on. My mind, too full to be able to rationalize things. It all seemed too big an obstacle to climb. So I didn’t.
Writing Gave Me a New Identity
The universe answered me. Due to finances, my hours at the preschool were cut to just 8 hours, split over 2 days a week. It was now hardly worth working there so a conversation ensued with my husband. His recent business venture had taken off and finance was no longer an issue. He agreed, ditch the job, have some time out and find some new interests. Maybe something will come out of it, he said.
A few weeks later, I spotted a creative writing course at a local college, run by a successful author and screen-play writer. I still harbored the dream of becoming a writer. I’d maintained my writing though-out my life, poems for an anthology when I was a child, an article for a travel magazine in my 20s, diaries, short stories and, a novel during my 2-year maternity break. But, for some reason, it’d never occurred to me that perhaps I could do this as my ‘real job’. It was like a light-bulb moment. It felt completely right.
I’d only ever written without any training or guidance before though. Perhaps it was time for some formal training. So I applied for the course and joined it. I enjoyed learning about the creative process of writing, felt inspired, got some great ideas and began to understand the process/es of writing in more depth. I wrote more at home. I had ideas for books and articles. Inspiration came at me from everywhere.
I knew I’d never go back to another conventional job again. This was my job now. It was me. I felt the ‘old’ me begin to resurface again, the carefree and fun lovin’ one, albeit a more responsible and committed version. I love that there’s no limits to writing, no constraints in the same sense as a traditional job. You can write about whatever you want. It can be informative. It can be therapeutic. And it can be fulfilling. Even better, I don’t have to speak corporate bullshit ever again. My only wish….to have even more time to write. It’s a balance though, of course, because family are, after all, everything.
The New ‘Me‘
So I realize that life has moved on and I’m not twenty one anymore. Who I was at that age is not who I am today. And that’s okay. I just got lost for a while, caught up in today’s frantic world, trying to be everything to everyone and completely losing any sense of ‘identity’. Yearning for the past and feeling unhappy in the real world.
Writing has very much helped me to understand my identity today. I can do something I love at the same time as being a mum. Writing has not only helped me ask searching questions, but to answer them. I created the mum2author blog to chart my personal journey and to provide useful information and inspiration to other aspiring authors and writers. And do you know what? I get up in the morning with a spring in my step and with ideas in my head. I can’t wait to get onto my laptop, get writing and press that publish button. It’s my passion and fulfills me. I’m a better version of myself. Writing has helped me to reconnect with my true ‘self’ and brought with it a new, exciting identity. It was always in there though. I just didn’t pay enough attention to it.
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