It’s a well-known fact that many mothers lose their identity. I never thought I’d be one them!
This is a bit of a rambling blog, but it kind of reflects my life at the moment. Let me tell you why. From as young as I can remember, I have always had a really strong sense of myself. My parents called me stubborn and opinionated from very early on. I always had a 5 or 10 year plan. That was until the 4th April 2002. On that day I was plunged into the world of sleepless nights, nappy changes, feeding times and trying to get dressed at least once a week. As time passed by and the children got older that remit grew to uniform washing, homework checking, daily reading and being a taxi service. Those tasks just scrape the surface of motherhood. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a moan. Those times are special and in lots of ways I miss them. However, before you know it, that demanding 18 month old is a 6ft nearly 17-year-old who just doesn’t need you as much.
My youngest son started full-time school a few years ago. The first year I was still working nights as a nurse, so it went mostly unregistered. Last year I had a disastrous return to the NHS (not the job itself, just managing children and job) and so this year is my first year without any of those demands on my time. I left my job in April and so for the first few months I relished the silence and freedom and then my eldest took his GCSE’s, then it was the summer and now the return to school and college. And I have no idea what to do with myself!
Of course I am going to be doing some bank work at some point. Christmas is just round the corner and 5 boys don’t come cheap! But I find myself wondering about the future. What am I going to do with the rest of my life? To make that decision though, I need to rediscover myself. This week I did what most of us do these days, when we want to find an answer to something, and I googled. I came across this article on Huffington Post, and asked myself the questions that the author poses in the opening paragraphs. What are my hobbies? Errrm dunno. Chasing around after my boys? Where do I like to shop for clothes? Tesco, anything that comes to hand, the quicker the better! When was the last time I had fun doing something I love? This was a real humdinger! I couldn’t think! Unless you count going out with my friends and drinking gin until we believe we are teenagers again as fun, rather than escapism, then probably 17 years or more ago. I couldn’t even remember what it was that I considered as fun or loved doing.
Right there and then I decided things had to change. I’m a little held back by my own thoughts though. I keep thinking of things which are then followed by the thought “Am I too old though?” which I know is absolutely ridiculous! If nursing has taught me anything, it’s that anything is possible at any age. Fun has no age limits surely? But I’ve been taking the advice in the article, and especially focussing on the “what can I do to make me happier?” It’s not that I’m unhappy, I just feel a little lost and very restless. Michelle the 40 something year old with all school age children and big teenagers, is a stranger to me. I know who I was before children, but so much of that has been sacrificed over the years. I wish my own Mum, had given me that advice, because sometimes she felt trapped by motherhood and at times was unhappy. She’d probably say that I wouldn’t have listened, but maybe I would. Maybe I would have preserved just a little bit of me, somewhere.
About a month ago, I bumped into an old work colleague. She was slightly out of breath when she caught up with me and she said “I’ve been calling you for ages, you didn’t notice. I half-wondered if I’d remembered your name right!” Someone calling me by my actual name is as alien to me as my life before children. It just doesn’t register anymore which is really weird when you think about it. I think it’s a symptom of the whole ‘losing’ your identity.
Motherhood is a glorious thing, it has taught me things about life I could never have imagined. For instance the sheer fear of a choking child or the utter heartbreak you feel when your child is upset about things out of your control. Even though you are utterly exhausted, looking at a sleeping baby in your arms at 2am is probably the most present you’ll ever feel. It’s only now after 16 and half years of being ‘Mum’ that I really wish someone had told me about the pitfalls of giving absolutely everything of yourself to your children. Loss of identity was something I had always thought came with empty nest syndrome, but it comes so much sooner.
Here are some things you can do to help regain your identity.
- Give yourself some time. Whether that’s doing a class and learning a new skill, or even an exercise class. Make sure you set some time purely for you and that doesn’t involve the children.
- Go out with friends and have fun. This totally speaks for itself.
- Shed the Mum-uniform. If like me you spend your days in jeans, jumper and boots or jeans t-shirt and sandals in the summer, shake things up. Buy new clothes that make you feel fashionable instead of frumpy!
- As the Huffington Post says, remember what you love. Whether that be reading, drawing or something else. Re-introduce some of that back into your life.
I am trying to introduce all of the above into the space that having young children used to occupy. At the moment it’s all good, although I have found when life gets a little busy it is kind of frustrating to put those things on hold again. You all know about the new career I’d love, I’ve blogged about it numerous times. Those things won’t just fall in my lap, I need to get out there and actively chase them. So no more hiding in my living room in my Mum uniform, I’m getting out there and rediscovering life! And you can too!