Before I had kids I always used to laugh at my friend when I asked her how she was doing. She has two boys and the conversation would go like this:
Me: “Hi! How are you?”
Her: “Oh, we are OK, thanks. Yes, all good. The boys are fine.”
Of course, I was interested in how her family was, but I was asking about HER. It was as if me asking after her was a package deal, though.
Then the other day I caught myself doing something similar. I introduced myself as “Leon and Sam’s mum” to another parent, not Lana. My name.
It made me think, why when we have kids, do we do this? Here are my thoughts.
They are a part of us
When you become a mum, your baby becomes like another limb. An extension of you.
You grew that baby inside you and nourished him with just your body and the ebb and flow of your energy. So it isn’t really surprising then now, as he hangs off of your boob, or needs you to cuddle him off to sleep even though he’s five, that the physical closeness between mothers and their littlies is sometimes like glue.
There is also an emotional fusing, though. Mums feel their kids’ hurt, upset or joy. They are a part of us in more than the physical sense. We feel them.
Plus, we can’t help but think about them constantly – yep, they have stolen our hearts and minds.
It’s only natural then when someone asks after you, that your response might be one of “we” instead of “I”, or that you introduce yourself as so and so’s mum. Because you two, in so many ways, are actually one.
We also lose ourselves as mothers
It’s true. When your world shrinks to the size of your newborn, and your day is ruled by their needs, it’s easy to get buried in it. Although this is natural, it doesn’t do our sense of self any favours.
Then when you spend every waking minute giving, giving, giving to them, well, it’s hard to even remember who you were before becoming a mum.
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But it’s important that we do remember us. We NEED to remember us. We need to nurture ourselves too and do the things that make us feel like us again. Because when we do, we are happier people and as a result, better mothers for it.
We also need to give ourselves a break. All that giving is draining on so many levels. And we. Are. Tired.
I think it’s ambitious to say we all need to simply ‘reclaim our identity’. That’s easier said than done. I mean, our identity has changed now we are mothers, and that’s actually a lovely thing. But we can take baby steps to bring back a little bit of our former selves, so we don’t feel so lost.
You know yourself and you know what makes you smile, so I’m not going to instruct you on how to do this, but I do encourage you to think of some ways you can give yourself a little self-care that will enable you to tap into who YOU are.
For me, this is catching up with like-minded women friends and having a good ol’ chat. We talk about things other than our babies and it makes me feel connected and engaged. It’s a coffee, a baby step, not a weekend retreat away from my family.
Maybe for you, it’s buying that pretty dress which will make you feel happy when you wear it because it’s your aesthetic and not stained in playdough? Or maybe it’s taking your mum up on her offer to babysit so you can sit in a hairdresser’s chair for an hour and be pampered? Or perhaps it’s simply asking your partner to do bedtime duty so you can listen to a podcast that interests you, instead of reading Where is the Green Sheep for the 100th time.
Whatever it is, taking baby steps to bring back a little bit of you will make you feel, well, more like you again.
And always remember to introduce yourself by your name, you still have a name – even if you are also so and so’s mum – which is wonderful, but it doesn’t take away from who YOU are.
I will try to remember this, too.