There’s life before being a mum and there’s life after it. We live in a world defined by roles and titles and although we may have many before we have children once we take on the role of mum suddenly everything is different. It’s a small word but it makes everything much bigger.
No longer responsible for just yourself but totally responsible for another human who has constantly changing needs – it’s no wonder us mums often ask ourselves ‘Who am I really?’
When I had my first two children I was labelled a Young Mum – and I went back to my full-time job after 12 weeks, desperately trying to juggle it all. Then I became a step mum – a whole different ball game for sure! Then I had my son at the grand old age of 40 and was labelled – thank you NHS – a ‘Geriatric Mum’. So now I’m a mum in different ways to five children whose ages range from 21 down to 4.
And I’m seriously asking myself – ‘What is my role with them? How do I fit in? And who the heck am I now that some are leaving the nest and becoming independent while others are still totally dependent on me?’ And in amid this confusion I’ve changed my career, started a business and gone back to education!
I firmly believe that all mums have these moments so firstly You Are Not Alone! I find myself swinging from being the mum of an adult who’s just moved back home after uni – my daughter and I are pacing around each other, not quite sure of what’s expected – to being mum to a small person who’s used to me making every decision in his life. Unlike my eldest daughter, his struggle for independence only amounts to wanting to climb out of the car on his own, in his own time.
I also firmly believe that to be effective as a mum it’s vital to hold onto your own identity. This can be tricky because we’re surrounded by advice about which way of parenting is best. But you’ve got to ask yourself if that matches what’s important to you and does it fit in with who you are and your intention and your purpose? Because the thing is, if you’re trying to be ‘that person’ you aren’t being own person. And in my line of work that’s what I aim for women to embrace – their true self.
So how do you do that? How do you hold onto your true self when you’re being pulled in every direction by different people with different needs? Here are my top 5 tips…
Don’t compare your world to others
Your children have different demands on you and you do things differently. Enjoy watching other people share their stories but know that you are right where you should be.
Not all advice, just be selective. Not every piece of advice is meant for you to take on board. Listen, respect others’ view but trust that you will know how you are meant to do things.
Remember what you love
Think about what you used to enjoy and see if this is still happening. If not, how can you bring the things you love back into your world. Make a list – and get ready to regain your loves.
Get OK with being selfish!
Carve out time for yourself. If you can do this totally on your own brilliant – a coffee shop hour with your fave book, a long bath, Netflix… Figure out ways you can work your routine to make this happen. You can still be selfish when the kids are around. For instance, arrange playdates with friends – that’ll cover entertainment for a while and you get to have some grown-up conversation at the same time. Or let them self-entertain – and yes, that does include letting them watch TV… you get some time for you and they learn to be independent for a while. (BTW – I’ve studied for my degree whilst a certain all-day children’s channel has played in the background.)
Make choices that work for you
… and don’t feel guilty about your choices. I loved being a career girl and worked hard to be successful. I knew that being a stay at home mum wasn’t for me but there were times I felt guilty about it when I saw others playing out that role. Now, years later, I see the different lessons our children learn from different parenting – not better or worse, just different. My girls have a great work ethic having been brought up by a mum who went to work and now runs her own business.
We can lose ourselves trying to be the best mum ever but it’s our uniqueness that makes us wonderful. What a fabulous way to educate our children, showing that we’re individual and not everyone does things in the same way – we have different qualities and skills and different needs as humans.
By holding onto who you are and embracing what makes you the person you are – nurturing your mental and physical wellbeing – you’ll be enhancing your parenting. You’re the best role model they can have – make sure your children and you remember who that is!
Ali Moore is a positive psychology therapist and mindfulness practitioner who runs #FindYourRoar confidence workshops Be Moore.