Hi, my name is Kirsty from Navigating Baby, I am a mother to 4 littles; two boys and twin girls. I blog about our parenting experience and how we navigate through the chaos and fun that is our family life. I am thrilled to be collaborating with and writing my first guest post for MrsPLoves – thanks for having me! This Mothering Sunday we decided to write about our mothering journey and how this has changed us; we are looking at the women we were and the women we have become. You can check out Sarah’s inspiring post along with the rest of my blog at navigatingbaby.com
My Mothering Journey and how it has changed me
I had my first child after a good 18 months of trying to conceive, invasive tests and ultimately a fertility drug. I was thrilled and embraced everything that was mothering; revelling in each baby massage class, swimming lesson and playgroup. I loved making new ‘mummy’ friends and creating a local network that I just didn’t have when I worked in the city. It felt like I had everything that I ever wanted; the husband, the house and the beautiful baby.
When it came time for me to return to work I was not convinced at all. Looking back this feeling was quite a shock to me. I loved my work and hadn’t expected to feel this way. Then almost the minute that little bundle of crying and pooping arrived, I knew I didn’t care about work anymore. I was ashamed to admit I just wanted to be his mummy as I was conditioned to believe that I must try to ‘have it all’.
I did return to work, but in meetings (usually one to plan another meeting!) I felt like screaming! It all suddenly sounded like an episode of the Office. Everyone seemed to speak like David Brent and I just begrudged the time away from my baby. When redundancies hovered on the horizon I put my hand up and skipped out of there – well I would have done if I wasn’t already very pregnant again.
This didn’t mean that I didn’t want to work at all. It was just the corporate life was no longer for me, but I didn’t want to do ‘nothing’. At this point I still felt like being a SAHM was doing nothing! So, I retrained as a Baby and Toddler Swimming Teacher which promised to be a more family friendly career and indeed it was. I loved it which was lucky as with childcare etc… I was at best breaking even.
Then I had the twins and everything changed. Each teaching session was short and so to my son, (who was already dealing with arrival of the twin parent stealers) it seemed that I was always leaving. He struggled and I was so stressed. I was constantly running, remembering where I needed to be when, organising school stuff for my eldest, feeding two babies, getting no sleep – the list goes on! Oh, and running my business as a CV Writer and Career Coach. Ahhhh!!! It was too much and something had to give. That something was me…. It was a real dilemma as I truly loved teaching. It didn’t feel like work, but I had to stop before I totally lost it. I couldn’t work anymore.
Not having ‘my own’ money is still strange. My husband doesn’t ever make me feel like it isn’t my money. This feeling comes from me and from society. I grew up in the late 70s and 80s when the feminist movement was really gaining momentum and was always on the news. I attended an all girl’s school where we were encouraged to achieve academically and taught we could be anything we wanted to be. The expectation was that I would have a successful career and I have struggled with the idea that everything I worked for is now gone.
I know I still do contribute; I save us a fortune for a start and believe me I work, but it took me a while to really feel that. If anything, I work more now than I did in my HR roles. My job as a SAHM does not have regular hours. It does not stop when they go to bed. I usually have chores left and then some worrying to do that I haven’t done everything that needs to be done, before I can relax. I am not expecting anyone to feel sorry for me. I love my life and feel lucky I am in a position where being a SAHM was an option. I have felt judged by society a bit though and indeed I have judged myself. I feel like I may have let the side down slightly and have often heard myself making excuses for why I am a SAHM:
‘I was working for love essentially as it didn’t make financial sense’
‘With four kids I would need to be at an assembly almost every other week. I would be a rubbish employee’
‘Having four kids means I just have so much washing, cleaning and organising to do I simply couldn’t make a full-time job work as well’
These may be true, but they are not the reason I am a SAHM. I do this because it is right for me and my family, but it left me questioning some of my core beliefs about who I was.
I consider myself to be a feminist, but I don’t know if everyone would see me as belonging to that club anymore. I fulfil a very traditional and stereotypical ‘woman’s’ role and this did take a second for me to get my head round. How could I be a feminist and positive role model for my children if I was ‘just’ at home?
Here is the thing I now realise: I am still a strong woman. I still show my children hard work and contribute to society by teaching the boys that women are their equals and to be great men and teaching the girls that there no limits. I know now that I don’t have to a high-flying career to be successful or to be a strong woman. So, if asked I would now say:
‘I am a SAHM and I am a feminist; they are not mutually exclusive.’
Adjusting to life with four very little children has not all been about becoming a SAHM it has led me to deal with something that has really always been there – Anxiety. Shortly after the girls turned one I realised that something was not right with me. I had lost myself completely and no longer knew who ‘me’ was. This person was only someone’s mummy, someone’s teacher or someone’s wife.
I have always been anxious and have enjoyed catastrophising since I was child. Often waking my parents in a flap to check whether there was a volcano anywhere near by and how likely it was that Pompeii could reoccur in South West London (in case you are concerned my Daddy says it can’t happen 😉). However, two years ago I couldn’t talk myself out of my anxiety anymore. I was convinced that some great disaster was about to befall us at any moment. I worried constantly and nervously counted to four all the time to make sure all the littles were safe. I knew my fears were irrational, but I could not control them or prevent the physical wave of panic from rising up every 5 minutes. Ultimately, I needed a bit of help to get back on track and saw my doctor, but I also started to prioritise ‘me’. My theory was if I looked better and more like the old me I would feel better.
In 2016 I started to try and lose my baby weight through exercise. I could barely run to the end of my path (maybe 2 metres) at this point and now I can run around 12 kms in an hour. I also do HITT workouts in my front room and the littles join in. To date I have dropped 2 dress sizes. This has given me a focus outside of my children. Something about ‘ME’ that I can proud of. I know it is vain but looking better has made me better able to cope with my anxiety and has helped me define the new me. My identity is forever changed I am ‘Mummy’, but I realise now that I can also still be that girl who loves socialising, doing my hair and wearing nice clothes. Sure, they will end up with paint, poo or food on them and sure most days I will be in my school run casuals (maybe with brushed hair), but that’s OK – that’s my life and I love it!
My Mothering Style
My mothering style has changed as I have added to my brood. Even as my feelings of anxiety grew my confidence as a mother was not dented. I learnt so much when my eldest was born that I really felt like I knew what I was doing the second-time round. Having twins the third-time kind of put me back in the dark again, but I still found that I didn’t worry about taking care of them. I knew I had that!!
Before I had children, I planned to be one of the mothers who sternly, but calmly addresses any negative behaviour and provides endless support and love for their children. The love and support bit – tick! The rest is still a work in progress.
When I had my boys, I was so very patient. I never got cross with them. I can still remember the first time I ever shouted at one of my children and how desperately upset I was. He was nearly 3 years old and had just smeared poo on the toilet wall at Pizza Express, but that’s another story….
The patient part of my me seemed to all but evaporate once I had four littles demanding my attention and needing my care. I simply can’t wait for a toddler to put on their coat and shoes themselves when it takes 20 minutes and their brothers have to be at school! I can’t be patient when I have asked the boys 100 times to start getting dressed and they appear 20 minutes later still in their pants seemingly entirely unaware that I have said anything at all. So, I admit it – I am a bit shouty. It’s noisy in this house so sometimes I have to shout to be heard over the din and sometimes shouting ‘STOP’ is the only way to keep them safe. If I am honest though I am just inherently less patient now and in order to be there for everyone I simply have to move at pace. Anything that gets in my way beware… I have been likened to Miss Gulch (Wizard of Oz) cycling along on her bike when I am pushing the buggy and am on a mission! I like to think it was my determined look they were referring to, but on reflection perhaps I was just having a bad hair day…
I still don’t want to be a cross mummy, but I now have enough confidence in my mothering to know that these littles know they are loved and always feel supported. We laugh a lot and have fun every day and that is success for me. Today I have no ideals about what my mothering style ‘should be’; the littles guide me and I am just along for the ride.
Many things about me have changed since I became a mother; some are for the better and some things have been difficult to manage or accept. One thing has remained constant and that is my love for those 4 littles. So, whether you go out to work, stay at home, have one or twenty children I say:
‘Happy Mother’s Day, put your feet up and relax – you deserve it!’
And to the lovely Sarah I say thanks for letting me guest post on your site. Her posts really resonate with me and contain such positivity that I am truly delighted to be part of it. I can’t wait for you to read her post over on Navigating Baby – it’s a goodie!
Where you can find Navigating Baby
Blog : www.navigatingbaby.com
Pinterest: Navigating Baby