“Oh, I’m just a mum.” This phrase always irritates me. It suggests that mothering is not an activity or a job worthy of mention, deserves no praise or status, and is tantamount to frittering your life away. However, it cannot be denied that using the word ‘Mum’ to describe yourself basically means you are defining yourself purely by your relationship to other people, specifically: your children. It doesn’t say anything about you except that you have procreated.
It felt in some ways like taking a step back, having a second baby. I was just getting used to having a little more freedom: the Toddler mostly slept through the night, he could feed himself from a plate of food placed in front of him, he was getting more independent and happier to spend time away from me. I had started to expand my freelance work a little by doing some work out of the house, and that was fine as my son was happy to play at a friend’s house for the occasional afternoon.
The Baby’s arrival meant I was once again permanently attached to a child. I know it is possible to express milk, but it takes me quite a few goes to express enough for just one feed and with all the sterilising and storing it hardly seems worth the bother when you could just take the baby with you wherever you go. It just means outings are restricted to child-friendly locations or the supermarket, and need to finish in time for naps to avoid a double apocalypse around 5pm. Also, the late night ‘dream feed’ acts as a curfew for dates with the Husband and limits drinking to one modest glass of alcohol which must be consumed before 9pm. My pyjamas have once again become my best friend, and it is a rare night when I am not in bed by 11pm – and out of bed again at 3, 5, and 7am. There is not much left of the evening once the kids are in bed, and not much energy for doing anything more exciting than cooking and eating dinner and lurking on Facebook. This gets tough, psychologically. Most of the time, I feel like Just a Mum.
I used to describe myself as a writer and I still do. I don’t have the time or the brain space to write entire novels right now, but this blog has helped me to keep going – a short post a couple of times a week I can manage. But what am I writing about at the moment? About motherhood. Am I ‘Just a Mum’, even in that?
As a teenager, I formulated why it was that I wanted to be a published author, what it was I wanted to achieve with it. My aim was for people to read my writing, heave a big sigh and say: “That is just exactly the way it is.” I wanted to capture the world in words, to give my readers that thrill of recognition and describe for them how they felt in a way that they perhaps could not express themselves.
Looking at it that way, perhaps being ‘Just a Mum’ in this blog is not a failure but a success. I can still capture a common experience in words and hopefully what I describe will resonate with other Just-a-Mums and Dads. Hopefully, I can make you feel understood, less alone and perk up the odd grey day.
What do you do when you feel you are losing yourself in your kids? What helps you feel like an individual again?