When I was a little girl, all I ever wanted was to be a mum. Not a pilot, a scientist, a doctor. Not a farmer, a dancer, a teacher. A mum. Yes, I studied and built an extremely successful career as a Copywriter and yes, I loved it. I’d be lying, however, if I told you I was devastated to drop it all and become a stay-at-home mum when Little Miss was born.
Fast forward 9 years. Now I am mum to Little Miss (9), Little Man (7) and Baby G (3). I am still a stay-at-home mum, while running my (tiny) one-man business on the side. Here’s the thing: this stay-at-home mum thing is killing me. There, I said it.
What’s more, I suck at it.
A few weeks ago, I had a total breakdown. I looked around me at the piles of laundry (clean and dirty), the dirty dishes, the unmade beds, the crusty toothpaste stuck to the sink (and mirrors and walls), the empty pantry, the fridge that needed to be cleaned out (for fear of growing a new strain of penicillin) and began to cry. And cry. And cry. The ugly cry. I simply couldn’t face it any more. All I wanted to do was crawl into bed and sleep. This domestic life of cooking, cleaning, taxiing, wiping…why on earth had I ever signed up for this? I realised, in that moment, that even if I managed to somehow dig myself out of this rut and get all this mind-numbing housework done, I would still feel as unstimulated, unsatisfied and invisible.
I realised I was lost. Michelle – the vibrant, intelligent, productive person I was pre-babies, was nowhere to be found.
I realised this Martha Stewart persona I’d been trying to squeeze into was simply the wrong size.
I realised that, in my quest to live up to my childhood dream of the Perfect Mummy (devised in my childhood and clearly as real as a fairy tale), I had buried myself completely.
Not only had I sacrificed my “Michelle-ness” to the cause, I hadn’t even managed to make it worth it. I was failing the Perfect Mummy Test in every area. My resentment at having to be the maid/cook/taxi-driver was making me mean. I was short tempered and impatient with my kids (for being kids, no more no less), resentful towards my husband (for having a life outside the four walls of our house) and hateful towards myself for not being the wonderful mummy I had always dreamed I would be. I was perpetually tired, unenthusiastic and bitter. In short, I don’t think I was particularly fun to be around.
By becoming a martyr-mother and defining myself as 100% Mum, I had not only thrown my very identity under the bus, I had sacrificed my husband and children too.
That night, after an Everest-like quest to get the children to bed, I sobbed and howled (impressively and with dramatic flair) and discussed with my (amazing, understanding, empathetic) husband how I was feeling. He agreed wholeheartedly that I needed to rediscover who I am and what makes me happy. Despite the fact that he works insanely hard and under immense pressure, he made a promise to me that he would do everything in his power to allow me to fix this mess.
I contacted my work colleagues and let them know I am available to take on more work, and boy, did it flood in. I began to write the children’s books that had been brewing in my head. I started a Zen Do Kai class one evening a week (yes, one evening a week, Hubby gives the kids dinner, oversees homework, showers them and readies them for bed and yes, I acknowledge just how ridiculously lucky I am to have this kind of support) and I started this blog.
I now go to sleep after midnight most nights because I am up working late on a million things. I still have to face the same amount of housework and childcare. The difference? I am happy. I am smiling. I feel liberated. I fold laundry and think up radio ads. I cook dinner and brainstorm blog posts. I do Zen Do Kai, release the stress and can’t get home quickly enough to cuddle my beautiful children and marvel at the miraculous little people they are. Last night I sat and coloured in cupcakes with Little Miss and instead of wishing she would just.go.to.sleep, I relished in our ‘special girl time’. I listened to Little Man reading and wasn’t silently willing the stupid ice-cream book to be finished already. Quite the opposite, I was overcome with pride at his achievements and watched as he sounded out each word with wonder. I cuddled Baby G and wished I could pause time just to make her babyhood last a little longer. It was the first bed time in a very long time that I felt that neither my children or I were short-changed.
And when they were asleep, I looked at the man I married and wondered how I got so lucky . He has never once judged me. When I needed a hand, he didn’t hesitate to help me. He gets it.
Just taking the time to stop, realise that I am Michelle – not just Mummy – made a world of difference. That hideous resentment that had been filling my days has melted away, Angry Mummy has disappeared (Okay, mostly. I’m working on it, but why won’t they put their clothes in the hamper?! ) and I am satisfied that, after much searching, I found that part of myself I had so carelessly tossed aside 9 years ago. She was suffocating under a pile of mismatched, dirty socks.
It turns out that all I needed to enjoy being a mum was to not be one every once in a while.
When embarking on a long journey, they tell you to always put your own oxygen mask first, before you help your kids. Wise words, indeed.
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