I don’t remember what I thought my day to day life would be like with children, perhaps I didn’t even think about it, I just knew that I desperately wanted some little ones in my life, and have done since at least my twenties, if not earlier. I suppose my vision of motherhood came from my earliest childhood memories – there aren’t many of them (because my memory is terrible!) but one that sticks in my mind is my Mum making homemade playdough. The fact that I remember this does suggest that it was probably a rare occurrence but, by all accounts, my Mum was completely devoted to us as children. Fast forward to the beginning of 2020, with a 3.5 year old and a 15 month old, and I was not in a good place. By default I am a happy person and for that reason most of what I post on social media is positive, but I am a firm believer in sharing an honest account of motherhood and how hard it really is, and that is why I am sharing my story.
To put it in a nutshell, I was feeling like I wasn’t enjoying my little ones. I couldn’t appreciate them or look at them fondly when they did something cute because every day was just another trial that I had to get through. I also had this impending feeling as I knew that Lawrence would be starting school in September and I’d lost the amazing bond that we’d had before Autumn was born (he took it very hard when she arrived and I think almost 2 years later he is still adjusting to it), and I didn’t want to just be counting down the days until school started, knowing that once he was there I would probably miss him and terribly regret not having done something about it.
I decided that I needed help, and signed up to counselling. Over 6 sessions I talked all about how I felt about my children, and also delved into other things in my past that had been weighing on my mind for years. She helped me to work through everything, and quite quickly I began to feel things improve. The first thing was to come to terms with the fact that whilst I imagined having 3 or even more children, the reality is that I am done with babies. My body is done (and I am immensely proud of what it has done!), I can’t cope with any more sleep deprivation, and there are other things in my life that I want to pursue now, and that’s ok. I had to forgive myself for not being the mother that I thought I would be.
I started being able to appreciate the little things again. Each week between sessions was almost a test to see if something would go wrong again and I’d end up feeling the same as when we started, but I didn’t. Things just got better and better. I don’t want to be misleading here – I’m not sure that anything actually changed about our days – they were still bloody tough, but it was my outlook and ability to cope with them that changed. By the end of the 6 sessions I even felt like I was getting my little boy back, as if I had lost something and we were finally getting back that amazing relationship that we had when it was just us (we’re still working on this).
Then came lockdown. If this had happened a year ago I think just the thought of it alone would have given me a mental breakdown. Like most Mums, I had got into the habit of going out most days just to stay sane. But instead I thought - bring it on. It couldn’t have come at a more perfect time for me. My counselling was coming to an end, and with Lawrence starting school in September this was my chance to feel like I had done my absolute best. We actually went into lockdown a week before the rest of the country because the little ones both had coughs. I treated it like school and planned activities for us to do which is something I had never really done before, even though I felt like I ‘should’ be doing it. After all, if this was my job (which it is, but in a different way) I would be planning everything in advance. I also would have been fired for being on my phone too much (and still would!) but we can’t be perfect. The next week I made an Easter sensory tray that I made with rainbow rice, and throughout lockdown we painted, played with homemade playdough, made soap, and toasted marshmallows on a tiny fire in the garden. And I also worked, a lot, and let them run feral in the garden in their pyjamas.
Lockdown was exhausting, and intense, and two weeks ago they went back to nursery and I felt like I could breathe again. But I feel like I’ve been on a really important journey this year. Coronovirus helped me become the mother that I always wanted to be, but then I realised that maybe that just wasn’t me after all. Some days I can plan activities and make homemade playdough, and other days I can just let them get on with things while I work, and THAT’S OK. It doesn’t mean I’ve failed. I don’t need to be that kind of mother all day, every day. I genuinely don’t think I realised this before. It’s still a work in progress and I know I have a lot more learning to do. Sometimes with all the juggling I feel like I’m not great at anything, but I’m really trying to adopt a growth mindset and tell myself that I CAN do it, if I put the effort in. I still shout way too much, and lose my shit, but I feel like when the school holidays come - I can do it - and maybe even enjoy it (some of it anyway).