A short while after my daughter came into the world she was taken away from me and adorned with a collection of wires and tubes. She arrived early, and this resulted in a week long stay in special care. That unexpected and difficult start to my journey into motherhood was followed by a lot of emotional weeks and months. I anticipated the physical difficulties of being sore and tired, but not the knock to my mental health.
I found it very hard to adjust to my new way of life. I loved my little girl beyond measure, but I felt like I left my former identity at the door of the hospital. I’d gone from being a confident, independent and highly organised woman to an exhausted, emotional mum drowning in unfinished and unstarted tasks. It was difficult for me to come to terms with this.
When the going gets tough…
A lot of people said to me how things would get easier after 6 weeks, 10 weeks, 3 months… It didn’t. Not for me anyway. Not until my baby got to 6 months. Then, all of a sudden, it felt like things had fallen into place. She didn’t need to feed every 2 hours thanks to starting on solids. She wasn’t sleeping through but she was only waking up twice during the night instead of several times. I started to feel a little bit like me again.
It was at this point that I began talking to my employer about my return to work. Things had changed for me. I had gone from feeling like I wasn’t cut out for childcare, and that me going back to work full time would be better for everyone, to knowing that this wouldn’t be the right option. I wanted to influence my daughter’s upbringing during her early years. I wanted to make the most of that time that I would never get back. So I filled out a request for flexible working.
When the going gets rough…
The request didn’t work out. Despite my best efforts I couldn’t convince work that a flexible alternative to regular office hours would provide benefits all round. I was disappointed, but it forced me to think outside the box. My husband reminded me how I had always had a dream to work for myself; about all those ideas that had been left on the shelf, or only nibbled at due to not being able to fit them in around full time working hours. Now I had a new opportunity. I had time during the rest of my maternity leave to find out whether I could make a go of it.
I started experimenting. I began with things that I knew about, that I had tried before. It quickly became apparent that I could earn enough from these things alone to justify going back to work part time only. I got excited! I was having sleepless nights again. This time it was not because the baby was waking up, but because I had so many ideas tumbling around my head. I found so many opportunities to explore. It quickly became apparent that this new purpose was giving me more than just financial benefits.
A new sense of self
Although I was still finding a lot of things about motherhood difficult, I was now enjoying it so much more. My little girl was happy and learning lots of new things, and so was I. I felt like I had purpose again. It seems daft to say this, when I knew that I had a very important purpose as a mother. It’s hard to think of a different way to describe it though. I felt like I was contributing to more than just the housework, and having come from a professional career background this meant a lot to me.
A boost to my mental health
I’m now feeling really excited about the future. Looking for ways to earn money online and being successful at it so far has given me so much more than just the money. It has had the unexpected benefit of boosting my mental health as I continued to adjust to my new role as Mummy. I still have the odd wobble and I’m very grateful to have my support network of family and friends to help me.
I feel stronger and more empowered now, knowing that I managed to come through those first few difficult months and have a happy and healthy baby as well as surviving myself! I still take on too much at times, and have to take a step back and remind myself not to overdo it. Luckily my husband is very good at reminding me of this when I forget! I’m still finding the right balance, but as I learn how to adjust to this new lifestyle I hope that sharing my story, past and present, can have a positive impact on other mums and other families. I want to give them the same financial and wellbeing benefits that I am getting.
Thank you for reading!
As a new mum it’s easy to forget yourself. You value your importance less because someone else needs you more than you do. Eventually that catches up with you. You realise that, actually, your baby needs you to be happy and healthy as well in order to look after them. You need to make time for you. You might not be doing the same things you enjoyed before, or you might be doing them in a different way. If you need help to make time for yourself, ask for it. Don’t struggle on thinking it will get better someday. Carve out that little niche for yourself and make sure you go back to it from time to time. You are worth your time too.