Sitting in my perinatal psychologists office, where we engaged in play therapy the three of us. My son, the psychologist and I. After just getting out of a mother baby unit, this is where they sent me so I could “connect” with my child.
Her blue eyes darting from me and my son with an encouraging smile while I rattled musical objects in his face. Her red hair strapped neatly into a bun.
She fit the mould of a psychologist… Didn’t she? She wore the right attire, she was well spoken. Her fingernails were clean and well manicured. Her clothes were professional. She represented her role.
My son sat in his “mummy’s little devil” t shirt and matching pants. Cute little socks with trucks, banging on little play drums. His role was defined as baby…
Then there was me… Chipped fingernails, low cut top, butt crack hanging out, tattoos, tired eyes and coffee breath. Tired on the outside but bursting with adrenaline on the inside. This was me. Was this motherhood? Was this my old life smashing into my new life? Being unkept and caffeine loaded?
Where did I go?
“I can do this, you know”… I said to the psychologist. “I can play with him. I know how to. This is fun to me… But I can’t be a mum. I don’t act like a mother”
“What does a mother act like?” She asked me.
“A mother doesn’t go out for drinks, swear, smoke cigarettes, gets tattoos.. Enjoys life”
There I said it. Life has changed and I had lost all the things I used to do that I can’t do anymore.
I was an independent, confident, loud, joking social butterfly. I went anywhere and everywhere at the drop of the hat. But now, my life was scheduled around nap times, playgroups and loving a tiny human that kept me up all night.
My every conversation was about motherhood. “I’m Luca’s mum” is how I would introduce myself.
I gave birth to a child and my concerns were about feeding, sleeping and eating. I never thought that in that process I would lose myself. Somewhere in all of this, I expected of myself that I’d have to give up that life; the nights out, sneaky drinks, enjoying life. If I didn’t, I was a “bad mother”. It made me feel exhausted. Everyday I argued with myself about who I wanted to be, and the expectation of who I had to be now that I entered into parenthood. What society expected to me.
And I guess, there are things you give up that comes with parenthood. You give up late nights, spontaneous trips, showering every day. Instead, you gain a life, one that connects a piece of your heart that was missing. It’s a fair trade in hindsight.
So I burnt myself out. I lost myself in motherhood and stretched myself to the last thread to be the perfect mother and let guilt consume me if I was anything less. I ate my feelings, I let myself go. From being the girl who always did her hair and make up, to becoming the girl who wore pyjamas that were acceptable as day clothes so that I could just continue on the next day. Day in and day out, rinse and repeat. Living on coffee and air. Anything more was selfish, wasn’t it?
So here we were, the candle was out and now they were trying to teach me how to play with my child, because I tried to swallow the ball of resentment and ended up choking.
“You gave birth to a child. You are a mother. A mother can be someone who goes out, who has drinks, who has tattoos and enjoys life.”
Society expects us to be different, the movies expect us to be different, social media expects us to be different and then, we expect to be different.
But we don’t have to be. We don’t have to lose ourselves.
If we do, who will we be when our children no longer need us to their everything?
How will we teach them individuality, independence and how to love themselves if we have forgotten how to love ourselves.
We owe it to ourselves to have nights out. To admit when we need help and need a break. To get it. To have a career if we want, to have goals, to be ourselves. To find where we went and bring that girl back with only minor adjustments.
What I learned in my long journey is that everyone can judge you for what you do, if you do decide to hire a babysitter so you can have a few sneaky wines and dance like Elaine you might have someone who disagrees with it. What they think of you, is none of your business. What matters is your happiness, so chose the happiness and be who you want to be. Butt crack and all.