In so many ways, the moment you have children everything changes. Initially life is unrecognisable, a blur of love, nappies, more love, milk, soreness, tears, contraptions, pain, advice and then even more love. Your life as you know it is obliterated. But then slowly it comes back, more slowly for some than others depending on their circumstances. But little lights at the end of little tunnels emerge and eventually join up and suddenly you’re out after dark, drinking Prosecco under bright lights, laughing like a drain and nothing hurts or leaks when you do it.
The biggest thing I’d say to anyone new to motherhood is this: you will feel like you again. For months, maybe years, you might not. You might spend every waking day worrying about or caring for or running after these little humans that you’ve created. It might be all you talk about, think about, dream about. But it is so important that at some point, probably when you’re sitting back-to-the-wall in the bathroom sobbing your overspilling, tired, torn heart out, to dig really deep and find you again.
I love my children and I don’t mind doing anything for them. Some things I enjoy more than others. Changing nappies is fine, we get a chance to make each other giggle. Putting their endless stream of laundry away into drawers is not so much fun. There are about 86 other jobs I do most days that frankly I can take or leave. That’s a lot of time spent doing things that I don’t really want to do. And that’s fine, because I do want to look after them and I do want them to be happy. Most days that overrides the tedium and the relentlessness. The other days are just part of the package and they can be awful, I’m not going to lie.
But it’s so, so, so important to find the things you DO want to do, the things that used to make your heart sing. For me, that’s not the things I think I should be doing: pilates for example. I’d benefit from it and I’d probably enjoy it. Am I doing it? No, not at the moment. Because I think you need to rewind right back, right back to when you were just you. And choose things that were good for you in other ways, that have nothing to do with what is good for you now.
I don’t want to run. I want to sit at my computer and write. I don’t want to learn a language. I want to listen to loud, loud music on my headphones and let my mind run wild. I don’t want to go shopping for clothes for myself. I want to sit on the sofa with a book and read it. Because despite the fact that my life might be unrecognisable to people who have not seen me for a while, I have not changed one single bit.
When you have small children there is very little time to yourself. We’re all like deers in headlights when we’re given five minutes or a few hours to ourselves. What do we do first? Should we get organised? Plan some meals? Go for a run? Do some work? Sleep? Or should you close your eyes and try to remember what it was that made your heart sing when you were 15, 20, 25?
Before you cared about anything.
Before you knew how precious time was.
Before anyone expected anything of you.