Becoming a parent can flip your whole world upside down – with joy and laughter, exhaustion and new pressures – and if you’re finding it hard to recognise the person in the mirror, or the new life you’re adjusting to, you’re not alone. For those struggling with their identity after becoming a mum, our columnist Grace Victory has some words of comfort…
The minute I found out I was pregnant, everything changed – I imagine that’s the same for most expectant mothers. The realisation that this little bundle of joy is growing inside of you fills you with emotions. I cut out certain foods, I limited my caffeine, I religiously took my vitamins, and overnight I became absolutely giddy at the thought of how life was about to be.
And now that Cyprus has been Earth-side for nearly 16 months (how?), I can confidently say that life is beautiful, and chaotic, and wild, and bloody glorious. There are moments where I well-up just looking at his toes or hearing him giggle, and there are times I think “Wow… I am eternally grateful to be alive, and to see my baby grow up.” Being a mama is the best! It’s actually an honour to raise these tiny humans, and even more of an honour to recognise how much they look to you for, well… pretty much everything.
But with all that being said, being a mama can be the hardest, most exhausting job in the world, too. From the minute Cyprus opens his eyes, to the minute he goes to bed, he is go, go, go. At 6am he’s babbling, shouting, laughing, and wanting to play. People were not wrong when they said you don’t know tiredness until you have kids!
Your children become the centre of your world, whether that’s an entirely good thing or not. I know it’s important to still be you, but that honestly feels impossible at times. The moment you give birth, you are no longer your number one priority – they are. You literally have to keep this beautiful baby alive and, let’s face it, nobody actually tells you how? There is no manual to parenting that works for every parent and child across the board. I’m winging it. I’m winging it everyday, and trying my best to be a great mother. Some days I feel like I’m bossing it. Other days I feel like I’m on a loop of “No,” “Don’t touch that,” “You’re going to hurt yourself,” and (my favourite) “Cyprus… why?!”
I don’t get dressed some days. Other days, I do and then I end up with snot, tears, milk, or spaghetti hoops down me. Some evenings, I’m just too tired to cook myself a meal after Cyprus’ evening routine, so it’s either a takeaway, a sandwich, or mozzarella dippers from the freezer. There are moments of “Who am I?”, that can leave me feeling overwhelmed, underwhelmed, or completely deflated.
Becoming a mother can often feel like you’ve lost yourself, or you’ve changed so much you don’t really recognise who you used to be. Maybe you’re exclusively breastfeeding, so your body doesn’t feel like yours anymore. Maybe a traumatic birth means you’re mothering and healing at the same time. Or maybe you simply do not have the time to fill yourself up in the ways that you used to, therefore when the sun sets at the end of the day you are left feeling utterly empty.
Becoming a mother can often become your entire identity, without you meaning it to. You become selfless and a home to your children, which leads you to forget that you are also a home to yourself. It feels somewhat selfish to want to be your own separate person when your baby just wants to be with you, on you, or next to you at all times. I swear, if Cyprus could go back inside my womb, he would.
I guess feeling somewhat lost is part and parcel of becoming a mum. It’s something some of us will find extremely difficult, while others are fine with. Being ‘somebody’s mum’ could be enough for someone, but completely shattering to another.
I sit somewhere in between.
Most days, I’m OK being ‘mum’. Spending mornings at soft play, watching CBeebies, cleaning the floor three to four times a day, and rarely getting a full night’s sleep, because if he’s not hungry, he’s teething, and if he’s not teething, he simply wants to be near me, and you know what? I secretly love co-sleeping. But equally, I like solo brunches, facials with friends, and evenings out drinking mocktails. I would like to wear cream without the fear of his beautiful chocolatey face attacking my every limb, and to be able to sit and binge-watch Bridgerton.
There are, of course, parts of my old life (pre-baby) that I miss and grieve – which is absolutely normal and a mother’s right to. I do, at times, feel lost and overcome with feelings of “What the f*** have I done, who the f*** am I, and will I ever fing feel like me again?” But if I’ve learnt anything in the past year and a half, it’s that life is precious, unpredictable, and being a mum is sacred. You have to embrace the chaos and give yourself grace when coming back to yourself. There is beauty in rediscovering who you are.
So, to all you mamas out there who look in the mirror and do not recognise the person looking back, I get it. In solidarity, always.
Love Grace x
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Photography | Krystal Neuvill