Self – “A person’s essential being that distinguishes them from others, especially considered as the object of introspection or reflexive action” (Oxford English Dictionary, 2016)
As young person I was always very aware of and happy with my sense of ‘self’. I knew that I had to do what I wanted in order to be happy. This was not in a selfish manner. I was aware of others feelings and respected them. However, I knew that if I fulfilled my ambitions then I would be a happy person able to contribute positively to others.
At the age of fourteen I knew I wanted to care for women, I knew I wanted to be a Midwife. At eighteen I started my midwifery training. At twenty one I became a Registered Midwife. I worked hard and achieved a fulfilling career which I felt born to do. I absolutely loved it. I knew I was exactly where I wanted to be. This confirmed my sense of ‘self’.
Shortly after qualifying I had a conversation about ambitions with my flat mate. He didn’t know what he wanted his ambitions to be exactly, but he knew he wanted to achieve great things. I told him my ambitions; to be a wife and mother. Very traditional values but I just knew this was what I really wanted out of life. Anything else was just the icing on the cake. I did not want to become a mother right at that point. However, I was aware that if I never became a Mother I would not fulfil my dream and having been brought up in a traditional family set up I wanted that for my children.
The intervening years involved lots of fun times, dates, girly holidays, shopping, reading and loving my job. Eventually I met the man who I was to marry and a few years later we did. Less than a year later I was pregnant. I was on track to fulfilling all my dreams. I felt truly comfortable in my own skin. I was happily married and knew I was about to do the second ‘job’ I was born to do; become a mother.
The pregnancy, birth and postnatal period were not easy. I struggled at times. It was not that I was unprepared, as a Midwife I knew all the theory, but the roller coaster of emotions was immense. Having spent my life achieving my dreams, choosing my course, having control over my self, I was no longer in charge of my own destiny. I had a baby with his own ideas. On the one hand I felt overwhelming love and felt exactly where I wanted to be, yet this bundle had rocked my world and thrown it in to disarray. The juxtaposition of knowing I was truly fulfilling my sense of self, yet feeling completely clueless and out of control completely threw me off course. Add that to the sleep deprivation and the weight of the responsibility of becoming a parent I would say this was the most challenging time of my life. At times I felt like I had totally lost myself within all of this. I was entirely happy to put my son’s needs first, yet I struggled to balance that against my needs to have time for myself.
Twenty months following the arrival of my first son a second came along. I could not have been happier. I had grown in confidence with my mother role. At times I still had no clue what I was doing, yet had learned to trust my instincts and found that by knowing my baby I really did know best.
Motherhood certainly isn’t easy but it is the most rewarding thing I had ever done. Life is complete in many ways, but in others I am still winging it. It has now been six years since the arrival of my first son and motherhood has taught me even more about myself than I ever thought possible.
I believe motherhood is the biggest challenge of any woman’s life. It is full of heart bursting moments filled with love, set against the frustration of not being able to go to the toilet in peace, never mind accomplish anything else without interruption. The tiredness is relentless, however the feelings of love are out of this world. It is the single most rewarding ‘job’ any woman can have, yet the value of mothers within society is not greatly recognised. Mothers are pitched against each other; stay at home mum’s for not wanting the challenge of balancing work and raising families, working mothers who are guilty of leaving their children to fulfil their own ambitions, breast feeders doing their best to provide nourishment for their children yet they should not be seen to ‘flaunt’ themselves doing so in public, bottle feeders feel they have to qualify their choice of feeding method at every turn. The choices a mother makes will often become an emotive subject as mothers inherently want what is best for their child. Every decision has been researched, agonised over and made with the best of intentions. If a woman feels her mothering choices are coming under fire her defences will be up. Keeping a sense of self within all of this is essential to surviving motherhood.
Within society there is a growing body of mothers supporting mothers whatever their choices may be. Yet there are still mothers challenging others and fiercely defending their mothering choices. I find this saddening. Mothers need to stick together. We need each other to get through the hard days. We need each other to celebrate our mothering achievements. Stay strong, keep your sense of self within all the mothering madness and celebrate other mothers regardless of our diversity. That is our strength.
Originally written for Mama Riot zine earlier this year, this blog post is an edited version of the article published. Recently I have read about Motherhood and how it can affect women’s confidence and sense of ‘self’, so I decided to share my thoughts.