I woke up recently. I don’t mean the whole dawn broke, sun got up and so did I kind of wake up. I opened my eyes and realised that I had been sleepwalking for the last years. You see, I’m a Mum. A normal, everyday kind of Mum. The kind of Mum who makes lunches, reads stories, wipes tears and cleans bottoms. Nothing special there. But what I did not realise when I became a Mum those years ago, was that being a Mum meant that I went to sleep. Me. I went to the back; I gave up those things that defined me pre-children and found new definitions through my children. I didn’t see it happening. But it did. And then one day I woke up.
There is nothing special about me. I’m sure this happens every day. Every day there are Mum’s out there waking up. I know there are because I’m watching a friend go to sleep right now. She had her baby a few months ago and, despite the best intentions, she’s slowly slipping away. Naps have to be scheduled. Mealtimes adhered to. Bath, books and bed on the dot of 6. Playgroup, swimming, childcare. Cleaning, cooking and (when time permits) sleeping to be done. Mum needs all the time she can get just to maintain her sanity. She has no room for anything or anyone else. My friend sleeps.
I could spend some time talking about how and why I went. But really it was because my focus became my child. My energy was spent in just getting through each day with her. The first 12 months were spent sleepless and confused, trying to find a schedule that would work, as long as I stuck strictly to it. The next years involved feeding her mind and her soul, as we played, read, fought, drew and, sometimes, slept. My friends were the parents of her friends. My conversations about her. Our lives were tightly intertwined. When she left me (for childcare, visits, outings with Dad) I would spend my time waiting for her to return. Sure, while she was away I would do other things but really I was waiting. A part of me was always with her. I am her Mum. Even when school started, I didn’t wake up. I was a part of the school community. I did reading, canteen. I chaperoned outings, took her to parties and arranged after-school activities. I watched over homework and I cooked dinner. Some days I knew I was sleeping and I cried. I felt lost. I grieved for what had been. I thought it was gone forever.
But one day I did wake up. And I realised just how much I had given up when I took on the role of Mum. I looked around me and wondered what was still there that I remembered? I did not feel the stereotypical “lost” or “who am I?”. I didn’t need redefining.
I was still Me. I was still there.
It’s just a part of me that once enjoyed going to parties that didn’t have fairy bread, that thought 11pm was an early night, who wore heels because I wanted to, had been off-duty. I had let Mum take over and now I wanted and perhaps needed to re-claim my life.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to give up that part of me who is Mum. I like the fact that no matter how old my girls get, there is this clichéd invisible cord that binds us, that lets me know they are safe and they are a part of me. I don’t think I’ll ever stop waiting for them to return, no matter how far away they go. This is A Good Thing.
I didn’t know there would be a time when I could resurrect what I had been and proudly wear it as a part of who I am. I have friends all of my own. Some of them don’t even have children. I can go out for an evening all by myself, no children, no husband, and not even talk about them. I can read a book that doesn’t rhyme. I can go to the cinema without seeing it as an opportunity for some peace and quiet. But most importantly I can give to others. I can share myself without feeling like I am taking from my children. Do you realise how amazing that is? How freeing that is? I am awake.
I am Mum AND I am Me.
By Playgroup Mum, Cathy