I’ve come to realise that the great outdoors is an absolute lifeline when it comes to parenting, anyone agree? Like so many women, I struggled to cope with all of life’s adjustments when my new born son came into the world. During the first 6 – 9 months of motherhood, my mood fluctuated wildly from day to day and there were times when I simply couldn’t figure out why a hollow feeling kept surfacing inside me; particularly when seeing that my friends-turned-mums were so blissfully swept up with maternal devotion.
My own mum suggested on more than one occasion that I might have post-natal depression, and that I should speak to a professional about the way I was feeling. Somehow though, I knew I wasn’t depressed. I didn’t feel empty or irrational. I loved my son and enjoyed the time I spent with him. Yet several times a week, at home, in the car, in the middle of Boots whilst buying a pack of dummies, I found myself unconsciously and unwillingly in tears. My vision would blur with all the unspeakable things that had bubbled up inside me and I didn’t have the energy to hold them back.
Wow, what a cheery blog post for a Monday morning! Sorry to start off on that foot. Mostly I got through the day with visits to friends, cups of coffee and plans for dinner that night. I wasn’t depressed, I knew I was coping, yet I also knew I wasn’t happy. When I cast my mind over what was really getting to me at that time, what was going through my mind when the tears began to fall, was the fact that I didn’t plan this.
I didn’t plan this baby or this way of life, I wasn’t particularly comfortable financially, I hadn’t yet dreamt of seeing my partner become a dad and I hadn’t yet fulfilled so many things that I was desperate to experience, when suddenly this crying, pooping curveball made its way into my life. I knew then that nothing would ever be the same, my life was no longer my own and I could never again be free, selfish and care-free of the consequences of my actions.
The problem in my head (where all my biggest problems are born and multiply on an exponential level) was that I wasn’t in control of this. My happiest moments have always been ones of wilful independence, when I’ve taken responsibility for my future and said enigmatically ‘This is what I want; this is the path I choose to take’. I wanted to travel, be a career girl, be entirely self-reliant and enjoy a few luxuries that student-life had not yet opened up to me. Needless to say, these were no longer priorities when my little man arrived.
I started writing my thoughts and feelings down early on, finding that it helped make sense of my erratic emotions and allowed me to move forward in small ways. It was earlier this year when I finally sculpted my writing into an actual blog and settled upon a topic I would focus on: a travel-style blog based in and around my local area.
This was a big turning point for me. I accepted that I couldn’t yet visit all of the inspiring exotic places that some of my friends were now ticking off their bucket lists, but I could make the most of what I had. I recognised that Gloucestershire, where I now live, is a stunning place and has some real treasures to explore. The countryside is resplendent, the eateries are some of the best in the country, and the creativity of the people, charities and businesses here is something to really admire and learn from. I didn’t grow up in this part of the country and some areas I’ve yet to discover, so this became my aim: find the best food, walks and attractions around me and write about them.
Some of the places I go to are child-friendly and I love seeing my now 2 year-old’s face light up when I find a new gem that we can discover together. Other destinations are better enjoyed when I can give them 100% of my attention, in which case I’ll venture out on my own or with friends. For me it’s important to still take a little time for myself, to lose myself in a bit of local history or indulge in a spontaneous cooked breakfast at some restaurant I’ve been dying to try. Venturing out can be so therapeutic and sometimes you just need to break away from the 4 walls that confine you on a day-to-day basis. I’m confident that this is the case with children too – fresh air, new ground to cover, it’s all stimulating for the both of you. Make it something to discover together or make it a meditative experience of your own.
What’s crucial for me now is that I’m keeping this part of me alive, discovering new things gives me back a little freedom and instead of jetting off to new continents, I’ve adapted this love of exploring to my surroundings. There’s no shame in asking for help, in scheduling some time to do something important to you, for your own sanity. Us mums are still the same people we were before we started a family, and children will always prosper from being introduced to new people, places and ideas. This is how they learn and grow, time to get out there see something new!
A Guest Blog from Helen Pouncett
Helen is in her mid-late 20s and lives in Cheltenham with her 2 year old son and partner, Steve. She moved to Cheltenham four years ago and now couldn’t imagine life anywhere else. When not going on a mini road trip across the county, she fills her hours with books, food and dance. You can read her words on her blog or follow her pictures on Instagram.
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