The last few weeks I have had lots of interactions with various Mums all on the same topic…. Mum confidence and how many of us become shadows of our former selves when we step into motherhood. I’ve been chatting to Mums who held down amazing careers, waltzed into meetings with their shoulders held high and thought nothing about donning the latest fashions and marching out the front door without a care in the world and the second that baby popped out slowly but surely that feeling of self worth started to fade away.
My mind is never a quiet place and so I quickly got to wondering why that is. I see it week in and week out at our Push It Walks in Pittville Park, so many Mums have their babies and then revert back to the shy girl they were at school, struggling to be accepted into the girl gang, feeling (sometimes rightly so and sometimes not) that everyone already knows each other and that there is no space in the gang for a new girl.
Of course at our Push It Walks that is definitely not the case and Beth and I work really hard to make sure it doesn’t get cliquey and that new walkers are welcomed and supported to integrate with the group (with some really great success stories) but it really baffles me as to why mature women regress en masse just because they’ve done what is arguably one of the most maturing things you can ever do; become a parent.
Lots of thinking later I’ve come up with one or two theories – some really obvious, others less so.
- It’s new to a lot of us. You can’t argue that the Mums at the baby groups and the get togethers who have had multiple children are more confident. Of course they are… in a board meeting at work you would expect the employee who had worked for the firm for five years to be more au fait with the corporate lingo than the intern on their first day so this should be no surprise. Difference is that the office intern is more accepting of the fact that they will be less knowledgable and experienced than the newbie first time Mum. We are led to believe that mothering is natural and after nine months of pregnancy we should glide into our new roles effortlessly and if we don’t we are failing at the one thing that we were biologically designed to do. Not so… for those of us who are new to all this… try and liken it to a new career – you would expect to have a mentor, someone more experienced that you could call on for help – generally the more experienced Mums (I speak for myself but I’m sure I’m not alone) are more than happy to be the one to give you a hug and say ‘you’re doing a great job…. it will get easier.’
- We have so much less control. Pre children we could have walked into a room and become part of a conversation or discussion safe in the knowledge that the chances of something completely humiliating happening are slim to none. Fast forward post conception and that assurance disappears and we face every day in the terrifying knowledge that breast leakage, poo in the eyebrow or muffin top exposure is just around the corner. It will happen and you will feel like you want the ground to swallow you up when it does – if it happens too often we come to the conclusion that staying at home watching This Morning (does anyone actually watch this anymore?) is the safest option.
- We become tired of forming unsustainable relationships with people who we have only one thing in common with – the fact that we are a mother. I’m going to challenge you on that one though…. all meaningful relationships that you have built up in your life have come about through a bit of trial and error and it’s easy to pigeon hole motherhood as the main precursor to this problem. As with all things in life you have to put a bit of effort in to get a result and if you have to kiss a lot of MumFrogs to find your best mum friend and soul mate – so what? Also there is nothing wrong with having a few temporary friends who you hook up with for the kids – those relationships won’t last beyond your children being tiny but that doesn’t mean they don’t serve a purpose and chances are it’s not just you that knows this friendship isn’t for life.
- Becoming parents takes our awareness of the world and our place within it to a deeper level. We worry more, are more risk averse and also have a greater empathy with the plight of others throughout the world. Our budgets become tighter and being a bit shallow or frivolous feels wrong so often we take on a persona that is not the natural person we are. Consequently we are less confident in that skin. I challenge that too… don’t be the person you are not. Make good decisions and be a good person but if having a mammoth shopping spree with a mate or singing some karaoke down the pub makes you feel like the person you were before don’t let anyone tell you you shouldn’t. Yes, having a hangover of pre parenting proportions can make for a terrible day after the night before but every now and again it’s ok to let your hair down, even if the only purpose it serves is to remind you that it’s not quite as much fun as you remember.
I’ve been wondering why the recent surge of sisterhood in motherhood and Mum meet ups has been so popular…. the answer is because we’ve opened the floodgates to Mums being themselves and they only have to do that for a little while free from judgement and criticism and their confidence comes flooding back. There is no right way to be a mum – just be you and be confident in you – your child loves you just the way you are and you would never teach them to be anyone but themselves so practice what you preach and your confidence will start to shine.
So Get Up! ….. Get out of bed and tell yourself today will be a good day. Boss it.
Dress Up!….. If smacking on a bit of lippy and washing your hair makes you feel more confident then it justifies putting your kid in front of the TV for twenty minutes. Their reward will come later when they spend the day with a Mum who is feeling confident.
Show Up!…. Go to the groups. Smash your way into closed conversations. If they don’t welcome you – this is their issue and you are better off moving on to the next one. Take a look at our events for opportunities to find women that are already doing it. You will be welcomed with open arms.