As I plaster a smile on my overtired, bedraggled face once again, preparing for another sixteen mile school and playgroup round trip, I contemplate the monotony of my daily life and this mama routine I now find myself in. It comes at a time when I am entering the last few years of my thirties and I start gazing down that ever clichéd ‘finding myself before I’m forty’ path. Now I don’t usually buy into all that ‘life begins at forty’ talk, surely it’s just a number, and I do still feel like I’m seventeen most of the time and just playing at this parenting lark, but I find myself drawn in and musing about who I am these days. I’m not actually sure I know any more.
I used to be an introverted music lover, with a passion for organising and creating things and I had a very dry sense of humour. However, I have given the last seven years of my life to growing foetus’s, nurturing babies, breastfeeding, wiping sick off my shoulder, picking up toys, pants and all manner of other detritus which finds itself on the floor, sifting poo out of the bath, wiping it from places it shouldn’t be and generally being Mama. I haven’t had a night away from one or other of my babies since the eldest was born in 2010.
The only time I’ve spent a night away from her was in 2013 when I was in hospital for 5 nights after the birth of our second baby. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not moaning about it, far from it, we had an agonising 4 year conception journey full of heartache and loss, and although the hubby and I haven’t had a night away together from the kids in the last six and a half years, that’s the way we wanted it and it’s totally worked for us. That said though, the time has come to re-discover us as a couple, but more importantly me as an individual and I am excited about it.
I have changed an awful lot since having children. I am so much more positive generally in my outlook on life, but my anxieties run at an all-time high. When you are responsible for precious humans, you want the very best for them and need to keep them safe and healthy so naturally anxiety takes over sometimes. Like most mamas, priority becomes this tiny human who is relying on you for everything. Then as they grow, they become a little more independent and they start wanting to go and explore the world without you (but only for a short time!). They start learning about themselves and grow in confidence and that’s exactly what I need to start doing too!
I was a stay at home mum, deprived of sleep, adult contact and sanity. I had given up my job because it wasn’t financially viable to stay at work and put them both in childcare, but I felt so blessed being able to watch my babies grow up in those early years, as soon, the eldest would have been starting school and then we’d lose the opportunity for holidays during term time, lie-ins and lazy days! It was a wonderful if not stressful few years, and we spent a lot of time wondering how we were going to afford these holidays we could now actually go on in term time but we had an absolute blast and I loved it. I did go out with friends for catch ups, but they were few and far between as I was always so tired! #mumlife
Then our eldest started school and so began the routine of yelling ‘just put your bloody shoes on’ at least seventeen times every morning, whilst wiping smeared Weetabix or bogey off card
igan sleeves and polishing shoes with a baby wipe! It was amazing to see her grow in confidence, make some amazing friends and learn and develop, but it was another mama led routine we had started.
The next year our baby boy (at nearly three) started playgroup and I started having some time to myself. My kids were off finding their place in the world, learning new things and gaining independence and confidence. Why was I still in this Mama bubble? What was I missing (apart from sleep)? I needed to be finding myself again, so why was it so tough?
Well, with the second child, I didn’t have the support group of NCT mummies or baby group friends. I did have a few friends with kids the same age who were a godsend, but they were all part of my safety net, they were in my bubble with me. I needed something bigger to help me rediscover myself again. I finally realised that self-care wasn’t selfish at all. I always felt guilty when they were smaller for wanting to be away from them for a break, but as neither would even entertain a bottle, a night off or a night away was always out of the question, but now I didn’t NEED to be there for them 24/7 and it was time to find ME again.
I started on my journey of self-discovery by taking a massive step and took over the running of a business my sister had established over 15 years ago. I was so nervous, I had very little confidence in myself and my abilities, but I threw myself into it as I had massive shoes to fill. I knew absolutely nothing about running a small business, (I am still no expert), so thank goodness I found CheltenhamMaman and her newly formed MumBoss Club. Networking was always something I hated in my years working in the corporate and charity sectors, as I had the self-confidence slowly sucked out of me by various people over the years. I was so nervous attending the MumBoss events because they were full of strong, independent women running their own amazingly successful businesses and here was little old me who didn’t have a clue! I needn’t have worried, they are an amazing group of inspirational women who are supporting each other. I am proud to be a part of that and it has given me an enormous amount of self-confidence and assurance, something I hadn’t seen since long before having kids.
Now I have more child free days, I am spending a lot more time on my own working and meeting my lovely customers. I am slowly starting to develop that sense of me again. I am actually realising that I am still this creative, introverted music-lover, but with a more outgoing side to me these days too.
Not only has the business given me something that I adore doing and that I am good at, but more importantly a focus and a purpose, outside being mama. It was something I personally had yearned for for so long, but never really realised, that being my own boss and overseeing my own self development, creatively and professionally was it! Sometimes, you just have to bite the bullet and try something new. If it doesn’t work then at least you can’t say you didn’t try it. I have a no regrets policy on my life now and realise that life is far too short to be unhappy, so do something that makes you happy. Whatever it is, find YOUR happy.
People who know me know I love a good mantra, and the one that resonates with me on this subject is ‘I look after myself so that I can look after others’. It’s taken me a good few years, but I don’t feel guilty about spending time away from the kids anymore, whether it be catching up with a friend for breakfast, lunch or dinner, working on some Baby Prints listening to my old albums, going for a facial, heading out for my Mum Boss events, whatever it is, it’s ME time and it’s time I’ve used wisely to rediscover who I am as a human.
I don’t think I ever really lost myself, we are all multi-faceted individuals doing things our own way, but I had forgotten the strong, independent woman I was. She has been here all the time, helping through the last six years of parenting and that was my focus, but as my youngest embarks on his last term of pre-school, I am slowly changing my focus back onto doing something for me and I love it! The kids are my world and my little family will always be my priority, but self-care is not selfish – ditch the guilt and let’s get on with living this amazing life because we all deserve it!
And that long overdue time away with the hubby? As you read this, we’ll have handed the reigns over to Grandma, so we can go and enjoy some time away in the Cotswolds together.
A Guest Blog from Victoria Seyforth
Victoria is a Cheltenham born mother of two who runs Baby Prints Cheltenham, a local business taking casts of babies and children’s hands and feet and works part-time for her husband’s business too, so she is clearly mental. She is a very big fan of gin, swimming and poached eggs and avocado and harbours a deep hatred of rain! You can learn more about her or keep up to date with the exciting work she does on Instagram www.instagram.com/babyprintscheltenham or follow Baby Prints on Facebook www.facebook.com/babyprints cheltenham as she’d like that very much.